My 2016 Resolution: Making Sleep a Priority

I love sleep. Unfortunately, I rarely get enough of this somewhat prized commodity. I am a very light sleeper and as a result I wake easily. I wake from our dog’s pitter-patter of footsteps, my husband’s mild snoring, the uneasy gurgle of our humidifier...any little noise and I am awake.  I am also my worst enemy when it comes to going to sleep. Distractions like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, or a good book all prevent me from going to bed early—it's not my fault really!

When I am sleep deprived, I am my worst self. I am grumpy, lack motivation, crave sugar (and will often consume it in the form of chocolate), and will often skip my work-out.  It’s no wonder that one of the first questions I ask my patients in clinic is, “How are you sleeping?” Sleep has such a tremendous impact on our quality of life and health.

According to a study conducted at the Université Laval, sleep disorders affect 40% of our Canadian population. Lack of sleep prevents our body’s restoration process as per the Canadian Sleep Society. This increases our risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, anxiety, depression and poor immune function. Our brain literally starts to function at a lower level as we start to exhibit lack of coordination, poor memory and slowed reaction time.

So how much sleep do we need? Most adults need ~7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.  Another way to determine if you are getting sufficient sleep is how rested and energized you feel. If you are hitting the snooze button, guzzling cups of caffeinated coffee in the morning (and afternoon), dozing in your chair in the afternoon—chances are you are not getting enough sleep OR good quality sleep. Discuss your sleep issues with your family physician or health professional. A sleep study may be warranted to rule out or treat sleep apnea.

Tips for Getting more ZZZZZZ’s:

  1. Your bed is for the 2 S’s—sleep and sex. Try avoid watching TV, playing on your Smart Phone or Ipad, eating and even reading in bed.
  2. Remember at summer camp, your counselor would scream “Lights out!”—well, same idea. Have a designated time to start winding down—this means limiting the stimuli in your environment—and then literally LIGHTS OUT. Try and make your bedroom as dark and cool as possible.
  3. In the evening, avoid foods and beverages that may contain stimulants. This could include caffeinated beverages or chocolate.
  4. If you have a small bladder (like myself) avoid having too much fluid in the evening. Frequent bathroom visits in the middle of the night are SO annoying.
  5. Limit or avoid alcohol at night. Many people have told me that alcohol helps them fall asleep; but, we also know that alcohol will disturb one’s Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycle which will prevent a good quality sleep. Alcohol is also a diuretic and therefore may increase those nightly bathroom visits.

More useful tips on how to improve your sleep can be found on the Canadian Sleep Society website:

As for me, I am going to bed. More sleep is one health goal that I am striving to make a priority. Goodnight and sweet dreams.