How to get a good night's sleep

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 1:57pm

By KARLA MOORE M.Sc (OT)

Wellness Navigator, Chebucto Community Health Team

Transitioning a household to the back-to-school early morning routine can be a challenge after a summer of staying up late and sleeping in.

Between 30 and 40 per cent of adults do not usually get a good night’s sleep. The good news is there are changes people can make to improve their sleep.

The following strategies for a better night’s sleep are discussed during the Building Better Sleep session, offered by Capital Health’s Community Health Teams:

Bedroom

Use your bedroom for sleep only. Remove the computer and TV from your bedroom, so your brain associates the bedroom with sleep and not with surfing the net and watching the news. Use heavy curtains or blinds to block light. Cut down on noise by using ear plugs or a white-noise machine such as a fan.

Sleep routine

Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends and when on vacation. This trains your mind and body to know when it’s time for sleep. We all know how difficult it is to wake up early on Monday when we have slept in on Sunday. Also, add a relaxing activity such as reading to your routine to slow your mind down for sleep.

Physical activity

You are more likely to have a good night’s sleep if you are physically tired. Include some type of vigorous physical activity during your day. However, schedule the workout at least two hours before bed as exercising just before bedtime may keep you awake.

Caffeine

Caffeine stimulates the brain and increases heart rate.  Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening and limit caffeine to 400 mg/day. This generally equals fewer than three 8 oz cups of coffee a day.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol in the evening, including have a ‘night cap,’ has a price. You may fall asleep faster, but your sleep may be disturbed later in the night, as alcohol can interfere with the sleep cycle.

Cigarettes

Cigarettes are a stimulant, which can prolong the time it takes to fall asleep. Cigarette smoking can interfere with the sleep cycle, waking a person during the night due to nicotine withdrawal.

Waking in the middle of the night

Avoid clock watching, which can create more stress as you worry that you aren’t asleep yet. If you are clearly awake after 20 minutes, don’t stay in bed and toss and turn. Instead, get out of bed and do something relaxing, such as reading a boring book. Return to bed when you are sleepy. You will probably get back to sleep more easily than if you had stayed in bed tossing and turning.

For more information on sleep, attend the Building Better Sleep sessions, which will be held:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 9, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Wellness Centre, 16 Dentith Road
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13, 1 to 3 p.m. at Girl Guides of Canada, 3581 Dutch Village Road

For more information on this and other free health and wellness programs offered by the Community Health Teams, view the current schedule and register online

Programs are free for those who live, work, or have a family doctor in Dartmouth or Chebucto area (Halifax mainland) communities, from Sambro to Larry Uteck Boulevard.

Community Health Teams focus on the promotion of health and wellness in the community and are an initiative of Primary Health Care at Capital Health in partnership with the IWK Health Centre and community partners.