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Article: Week 1: Science of Sleep

Week 1: Science of Sleep

With our days shorter and stress higher, this December sleep may be the farthest thing from your mind. I like to say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” when friends and family tell me to relax and then I wonder why I am, can I take some ashwagandha for this, or…? Um, no I need some good old fashioned rest. Chances are you need rest too. 

When you climb into bed, does it take forever to fall asleep? Or are you out like a light the minute your head hits the pillow only to wake up at 2 am, tossing and turning? If one of these describes you, you’re in good company. Err...or maybe not so good.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of Americans aren’t getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep needed for our overall health and well-being — I don’t know how that translates in Canada or wherever else in the world you are, but chances are you’re on par. 

The most obvious signs of poor sleep hygiene are trouble falling asleep, disrupted sleep, and — of course — feeling fatigued and foggy throughout the day. Sleep deprivation slows our reflexes, sabotages decision-making and saps creativity.

A recent study showed that failing to get enough sleep can also make us feel anxious and sad. The study linked sleep deprivation to problems diverting our attention away from negative thoughts and ideas, which may put us at greater risk for depression.

Here’s the happy news: Getting good sleep is more accessible than we might imagine. 

If you’re a parent or pet parent you know it’s all about routine and wind-down. Well, guess what, that works for us as well!

Try keeping bedtime around the same every night. This allows the body to get into a rhythm and adjust accordingly. 

Rather than listening to the news — or the chatter in your head/mind — when you get home, put on your favourite music. While classical music has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress, any music that you enjoy will help you quiet down and lift your mood. What’s everyone listening to these days? Send tips!

Expose yourself to natural light (outdoors, if possible) in the morning or earlier in the day. Getting enough natural light during the day will also keep your body clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

Bathe before bedtime. Taking a warm bath or shower an hour or two before bed has been shown to relax both the body and mind, in one study lowering both heart rate and blood pressure. Heat relaxes tense, tired muscles, and helps you de-stress.

Read yourself a bedtime story —seriously! Reading is a great way to relax. Even just six minutes absorbed in a story can reduce stress by 68%, according to research from the University of Sussex. Or listen to an audiobook or meditation. It’s the ultimate escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world.

Paving the way for a better sleep may simply be a matter of adjusting our habits. Our bodies aren’t meant to stay amped up and then drop into sleep like a stone — they’re meant to gradually unwind. And if you can fit in that unwind, your overall day and mood will be a whole lot better for it. 

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