Sleep Hygiene Tips for Restful Sleep

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a term that you may have heard a lot of recently. But what is it? According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep hygiene is defined as “a variety of practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.”

Frequent sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness are the most telling signs of poor sleep hygiene. In addition, if you’re taking too long to fall asleep, you should consider evaluating your sleep routine and revising your bedtime habits. Just a few simple changes can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and night spent tossing and turning.

Why is Sleep Hygiene Important?

Our quality of sleep is not only determined by what we do before bed, but rather by the sum of how we spend our entire day. Think of your sleep routine as starting the moment you get up in the morning.

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Why is Sleep Loss So Common? 

Let’s face it: we live in a fast-paced crazy world! Sadly, the lifestyle most of us adopt to get through our crazy days often make it hard to sleep at night.  Lack of sleep may be caused by many factors but in my experience the two most common factors are stress causing an overstimulated nervous system and poor blood sugar management.

Quantity Versus Quality:

Getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night is needed for optimal energy and overall health. However, sleep quality is equally as important as the number of hours spent in bed. Getting adequate, good quality sleep means that you should wake easily and feel rested and refreshed.

How Hormones Affect Sleep:

There also appears to gender differences when it comes to sleep, and a strong link between female sex hormones and sleep. While women report higher duration and quality of sleep than men, they also frequently report sleep issues. Women are more likely to have insomnia than men, the latter of which report higher incidences of sleep apnea or obstructed sleep. Menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause can alter sleep, as well as a combination of environmental, social, and cultural influences on these biological factors, not to mention pre-existing medical conditions.

Simple Ways to Get a Better Sleep:

It’s clear that there are many benefits to getting enough good quality sleep. Here are some tips that can help to improve your sleep hygiene and establish good sleep habits:

  1. Be consistent: As best as you can, maintain the same sleep and wake patterns every day. This will help your body establish a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
  2. Limit daytime naps: You’ll sleep better at night if you eliminate naps. However, if you need to nap, limit them to 30 minutes or less, keeping in mind that napping does not make up for inadequate nighttime sleep, but can help to improve mood, alertness, and performance.
  3. Exercise at the right time: Regular exercise helps to improve sleep, as long as your workout isn’t too close to your bedtime. Aim to finish any vigorous activity 3 to 4 hours before you plan to go to sleep. On the other hand, gentle exercises before bed, such as yin or restorative yoga, can help the mind and body calm and prepare for sleep.
  4. Adequate exposure to natural light: This is particularly important for individuals who may not venture outside frequently. Exposure to sunlight during the day (especially when you first wake up), as well as darkness at night, helps to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
  5. Limit caffeine intake to before noon
  6. Choose a healthy bedtime snack: snacking before bed can be especially helpful for individuals with poor blood sugar balance. The best bedtime snacks contain tryptophan, and amino acid that helps the body make serotonin, a chemical in the brain that aids in the sleep process. My favourite go-to’s are raw pumpkin seeds (or other nuts/seeds) or a rice cake with nut butter.
  7. Power down: The soft blue glow from a cell phone, tablet, or digital clock on your bedside table may hurt your sleep. Turn off TVs, computers, and other blue-light sources an hour before you go to bed. Cover any displays you can’t shut off.
  8. Make you sleep environment pleasant: The Academy of Sleep advises that we think of our bedroom as a cave. Meaning, your room should be cool, dark, and quiet (i.e. free of distracting electronic devices). Your sheets should be clean and your bedding appropriate for the time of year, so your sleep is not disturbed because you are either too hot or too cold. If you share your bedroom, communicate your sleep needs with your partner, so you are both on the same page, sleep-wise. This will help limit partner-related sleep disturbances.
  9. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine: For example, dim the light 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. At least an hour before bed, (if hungry) eat tryptophan-rich snack, turn off all electronics, enjoy a cup of chamomile tea, or take a bath with essential oils like lavender. Half an hour before bed, do a little light yoga and/or mediation, or read. You can also journal about anything that’s on your mind. Fifteen minutes before bed, make sure your room is quiet, cool, and dark, and your bedding is fresh and appropriate for the weather. At bedtime, slip under the covers, and practice some deep breathing techniques, or read (no electronics!) until you’re tired enough to drift off.
  10. Make your room 100% dark: make your room dark enough that you can’t see your hand in front of your face when you go to bed. Blackout curtains are a great investment or simply wear an eye mask. Note: If you don’t fall asleep in about 30 minutes, try repeating some of these steps, until you feel tired enough to drift off. There’s no point in suffering and becoming more frustrated.

