Peaceful Sleep Decoded

​A good night’s sleep is one of the most important things to have as a base for overall wellbeing. Did you know that just one week of insufficient sleep can increase stress, and have an effect on immunity, inflammation and overall health? Poor sleep is associated with higher levels of depression and anxiety, higher risk of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and strokes?

Sounds scary, but not to fear! Improved sleep can be achieved by employing some fairly small changes in your sleep hygiene. In the same way that we’d get smelly and sick (and probably lose some friends) if we didn’t employ regular old body hygiene and wash ourselves, we can get sick and tired if we don’t employ some good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is just taking the time to employ some good practices/habits so that we have a good night’s sleep and
a good day of alertness to follow. Below are some tips to get you started:

Good morning sunshine!
Where better place to start talking about sleep than to talk about waking up? Natural sunlight is one of the best ways to wake up in the morning. Open the blinds wide and embrace the sunshine! While this can be difficult in Alberta in the middle of winter, there are alarm clocks you can purchase that slowly wake you with blue light, which is stimulating and helps our body’s natural sleep/wake cycle do what it needs to do to get you out of bed (aka: circadian rhythm). Enjoy the sunshine and listen to the birds sing while you wake up and enjoy a wholesome breakfast.

Say no to Joe.
Although that midday cup of coffee might smell oh-so-good coming from the break room, try and avoid getting a jolt from caffeine after 2 P.M. (at the latest). While coffee has a lot of health benefits, the caffeine can have a major impact on your sleep. One study showed that caffeine that was consumed even 6 hours before bed affected sleep amounts by over an hour! Opt for decaf if you need a warm drink, or even better drink some tea or water.

You need to move it, move it.
You already know that exercise is incredibly important to overall wellbeing and health. But did you know being active during the day will help you sleep at night? Keeping active during the day can increase the amount of time spent in deep sleep, which is the most physically restorative sleep phase. It increases sleep amount, relieves stress and anxiety, and helps with insomnia. Spending time in deep sleep also boosts immune function and supports cardiac health. Just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week can improve your sleep!

Make a plan.
Create both a sleep ritual and a sleep schedule. While this can be tough (let’s be realistic, you won’t always sleep in the same environment, and late night adventures come up!), try and stick to it most of the time. It's important to try and go to sleep and wake up at about the same time. Like I said, things come up and realistically we can't always be in bed at the same time, but it's important to stick to the schedule as much as you can.  Create a good sleep ritual that revolves around calm and quiet. Don’t do anything strenuous or exciting. A good way to boost your body’s natural release of melatonin is to have a nice warm shower about a half hour before bed. Our bodies need to cool down to release that melatonin, so causing your body to warm up and cool down can help that release occur. Spend some time meditating or doing some breathing exercises or calming yoga. Put on some cozy pajamas. Crawl into bed and enjoy the dark and silence as you wait to restore your body for all the exciting things you are going to do tomorrow.

Don’t go into the light!
Keep your phone in its home! Last blog post I wrote, I talked about giving your phone a home. Like I stated earlier, blue light wakes our bodies up—opposite what we want in our beds. Find a good home for your phone, tuck it in, say goodnight, and go to your bed techless.

Don’t try too hard.
Don’t spend more than about 20 minutes in your bed trying to fall asleep. Yep, you read that right. If it is taking you more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, get out of your bed and do something VERY boring. Re-fold your dishcloths. Count the stars. Lay on the floor and belly breathe. Listen to a podcast about the colourful history of wicker basket weaving. Give yourself 10 minutes to be very boring, and head to bed again. The more you condition your brain that your bed is for sleep and not laying and thinking, the faster you’ll fall asleep in the future.

Take deep breaths.

Breathing exercises don't need any kind of special equipment. You can do it laying down or sitting somewhere comfortable that has no distractions. It might seem silly that breathing can help--you do it all day! But some breathing techniques actually alter brainwave activity, helping you lower stress and get right to sleep. One of the simplest ways to do this is to practice "Breath Counting". You simply focus on your breath going in and out. Start by taking a deep inhale (make sure your belly is expanding), exhale slowly and count "one". The next inhale/exhale, count "two". Go all the way to 4, and repeat. Breathe in peace, breathe out stress. 

The key message is that your brain loves habits and routine—it’ll love it when you create a healthy routine for sleep. Creating sleep hygiene that increases deep sleep is a good habit to start so you can ensure that the basis for your overall wellness is solid. As always, if you need some help getting into healthy sleep routines or help with your overall wellness give us a call at 780-842-3112, and we’ll help you out!

Happy sleeping!


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