Spotlight: Sleep Health at Medcan

3 ways to get a better night's rest

We asked our readers in January “which health change is most important to you”? A resounding 44% said that sleep was their health priority for the New Year.

These results mirror Canadians’ sleep patterns. A 2016 study found 40% of Canadians do not wake up refreshed and are irritable throughout the day. In addition, 49% admit lack of sleep affects productivity at work, and six in 10 would take a nap if they could. And for good reason: studies in both adults and children suggest that sleep problems may raise risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.

So for those of us wanting to improve our sleep, what is the next step? Here are three approaches our Medcan experts suggest exploring to help you get higher quality Z’s:

Adjust your sleep routine

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. These changes include:

  • turning off screens at least 60 minutes before bed
  • making your bedroom stimuli-free and
  • cutting off coffee at 2 p.m.

For more sleep hygiene tips, read here. The benefits, like a more stable mood, renewed energy and focus, can be almost immediate.

There’s a psychology approach to insomnia

If falling asleep or staying asleep is caused by ruminating thoughts or worry, a psychology approach to sleeplessness may be right for you. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) aims to improve sleep habits by identifying and changing the thoughts and behaviors that are affecting quality sleep. The therapy helps you learn to closely monitor how you are thinking, feeling, and behaving in your daily life. Eventually, you can identify negative or unhelpful patterns and to break them down into separate parts so that they are easier to work with and change. Medcan psychologists are trained in CBT-I.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is an effective therapy for chronic insomnia disorder. It can be conducted during weekly or bi-weekly sessions, in the psychologist office or by video visit,” says Dr. Gina DiGiulio, Director of Psychology at Medcan.

It’s also a preferred alternative to sleep medications, which can be addictive.

“CBT-I can help people kick the sleeping pill habit – which unfortunately is a high risk when people use sleep aids for a long time,” said Dr. David Caspari, senior consultant and physician at Medcan who led our online seminar on sleep.

Sleep apnea: the silent strangler

Sleep apnea is a concerning condition because those who suffer from it can go undiagnosed and unaware for years. Here’s the good news: once it’s identified, there are effective ways to manage it. Which means your quality of life can drastically improve. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to morning headaches, erectile dysfunction, daytime and inappropriate sleeping in front of TV, at the movies or theatre or falling asleep while driving. Left untreated your heart and overall health can be severely impacted.

Risks of sleep apnea increase with age and weight gain. So weight loss is one way to reduce your risk. Initial steps for managing sleep apnea also include sleeping on your side or stomach to help keep the airway open. Sleeping aids like a tennis ball in a back pocket can help you prevent from rolling on your back.

Therapeutic devices can keep airway open in different ways. In terms of getting a firm sleep apnea diagnosis, it should be tested for in a sleep clinic or in the more comfortable setting of your home with at-home testing.

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