Sleep is an essential part of life – it is necessary for restoring energy and maintaining proper function. However, very few people are aware of how to experience the best rest possible. Many evaluate their rests based on the length of their sleep, but quantity and quality of sleep are not interchangeable. Sleep duration is only one of many factors that determine the productivity and efficiency of sleep. Exploring strategies for experiencing more effective rests, and the health benefits that follow, coincides with The Medical Station’s mission to provide comprehensive health care at our North York clinic.
Keeping Yourself On Schedule
Maintaining a consistent sleep-wake schedule is crucial for an efficient rest. Your body runs on various 24-hour cycles called circadian rhythms, including a cycle for sleep. These cycles are responsible for maintaining many of the body’s functions, and a simple disturbance can offset the normal mechanisms of the body. As a result, a small shift in your habitual rise or bedtime can result in a noticeable decrease of sleep efficiency.
Even obtaining excess rest is associated with worsened effects of sleep. Oversleeping often leaves you feeling fatigued and drained from the strenuous but necessary stages of active, deep sleep. Regularity in sleep schedule, alternatively, has proven beneficial to rest periods. The Medical Station suggests sleep timing consistency, stable-rise times, and regular bedtimes to promote better sleep quality and quicker onset of sleep.
An Effective Pre-Sleep Routine
Activities performed before you go to sleep can have a very large effect on how rested you feel following your sleep. Exercising before bed, while physically healthy, has a harmful effect on sleep efficiency. The sleep cycle is directly connected to body temperature – cooler body temperatures allow you to fall asleep easier, while rising core temperatures do the opposite. Pre-sleep exercise raises your body temperature, causing the brain to work harder to regulate body heat in preparation for sleep. This not only causes difficulty in falling asleep, but a less refreshing sleep follows as well.
Similar effects follow from alcohol consumption before bed. Consuming alcoholic beverages lessens the mentally restorative effect of sleep, leading to daytime drowsiness and attentiveness issues. Even eating before bed reduces the efficiency of sleep. Ingesting large portions of food within at least an hour of sleep results in less effective, more restless sleeps. These activities, in conjunction with other harmful habits, contribute to rests of worse quality.
Cutting Out Technology
Technology has become a necessity in this age, but its presence in times of rest results in more harm than good. As you attempt to go to sleep, your brain begins to wind down in preparation. Utilizing technology before bed, however, causes the brain to remain active in a time intended for mental rest. Rather than calming down, you continue in an active, and awake state. Even limited use of technology has an effect. Just responding to a prompt from technology creates bodily tension and mental strain, stimulating brain activity.
Additionally, the light emitted from your digital screens can interfere with your rests. This light, called blue light, suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating the sleep cycle. This drastically shifts the time in which you would naturally fall asleep to later times of the night. The use of technology before sleep decreases the effectiveness of sleep, causing you to take longer to reach deep sleep stages, impeding its regenerative quality.
The Medical Station Promotes Productive Rests
At the Medical Station, we know the value of a good night’s sleep and a regenerative rest. The Medical Station Yoga and Meditation Therapist can work with you, individually or in a group, to address sleep challenges and promote meditative and restorative strategies. If you or your loved one may be suffering from a sleeping disorder, such as apnea, restless leg syndrome, or insomnia, please make an appointment with one of our Family Physicians. They will work with you to diagnose and develop an appropriate and effective treatment plan to help promote and improve your sleep.