Practice sleep hygiene to rest better
Woman sleeping

This article is part of a series in collaboration with ParticipACTION. Discover how "Everything gets better when you get active!"

A good day starts the night before with a good night’s sleep. But getting enough shuteye doesn’t always come easy, especially during times of stress. According to ParticipACTION’s Report Cards on Physical Activity for Adults, 1 in 4 Canadians between the ages of 18-64 aren’t getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Women, in particular, report poor sleep quality or an inability to stay asleep.

Sleep plays a significant role in the maintenance of overall health and well-being, and not getting enough each night isn’t something to let slide. In addition to making us feel tired and fuzzy-headed during the day, lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of a number of ailments, from high blood pressure to depression.

Don’t let the negative physical and mental effects of a chronic sleep deficit pile up. Practice better sleep hygiene for quality Zzzzs.

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene can be defined as a series of habits, environmental conditions and behaviours that work together to support regular, sufficient sleep. Improving the quality and duration of sleep may come down to practicing smarter sleep hygiene. Here are some habits, conditions and behaviours that facilitate regular beauty rest.

Move in the daytime to get your nightly rest

Get moving for at least 30 minutes a day, and you do a lot to contribute to your ability to get some quality sleep. That’s because daily physical activity doesn’t just tire your body – it also positively affects your psychological and emotional well-being, helping you decompress and de-stress after a long day or week. The wide-ranging physical and mental health benefits of daily movement are particularly significant given the fact that sedentary behaviours, chronic stress, and mental health issues are the reasons most commonly cited by adults as factors that negatively influence sleep, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

What’s a good daily physical activity habit that supports sufficient rest? Generally speaking, it’s the one that you most enjoy doing for at least 20 minutes a day. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a swim or hike, or even some intense yard work or house cleaning, aim to get at least 20-30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in each day, working up to the national recommendation of 150 minutes a week.

Create an ideal snooze-friendly environment

Up your chances of getting a good sleep at night by making sure the place where you lay your head is comfortable, dark, quiet and well-ventilated. Some ways to ensure your sleep environment is as cocoon-like as possible include:

• Buy blackout curtains. Not only do they block light – bright lights tend to increase alertness– but they can also muffle outdoor noise as well.

• Remove all cell phones, tablets, and computers from the area where you sleep and store them in a separate room. The presence of tech in bedrooms increases the temptation to use them, and that’s a problem because nighttime use of computers, TV, cell phones and tablets is associated with a negative impact sleep on quality for both kids and adults.

• Ensure there’s good air ventilation in your bedroom. Crack the window, invest in a ceiling fan, or leave the door open to let air circulate –  fresh air is associated with better sleep outcomes.

Daily behaviours that help you sleep better

Small changes to your daily habits are another way to positively affect sleep duration and quality. Here are 7 small tweaks to your daily routine that will pay off at lights-out:

• Be consistent. Keep a regular sleep schedule - i.e. go to bed at roughly the same time each night and wake up at the same time.

• Go to sleep when you’re tired! Don’t force yourself to stay up and finish the episode or send off one more work email. If you’re feeling sleepy, it’s time to hit the hay.

• Don’t ingest any stimulants like alcohol, caffeine, or spicy food before bed.

• Don’t eat a big meal before bed. In fact, try and stop eating at least an hour before you hit the sack. Same goes for ingesting fluids, as a full bladder will wake you in the night.

• Start a relaxing nighttime routine. Take a hot bath or shower before bed.

• Read, don’t stream before bed. Even a few minutes of reading is correlated with stress reduction.

• Give tight muscles some much needed love by performing a gentle stretching routine or yoga. Like reading, yoga is correlated with a reduction in anxiety and stress and encouraging lowered heart rate, blood pressure and regulating breathing.

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