Winding down before bed key to getting a good night's sleep
Published Wednesday, January 16, 2013 3:13PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 16, 2013 6:52PM EST
Any number of factors can lead to sleep disorders, but experts say poor bedtime preparation is one of the most common.
Kathy Somers is a kinesiologist at the University of Guelph. She says having a “wind down” period before bed is key to getting a good night’s sleep.
“For half an hour before bed, I would do something to unwind my brain,” she says.
That means no TV, no computers and no smartphones – no distractions to keep the brain’s synapses firing when they should be gearing down for seven to nine hours of sleep.
Caffeine can be a problem too, and not just right before bed. Experts recommend sleepers abstain from coffee and tea for six hours before turning in, and from alcohol for at least three hours.
What you do once you’re in bed also affects your quality of sleep.
“The first thing is to get a comfortable position, so make sure you’ve got a comfortable mattress, that you’re not too hot, that you’re not too cold,” says Somers, who has been teaching sleep techniques for 15 years.
“Then say to yourself ‘It is so nice to just take a break and to rest.’”
Weight also makes a difference. Recent studies show that as many as two-thirds of people who are overweight are susceptible to sleep apnea, a condition in which a block in the airways causes sufferers to stop breathing while asleep.
“The health care costs of obesity in North America are now consuming up to 10 per cent of the health budget, and it’s going to be escalating as we get older,” says Dr. Raymond Gottschalk, the director of a sleep disorder clinic at Cambridge Memorial Hospital.
“Trying to address that sooner rather than later is probably one of the most important things we need to discuss now.”
Experts say if lack of sleep has reached the point where functioning normally during the day becomes a problem, visiting a doctor is a far better idea than self-medicating.
A 2011 study from Laval University found that 40 per cent of Canadians have some form of sleep disorder.