It’s common knowledge that a good night’s sleep gives you energy, sharpens concentration and helps keep illness at bay, but its mental health benefits are less well known.
“Whenever we talk about sleep, we also have to talk about mental health,” says Margaret Eaton, national CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association. “There are significant links between sleeping well and being emotionally and mentally well.”
Clocking between seven and nine hours a night of shut-eye boosts mood, improves emotional regulation and helps you cope with stress. In fact, 36.3 percent of Canadian adults who get insufficient sleep report having chronic stress and 12.3 percent of adults who don’t get enough zzz’s report having poor mental health, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
With World Sleep Day approaching on March 18, it’s a good time to reassess and improve your sleep habits to reap the nocturnal benefits. Not only does what you do right before bed matter, but how you spend your day also impacts your quality of slumber. World Sleep Day sponsor Sleep Country Canada knows that getting a good night’s sleep is critical for us to function both mentally and physically.
Taking a holistic approach to sleep will help ensure you give your body and mind the rest and recharge it needs to be at your best.
Start the day on the right side of the bed
A healthy sleep routine begins with a consistent wake-up time, even on the weekends. Establishing a fixed “rise and shine” will also help you go to bed at a reasonable hour, setting you up for success.
Next, step outside for some sunshine—natural light helps regulate your internal body clock and keeps you alert for the day ahead. If possible, aim for 30 minutes of exercise in the morning or afternoon, as physical activity promotes solid slumber. (Intense exercise right before bed, on the other hand, can make it harder to wind down for sleep.)
Watch what you eat
Your food and drink choices throughout the day can also affect how quickly you doze off and how well you stay asleep. The U.S. National Sleep Foundation recommends eating a balanced diet of whole foods with vegetables and fruit high in vitamins, minerals and fibre. At the same time, try avoiding high-fat, high-sugar or spicy foods, especially close to bedtime.
Don’t drink caffeine late in the day, and consume alcohol in moderation. Though it can send you off to dreamland quickly, too much booze is famous for disrupting your circadian rhythm, causing wake-ups and insomnia in the middle of the night.
Bedtime routines aren’t just for children
You can probably skip the lullaby, but creating a calming ritual before lights out prepares your body and mind for sleep. Begin at least a half hour before bedtime by docking all devices, including laptops, tablets and phones—blue light from screens not only keeps the mind on high alert, it suppresses melatonin production. Dim the lights, take a bath or stretch, and spend time reading, listening to soothing music or otherwise relaxing and mentally unwinding.
Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary
It’s tempting to bring your laptop to bed to catch up on emails or watch Netflix at night, but limiting the bedroom to its primary function—sleep—is the best path to quality slumber.
Not surprisingly, restful sleep starts with a comfortable, supportive bed and place to rest your head. Having the right mattress, pillow and sleep products can make all the difference in getting the sleep you need. And Sleep Country Canada understands the connection between sleep and mental health. In fact, this World Sleep Day, Sleep Country Canada is donating a portion of proceeds from all sales on March 18 to the Canadian Mental Health Association (up to $100,000), to enable better sleep and wellbeing for everyone.
Use this year’s World Sleep Day to kickstart these sleep tips to hopefully improve not only your quality of sleep, but your physical and mental health. If you need more support, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor.