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May is Better Sleep Month


Here's how you can improve your sleep habits

Refreshing sleep is of huge importance when staying healthy.  Better Sleep Month is supported by the Better Sleep Council (BSC), which aims to raise awareness about the benefits of better sleep and how poor sleep can disrupt our lives.  As with diet and exercise, sleep is crucial to our physical, emotional and mental health.  

Inadequate sleep can lead to an increase in blood pressure and stress hormone production; the body can become stressed when it does not get enough sleep.

The consequences of poor sleep include reduced concentration, mood swings, irritability, stress, and a weakened immune system.  The release of stress hormones can also make it harder to sleep, perpetuating an unhealthy sleep cycle.

In severe cases, poor sleep may be linked to serious problems including narcolepsy, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.  Better Sleep Month helps to make more people aware of these problems; advice from a suitable health professional should be sought if any of these consequences are experienced.

Psychological & Physical Factors Affect Sleep

There are many physical and psychological factors which can cause poor sleep; stress is a common cause.

Worries such as elder care, childcare, family conflicts, problems with personal relationships, financial concerns and other anxieties can all interrupt healthy sleep patterns.  Physical factors which can affect sleep include pain, excess sweating, need to urinate, noise (including snoring by a bed partner) and light levels.

Stress can elevate blood pressure; heart attack and stroke are well documented risks of high blood pressure.

Further factors which disrupt sleep include excitement, depression, anxiety, and caffeine intake close to bed time. Environmental factors include room temperature, light levels, humidity, mattress, bedding and noise.

Achieving Better Sleep Through Lifestyle Changes & Stress Reduction

In many cases, better sleep can be achieved through changes to our lifestyle and the way we think about things.  Better Sleep Month helps to make people aware of any poor sleeping habits we may have.

Counseling can help address any personal problems which are causing stress; relaxation techniques may be taught to counteract the effects of stress.

There is recent evidence which suggests achieving better quality sleep may be more important than increasing the number of hours of sleep.  The National Sleep Council, which supports Better Sleep Month, has reported that people who sleep between 6 and 7 hours a night actually live longer than those who sleep for 8 hours,

How Much Sleep Is Needed?

Many experts believe that between 7.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep a night is optimal.  However, better sleep does not refer to just the length of time we sleep.

Better Sleep is Quality Sleep

6 hours of deep refreshing sleep is more beneficial than 8 hours of light interrupted sleep.

Tips To Get Better Sleep

  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule by sleeping at the same time each day of the week (including weekends).
  • Relax before sleeping.  Prior to sleep, limit any stimulating activities such as exercise and work.  Perform activities that you may find relaxing such as reading or drinking a cup of herbal tea.
  • Create an optimal environment.  Your place of sleep should be dark and ventilated.  Black out blinds can help seal out light in the area.  The thermostat should be set to a comfortably cool 65-67 degrees.  Remove any distractions such as laptops, televisions and other tech devices from the room.  Ensure your bedding is of adequate quality.  Natural fabrics such as cotton can breathe and feel good against the skin.  Be sure there is enough space in the bed if you share the bed with a partner (or a pet!).  A couple will need a queen-sized mattress or larger because each person needs enough space to adequately move around without disturbing the other.  If there is ample space in the bedroom a king-sized mattress is even better.  Having extra leg room is always a plus!
  • A healthy lifestyle consisting of exercise and a healthy diet can contribute towards better sleep.  Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine close to bed time.  While alcohol may help some people to relax, it can disrupt sleep throughout the night.



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