- Count backwards: Slowly, while lying in bed, count backwards from 100. Take your time – if you forget or hesitate about what number you’re on, start over from 100. Don’t allow yourself to get frustrated. Doing a monotonous activity like this can have the effect of making you sleepy.
- Analyze your sleep cycle: Record your sleep data, perhaps by tracking it in a journal or using an app on an electronic device. Once you identify your sleeping pattern, you can potentially identify problems and find ways to mediate them.
- Guided visualization: Relax your body from head to toe, and imagine yourself in a calming location (e.g. a beach). Go through each of the senses that you would imagine in that place: the smell, the sights, the sounds.
- Find ways to reduce anxiety: Subconscious anxiety or stress can impede on sleep. Check out your EFAP resources for ideas (enter “dalhousie” in the search bar) on how to reduce stress, such as mindfulness exercises, yoga or medication.
- Alternate nostril breathing: Using your finger to press on each of your nostrils while slowly breathing out of the adjacent open nostril can relax your nervous system.
- Improve your diet or exercise routine: Exercise can release endorphins that balance stress and releasing that energy throughout the day can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Eating a healthier diet, and changing up when you eat (e.g. not eating right before sleep) can also mediate uneasiness or insomnia.
Blue light emitted from smart phones and computer screens alike is becoming a growing concern for sleep scientists. Study after study show that the light produced by modern LED screens slow or halt the production of melatonin, the hormone that signals our brain that it’s time for bed. A recent Harvard study suggest that blue light exposure in the evening can alter sleep schedules by up to three hours.
There are phone apps that can lower the amount of blue light your mobile devices emit, and there are computer glasses as well that can help filter out some of the light, but most experts recommend limiting your phone or computer usage before bed.
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Adequate sleep is an essential part of a healthy life. Sleeplessness has been linked to problems with mental health, like depression, as well as irritability, anger, and mental exhaustion. One hundred and fifty years ago, prior to the invention of the light bulb or the telephone, the world (as we can imagine) was very different.
Then came these inventions which changed human lives forever – including changing the average amount of hours that a person gets on average. One hundred and fifty years ago, people were getting up to 10 hours of sleep per night! In the United States, the average person now sleeps 6.7 hours – a huge drop that is neither natural nor healthy.
Studies have shown that the world’s best performers average at 8 hours and 36 minutes of sleep per night, and nap for at least 30 minutes per day. Harvard University has found that a nap as short as 6 minutes can increase your brain power – so if you are unable to maximize your sleep at night, a quick nap in the afternoon might be the solution to your problems.
Think sleeping is an indulgence or a waste of your precious time?
The tide is turning on research that shows getting a good night’s sleep is better for cognitive functions and equally as important for your overall sense of well-being. While the exact amount of sleep you need is genetic most people (90%) require between seven and eight hours of sleep per night.
Dal’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) can help you with personalized support at 1-800-387-4765 or workhealthlife.com
Sleeping troubles can lead to you feeling jaded and lethargic which can affect productivity at work and at home. If the troubles are chronic, it may have something to do with your diet. Here are some things to try, and things to avoid, if you’re having trouble sleeping.
What to Try
- Drinking a glass of warm milk before bed can help you sleep better. Dairy products are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which helps in the production of the sleep inducing brain chemicals, serotonin and melatonin.
- Eating a carbohydrate-rich snack, like a few oatcakes or a bowl of cereal, an hour before going to bed stimulates the release of insulin. This helps to clear amino acids that compete with tryptophan from the bloodstream, allowing more of this sleep-inducing amino acid to enter the brain.
- Herbal teas, such as chamomile, passionflower tea and valerian, have a sedative effect (Mayo Clinic, 2014).
What to Avoid
- Say no to an after-dinner espresso or late night coffee. The stimulant effect of caffeine reaches its peak one to four hours after it’s consumed, but some people can feel its effects up to 12 hours later. Some over-the-counter cold and headache remedies are also high in caffeine.
- A large late evening meal interferes with sleep, as your body is busy digesting. You may also suffer from heartburn or indigestion. Try to eat at least three hours before going to bed.
- Avoid foods such as pork, cheese, chocolate, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, and wine near bedtime as they are rich in an amino acid tryamine, which the body converts to noradrenaline, a brain stimulant (Mayo Clinic, 2014).
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Sleep tips: 7 steps to better sleep. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379