“Without sleep, we can’t function.”
If you want to improve your health, sleep is one of the best places to start.
“Without sleep, we can’t function. Sleep deprivation is worse than not eating,” says NAIT counsellor Caren Anderson. “We need [sleep] to get oxygen to the brain and we need to be able to go into a REM sleep to be able to have energy.”
Anderson says questions about sleep are almost always included in counselling assessments, since too little can affect so many parts of well-being. “[Sleep] impacts our ability to focus and controls our moods,” she says.
“One of the thing we suggest for self-care is getting back to basics,” says Anderson. “Sometimes that means just getting some [more] sleep. As simple as that sounds, it’s not always easy.”
Sleep issues vary from person to person. Whether you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, there are steps you can take to get a better slumber.
1. Establish a ritual
“Routine is really important when it comes to sleep,” says Anderson. Try going to bed around the same time each night and go through the same steps leading up to bedtime. She suggests taking a hot bath, using essential oils or wearing a sleep mask to signal your body that’s it’s time to rest.
Your routine can also include steps you take earlier in the day, such as assessing what you’re drinking and when. Coffee, tea and pop can affect sleep, so choose decaffeinated options later in the day.
2. Practice grounding exercises
“A lot of people have anxiety before going to bed, because it’s the first time they’ve stopped that day,” she says. “Use grounding exercises to refocus your mind instead of amping yourself up thinking about everything.”
Anderson recommends thinking about what’s in your bedroom – 5 things you can see, 5 things you can smell and 5 things you can hear. There’s no need to get too specific, just be aware of what else is in the space with you. That can calm your mind and body.
3. No phones allowed
“[Don’t] spend too much time looking at screens before bed because that can stimulate us,” Anderson says. It won’t always be easy, but she recommends putting devices down 2 hours before bed.
Keeping your phone out of the bedroom will reduce your temptation to pick it up, she says. If you get your coat, bag and other items ready for work the night before, leave your phone with those.
4. Don’t toss and turn
If you can’t fall asleep right away, don’t stay in bed and watch the clock. “Sometimes getting up and doing something to distract yourself can help,” says Anderson. “Do some reading, have some hot tea.” Your body will know when it’s time to try sleeping again.