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  • Writer's pictureDr. Carter McEachern

8 Habits & Strategies to Improve Sleep: Unlocking Better Rest

Sleep deprivation is commonly worn as a badge of honour by college students everywhere and seen as a right of passage for new parents. This ability to function on little-to-no sleep is often viewed as a sign of strength, determination, and resiliency - but it certainly shouldn’t be! Sleep is an essential mechanism in the human body that plays a vital role in growth and repair. Depriving our body of sleep has been shown to increase our stress response as well as negatively impact focus, increase anxiety, and weaken our immune system. Here are 8 habits and strategies for improving both sleep quantity and quality so you can reach that coveted 8 hours:

  1. Blackout Blinds → establishing a sleeping environment that is dark, with no ambient light, improves the release of melatonin by the pineal gland to reduce sympathetic nervous system activity.

  2. Lower Bedroom Temperature → our body temperature naturally cools during sleep so reducing your bedroom temperature to 19C/68F can help aid in that process.

  3. Nasal Strips → increases oxygen flow through the nasal passages to reduce the need to mouth breathe to obtain adequate oxygen intake.* It can also improve snoring!

  4. Afternoon Zone 2 Training → the exact science behind why cardiovascular exercise improves sleep is not fully understood, however exercise releases endorphins which is why exercise should be at least 1-2 hours before sleep due to the awakening effect of those endorphins. As the body recovers from cardiovascular “Zone 2” exercise the core body temperature begins to lower which can aid in that temperature transition as you fall asleep.

  5. Reducing Blue Light Exposure → blue light is commonly found in the spectrum of light emitted by screens (TVs, Tablets, Smart Phones etc.) and inhibits the release of melatonin by the pineal gland.

  6. Journaling → the Beta frequency brainwaves that are responsible for stimulating high energy, problem solving, and thought can impact the activation of Alpha and Theta frequency brainwaves that promote relaxation, light sleep, and repair. Writing down our thoughts, especially before bed, helps to create a closed-loop system for those thoughts and prevent that “racing” mind right before bed.

  7. No Caffeine After 2pm → caffeine is a stimulant that interacts with adenosine receptors to prevent the feeling of drowsiness and fatigue. The metabolism of caffeine within our body can take upwards of 5 hours or more, which means that caffeine can impact your sleep long after its energizing effects have worn off.

  8. Supplements & Herbals → Melatonin, Magnesium, L-Theanine, Chamomile (Tea), and Lavender (Essential Oils) have been suggested to increase parasympathetic nervous system activity, induce relaxation, and improve sleep.

In reconsidering the prevailing acceptance of sleep deprivation as a symbol of strength and endurance, it becomes imperative to recognize the profound impact of adequate rest. Shifting the narrative from celebrating fatigue to prioritizing sleep emphasizes the significance of this fundamental mechanism for human well-being. As we acknowledge that quality sleep is a linchpin for growth, repair, and overall health, we pave the way for a culture that values resilience not in sleeplessness, but in nurturing our bodies to thrive through the rejuvenating power of rest.

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