Our prescription for better sleep

Sleep is a required refresh for your brain

It’s been known for some time that without quality sleep, our health still suffers despite good nutrition and fitness choices.

The undeniable value of quality sleep

With it, we enjoy stronger libidos, clearer arteries and have a better chance at reaching our best weight.  Studies have linked restorative sleep with clearing the brain of damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration. Much like our computers and phones, we need time to recharge or we may just stop functioning.

The sleep well formula: 7.5 to 8.5 hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep

Anything less than six hours is considered sleep deprivation.

What’s reassuring, says Medcan physician Dr. Lorne Greenspan, is that just a few changes to your sleep routine can lead to improvements right away. And the benefits, like more stable mood, renewed energy and focus, can be almost immediate.

Here are some suggestions you can start tonight.

1. Shut down all screens

Ideally you want to decrease all light going into your eyes at least 60 minutes before you are to be sleeping. That means no television, computer or phone screens. This even includes shutting off the little lights from electronics in your bedroom.

2. Ideal sleeping room: absolute darkness with no stimuli 

Anything that incites the senses should be removed from the bedroom.

This means:

  • Absolute darkness. The type of darkness where you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
  • Coolness.  The ideal room temperature is 18.3 to 20.5 degrees Celsius. Dr. Greenspan notes that men and women have slightly different set points, so she may need more covers.
  • No pets in the bed. Their movement can interrupt your getting to the depths of sleep needed for true restoration. Fido or Fifi must move out of the room if they trigger allergies or other breathing issues.
  • No strong smells. Scented candles or creams that you may find offensive could prevent you from catching quality z’s.
  • Snoring bed partners are encouraged to see a physician.  If your mate’s snores or gasps occur nightly (and are waking you up), encourage them to see their physician. They may be experiencing sleep apnea or another serious sleep disorder.

3. Establish your set sleep time by working backwards

“If you have to be up by 6 a.m. you need to be sleeping at 10:30 p.m. with no wake time. That means you’re preparing-to-sleep routine starts at 9:30 p.m. If you know you wake or get up through the night, you have to add another hour or so,” says Greenspan.

It’s been a good night’s sleep when you wake around your desired time without an alarm and feel alert throughout the day.

4. Stay hydrated

Have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you had that day. Preferably no beer or drinks two hours before set sleep time. Alcohol helps you fall asleep, but it can interfere with the restorative depth of sleep.

5. Finish last coffee before 2 p.m.

Caffeine can stay in your system for at least six hours after your last cup. Keep coffee intake to under 300 milligrams daily and avoid it after 2 p.m.

6. Give yourself an hour to wind down 

Set your alarm clock twice: one to start your sleep routine; one to wake up. A sleep alarm reminds to you to slow down an hour before bed. Put away work, shut off television, turn off the phone, do not engage in stimulating conversation, listen to calming music, tuck yourself in and read a book.

7. When all else fails, nap and speak to your doctor

If filling your sleep quotient in one night is still a challenge, naps can support learning, memory and improved brain functioning. A twenty minute nap has its benefits; but speaking to your doctor to rule out sleep disorders is probably your wisest move.

If your partner says you gasp in your sleep, a sleep apnea treatment strategy may be what you need. Even if you don’t feel sleepy, every human brain requires consecutive hours of quality sleep to be fully functional.

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