I yawn as I type this, which is an irony in and of itself. If there’s one thing where our society has gone downhill, it’s in getting enough sleep. With the kajillion different ways we now have to stay up and the endless parade of more information and games and tasks, it’s easier than ever to stay up that extra hour and play another game of Facebook Scrabble.
Prior to the late 1800s, adults got around 9 hours of sleep a night. That dropped by an entire hour within less than twenty five years. Why, you ask? The invention of the light bulb suddenly made it possible to finish that novel after dark without having to burn through your supply of candles. And that was just the beginning. The OECD had a report in 2006 which said that Canadians sleep an average of 8.5 hours/night, but no one I know actually gets that much. The US Center for Disease Control considered it an epidemic, according to a report they issued back in March.
Sleep needs are made up of your basal sleep need, which is what you actually need every night, and your sleep debt, which is that massive wall of snoozing that you haven’t gotten because of that great new book/Candy Crush/watching too much late night TV.
What are the effects of all of these missing zzzzzzs? Lots. Here are just a couple:
Transport Canada estimates that 20% of fatal collisions are caused by fatigue, and that the most problematic times are around your body’s circadian rhythms (sleepy times, in laymen’s terms) of 2-4am and 2-4pm. So there’s that. Driving sleepy is apparently as dangerous as driving drunk.
Not getting enough sleep impairs your immune system, has been shown to have a correlation with weight gain, and is terrible for your skin. When you’re sleep deprived, your body releases more of the sleep hormone cortisol, which breaks down collagen and ages your skin.
Being tired makes me (and others that I know) crabby. Which affects not only people I work with who like me more when I’m not so tired, but also my relationships with family and friends. I find I have much more patience for K attempting to bring all four of her stuffed friends into the car (Donkey, Monkey, Teddy and Eeyore) with a full eight hours behind me than I do if I’ve tried to squeak by at 6.5.
So what can we do to get more (and better quality) sleep? There are a million (and that may be literal) websites that have sleep tips, so I’m just going to tell you what’s worked for me personally.
1) Have a routine.
Humans are built on routine. If you do the same thing at roughly the same time every night, it will begin to trigger your brain to start thinking ‘zzzzz’. I have an evening shower, and the warm water cues my melatonin to start kicking in.
2) Stop checking the Internet and playing on your phone an hour before bed.
This is the hardest one, and I’m not always roaringly successful at it. The blue light that emits from all of our beloved gadgets also makes it harder for your body to get into sleep mode. I’ve found that the nights where I’m playing those last few games of Scramble right before bed are the nights when my sleep is the most choppy.
3) Wear pyjamas that are the right temperature.
It’s kind of a Goldilocks thing. Not too hot, not too cold. I can’t sleep unless I’m just the right temperature. This sometimes leads to midnight pyjama changes, to the bemusement of my husband.
4) Have a snack half an hour before bed.
Preferably something like cereal or toast with peanut butter. I Iike to think of it as a warmup for breakfast. That way, your tummy is full and you won’t wake up starving at 2am.
5) Swap off with the other parent.
This applies only if you have small people. You should each get a day where you get to sleep in and the other person takes over baby duties. It can be the same day each week or flexible based on job schedules, but everyone deserves at least one day where they can catch an extra hour or two.
6) If you can’t sleep, try one of these: listen to piano music. Recite the alphabet backwards. Count down from 100 – in French.
What do you do to get shut-eye, folks? Enquiring minds want to know!
What are your