Poll: 63% of Us Need More Sleep!
We all know the benefits of a good night’s sleep. When we are stressed, sick or in pain, sleep can be hard to come by. Sleeping builds our immune system, strengthens our memory, balances our hormones and regulates our emotions. A U.S. poll by the National Sleep Foundation claims that 63% of America’s sleep needs are not being met.
Although Canadians are supposedly ‘better in bed’… (or so we like to think), BUT in terms of sleep quality the stats are similar.
When insomnia strikes during the wee hours, our brains go into warp speed. Along with a million thoughts spinning in our heads, our clock reminds us that every minute of elusive sleep, is yet another minute closer to a day spent yawning in the fog of lost slumber.
Insomniacs are some of the Smartest People
If it makes you feel better, an occasional night of disrupted sleep has been shared by some of
the most brilliant minds of our time, who instead of fretting, chose to channel their hours of sleeplessness into creativity. Shakespeare, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Marcel Proust, Walt Whitman, Emily Bronté, and Robert Frost …and Margaret Thatcher (who says, sleep is for wimps?)
ALL experienced great bursts of inspiration during many a restless night. So take comfort, you are not alone in periodic refusals to join the ‘collective nod.’ It’s all how we choose to spin it. It’s also all about ‘quality’ of sleep, not necessarily quantity.
Sleep Hacks for the Smart Insomniac
But for those of us who finally need to join the others who sleep soundly, here are some of my favourite sleep hacks that work!
1.Maintain a Regular Schedule
Back in the day before the lightbulb, our sleep was dictated by the rise and fall of the sun. Wake up at sun rise and work, work, work all day long, then to bed when the sun went down. I have been using the Sleep App “Sonic Sleep”. Easy to set up the schedule you want that suits your work schedule and will remind you to start heading to bed soon as well as gently wakes you (no more horrible heart stopping alarm).
You can also set it to deal with external noises using white, pink or brown noise to keep you sleeping throughout the night.
2. Take Control of your Light
Further to the point above. Due to our modern technology, we are in a world full of artificially produced light including the light from our phone screens and computers. This light confuses our brain and makes it nearly impossible for our bodies to know night from day.
As this day/ night confusion continues to cause sleep disturbances we get into a cycle of insomnia and fatigue. You can manually start dimming lights in your home (dimming lights mimics the natural sun setting outside) in the evening or place them on timers. Try to limit your phone and computer usage or at the very least make sure your devices are on “night shift” mode where the screen’s blue light is filtered into the evening. And when in bed, consider investing in dark out shades or my favourite light blocker…. my blinders. I cannot go anywhere without them.
4. Meditation before Bedtime
One of my favourite ways to improve sleep. Meditation is known to help quiet our thoughts and relax our body. When we stop and focus on an object of attention (this is usually our breathing) our over-active mind begins to settle down.
The idea of doing this right before bed helps set up our minds and bodies to be more “still”. We all know the feeling of not being able to sleep, and then becoming anxious because we can’t sleep. Often this stress of not being able to sleep is what keeps us awake! We worry about being able to cope with our day that is ahead of us. So by learning how to see our sleeplessness experience in a non-reactive way, we can be more comfortable with just lying awake in bed.
Instead, we simply take note that we are awake and we don’t stress about it. And so, we are relaxed and, as a result, we are more likely to drift off to sleep. Meditation is a ‘go-to’ tool that will put your thoughts to sleep and your body will follow.
Quality vs Quantity
To add to the last point of reducing de-stressing in bed. Keep in mind that 5 hours of quality, restorative sleep, will recharge your battery better than 8 hours of poor quality shut-eye spent worrying. Reducing factors that disrupt your sleep, such as light, blue light from our phones, noise, stress, snoring bedmates, babies (ok we have to keep those), alcohol, and caffeine…. is essential.
And do not underestimate the importance of investing in top notch bedding and a quality pillow that supports your neck and spine while you get your quality sleep. We spend 1/3 of our lives intimately engulfed in our beds and pillows — nothing is more important than your soft plan to land.
Let us know if you use any special techniques to get your much needed sleep.
Kathy Young Keefe RN / Kim Renton RN Co-Creators of enVy Pillow and occasional insomniacs
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