Struggling to find time to get eight hours of sleep a night? You’ve got plenty of company.
But a sleep specialist says we need to focus more on whether we feel rested and less on the number of hours that we’re asleep. If you wake up feeling refreshed and alert, then you’ve had a solid rest, says Dr. Atul Khullar, a psychiatrist and sleep specialist.
“Your sleep is good if you are doing what you want to do during the day,” says Atul. “We have lots of people who don’t sleep perfectly but are functioning just fine.”
It’s when you wake up feeling groggy or begin relying on caffeine to get you through the day that it’s time to start looking at your sleeping habits, he says.
And there are plenty of reasons to get a good night’s rest. Sleep deprivation is linked to obesity, because people with poor sleep habits tend to make unhealthier food choices and aren’t able to lose weight, he explains. As well, our immune system and metabolism don’t work as well when our bodies are tired. Chronic lack of sleep has also been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure.
Here are five tips to help you get a better night’s rest.
Make sleep a priority
“It may not be possible for people to get eight hours of sleep each night,” says Atul. If you’re feeling tired in the morning, try to get to bed earlier. “Even just getting 10 to 15 minutes more sleep per night can be really beneficial.”
Keep media out of your bedroom
Electronics like laptops and cellphones emit a blue light that keeps you awake. If you must have a cellphone in the bedroom, he recommends putting it on do not disturb so you aren’t distracted by any notifications.
Don’t watch the clock
Watching the minutes tick by can make you feel more anxious. After 15 minutes of trying to fall asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing, such as reading.
According to the Canadian Sleep Society, regular exercise can lead to a better night’s rest. Try to schedule some exercise time in the morning or early afternoon.
“One mistake that people often make is keeping their room too warm,” says Atul. “We sleep a bit better when it’s a little cooler.” He recommends keeping your bedroom between 18 and 20 C.
For more information on how to get a better night’s rest, check out the Canadian Sleep Society website.
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