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7 Common Causes of Fatigue

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Most people experience periods of temporary fatigue commonly associated with being overworked or overtired. Such cases usually have an easily identifiable cause and remedy.

Persistent exhaustion, however, is prolonged, profound, and is not relieved by rest alone. Described as a near-constant state of weariness, fatigue develops over time and diminishes energy levels, motivation, and concentration, while also impacting emotional and psychological well-being.

Below are some of the top causes of fatigue and their symptoms.

1. Low Protein Intake:

Protein is an essential building block of the human body. Vital organs, muscles, tissues, and even some hormones are made of protein. Proteins are involved in nearly every bodily function from regulating blood sugar levels to healing wounds and fighting infection. Because they are used to develop, grow, and maintain nearly every part of the body – from skin and hair, to digestive enzymes and antibodies – they are constantly being broken down and must be replaced through diet. While each person is unique in terms of their specific protein needs (based on body weight, gender, age, and activity level), on average, the recommended daily minimum intake of protein for men is 56 grams, and 46 grams for women. Symptoms of low protein intake include: low energy/fatigue, sluggish metabolism, poor concentration, moodiness, difficulty losing weight, muscle, bone and joint pain, blood sugar changes, slow wound healing, low immunity. Vegetarians and vegans, as well as those on weight loss diets, are among the groups that may be at risk of protein deficiency.

2. Iron Deficiency:

The signs and symptoms of low iron or iron-deficiency vary depending on its severity. Mild to moderate iron deficiency can have little or no symptoms. However, if the body continues to be deficient in iron, it can lead to anemia, and symptoms then intensify. The most common symptom of iron deficiency is extreme fatigue. This is because iron is critical in the production hemoglobin, a protein that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout the body. Without adequate levels of iron, the body cannot produce hemoglobin, and as a result can leave you feeling fatigued. Iron defieciency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide.

3. Vitamin B12 Deficiency:

The human body requires B12 to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA, and carry out various functions. Like most vitamins, B12 cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from food and/or supplements. However, many people do not consume enough B12 to meet their needs, due to dietary habits or restrictions (e.g. strict vegetarians) or because they have existing medical conditions that interfere with food absorption (e.g. celiac or Crohn’s disease). As a result, B12 deficiency is relatively common.

4. Vitamin D Deficiency: 

Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, and it also appears to play a role in insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and immune function. Canadians are at risk because of our long winters and it is essentially impossible to get sufficient vitamin D from your diet. Those who avoid the sun, have darker skin complexions, are strict vegans, or who are obese, may be at even higher risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. According to recent research, roughly three-quarters of American adolescents and adults are vitamin D deficient.

5. Hypothyroidism:

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, stems from an underproduction of thyroid hormones. Since the body’s energy production requires certain amounts of thyroid hormones, a drop in hormone production leads to lower energy levels, causing you to feel weak and tired. Approximately 25 million people suffer with hypothyroidism and about half are undiagnosed. Older adults, particularly women, are more likely to develop hypothyroidism.

6. Insomnia/Non-restorative Sleep:

How much sleep a person needs varies but most adults require roughly seven to eight hours each night in order to function optimally. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or cause one to wake up too early and not be able to fall back asleep. Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors. Nonrestorative sleep (NRS) is defined as the subjective experience that sleep has not been sufficiently refreshing or restorative. NRS is conventionally recognized as a symptom of insomnia or as a feature of medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome. In the case of both insomnia and NRS, you may still feel tired when you wake up, which can impact not only your energy level and mood, but also your health, work performance, and quality of life.

7. Adrenal Fatigue/Burnout:

Adrenal glands play a significant role in stress response, as well as in balancing hormones. Adrenal fatigue is a condition where the body and adrenal glands cannot keep up with the amount of stress that many people experience daily as part of modern life. Acute stress and/or chronic stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet and exercise can cause adrenals glands to become overloaded and ineffective. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

  • Unrelenting tiredness
  • Fatigue despite adequate sleep
  • Body ache, muscle weakness, muscle tension
  • Poor focus, racing thoughts
  • Moodiness, irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizzyness or feeling unsteady with position changes
  • Difficulty exercising or poor exercise recovery

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