Tips to get better sleep

Your life is already tense — teens rebelling,  house under renovation, work life in overload, bills piling up, elderly parents declining — yet the demands requiring your attention and time continue to grow, overflowing into sleep-time territory. Oftentimes, mass marketing's solutions to women's challenging lifestyles focus on quick fixes and more consumer goods. But ask around, and you'll quickly learn that what most women really savour and yearn for is not a faster toaster or fancier phone, but uninterrupted, mind-numbing, all-encompassing, quality, sound sleep. That's right. To wake up refreshed and energized, with zip in your step, clarity in your mind, feeling good and ready to tackle all that life throws your way. Is dreaming about sublime, heavenly sleep the impossible dream? Absolutely not.

Insomnia — difficulty falling asleep and/or maintaining sleep resulting in sleep that leaves you non-revitalized—is the most common sleep disorder in Canada. Although there is no gender bias or age barrier, insomnia appears to affect more women than men.  In 2008, IMS Health Canada reported that almost 18 million prescriptions for sleep were dispensed by Canadian drug stores. It is clear that this issue is not going away.

Poor sleep over an extended period of time can have a serious detrimental effect on overall health and wellness. It can impact on mental stability, affecting a person's behaviour, concentration and focus and increasing the risk for anxiety, depression; and on physical health, contributing to weight gain and inducing impaired motor coordination. Quality sleep is essential to regenerate the brain and other parts of the body so that they can continue to function optimally.

What can you do?

Most importantly, establish a sleep routine. Maintain when possible a fixed sleep time. For instance, make an effort to go to bed at 10 p.m. each night and rise by 6 a.m.  New research notes that we all need at least 7 ½ hours of quality sleep daily.

Create an appropriate sleep environment.  Avoid noise, light, and extreme temperatures to help encourage a comfortable night's sleep.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine and excess alcohol. These often contribute to poor sleep and insomnia. Alcohol may initially allow one to fall asleep, but results in fragmented sleep.

Learn how to relax. Deep breathing, meditation and biofeedback are often helpful for most people.

Consider natural sleep supplements including:

Passionflower - a safe, effective herb used to promote sleep, particularly if caused by nervous exhaustion, overwork and worry.

Valerian - well known for its sedative effects, this herb can reduce restlessness and insomnia. It appears to reduce night-time waking.

Melatonin - Research reported in the 2001 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reveals that melatonin can help older adult insomniacs (50+) obtain a good night's sleep.

Other beneficial herbs include hops, chamomile and lavender. A number of excellent natural sleep supplements are available at through your local Nutrition House store or on-line at   Most of these supplements are comprised of a few nutrients that work synergistically to provide a restful night of restorative, quality sleep.

Stressing over lack of sleep can only make it worse.  So try the tips, stay calm, and train yourself to a better sleep.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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