Get ready for a better night’s sleep with five surprising strategies that’ll send you off to slumberland—and keep you there.
When your body’s not getting the zzzs it needs, you’re prone to poor memory, feeling moody (and at increased risk of depression and mood disorders), poor blood sugar control and decreased immune function, while putting your heart at risk, too. Good sleep is the foundation of good physical and mental health. We know this, but we still don’t prioritize sleep the way we should, says Kimberly Cote, director of the sleep research lab at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. Netfiix binges in bed, late afternoon coffee breaks and other sleep stealers are continually getting in the way of a good night’s rest. But you can change all that—starting tonight!
Go Ahead, Nap
Catching a few extra winks can be beneficial for people with erratic sleep schedules, like parents with young children or shift workers who aren’t able to catch the recommended seven to nine hours at night. But, on the other hand, a long nap at the wrong time— in the evening for example—can be counter-productive, because it’s likely to mess with your chance of a good rest that night. According to the Canadian Sleep Society, the ideal nap is no more than 20 minutes and best taken in late morning or early afternoon.
Take your Phone to Bed
There’s sound reasoning for us banning screens from the bedroom: “There are both biological effects and some environmental reasons why you shouldn’t bring your phone to bed,” says Melodee Mograss, a cognitive neuropsychology and research associate in the Perform Centre sleep lab at Concordia University in Montreal. “Blue light stimulates you and even has the potential of shifting your biological rhythm.” That’s because it interferes with melatonin production, the hormone needed for quality sleep. That said, there are a new crop of sleep apps designed to enhance sleep and many people swear by the soothing music options and relaxing guided meditations. As long as you’re following the rules of smart tech in the bedroom (no watching Netfiix, answering work emails or scrolling through your Instagram feed) and you turn down the light on your device, a sleep app might be just what you need to get to dreamland.
Move Fido into the Bedroom
The old thinking used to be that pets were sleep distrupters, but research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings showed that having a dog nearby doesn’t actually keep pet parents awake. (The effects of snoozing felines haven’t been studied, but researchers speculate that cats could be more disruptive since they’re nocturnal.) In fact, sleeping near your dog can be both comforting and relaxing, which is bound to help you snooze better. Note: If you have a big pooch or a restless one that moves around a lot, having it sleep in a dog bed near you might be more effective than having it curled up next to you under the duvet.
Stop Stressing About it
“Often we mistakenly think that we have to have a certain number of hours of sleep per night,” says Mograss. “Thinking this way often results in stress and anxiety that may result in disruptive sleep,” she says. It’s true that you need between seven and nine hours of quality rest per night, but exactly how much you require to function at your best is individual. Worrying about frequent night waking or ruminating about having trouble dozing off is only going to make matters worse. Understand that you are able to function even when sleeping for slightly less time than is optimal. Not sure if you’re getting enough zzzs? Start a journal, noting sleep and wake times and how you feel in the mornings, as well as throughout the day, to determine your magic sleep number.
KonMari your Space
People who snooze surrounded by clutter may be more likely to have serious sleep complaints, according to research published in the journal Sleep. To create a snoozing— and soothing—oasis, ensure your bedroom is tidy, as well as dark and cool (most sleep experts peg a temperature of between 15°C and 19°C as the ideal) and free of disruptive noises. Some people like total quiet, while others prefer the whir of white noise to mask unwanted sounds, such as street noise. (Tip: Sleep with the hum of a fan and you get the bonus cooling effect, too!)