There's no question about it — we could all use more sleep. Whether it's staying up late reading on our tablets or waking up early to get a head start on our day, Canadians aren't getting the shut-eye they need to stay healthy on a regular basis.
The most recent national data for Canadians' sleep habits found men got eight hours and seven minutes of sleep, while women slept for eleven minutes more. It should be noted, however, that these numbers are from 2005, when the perpetually-connected era was just beginning (and two years before Netflix could be streamed right into your bedroom).
As it stands, most people you know probably complain about their lack of sleep at least once a week, with many suffering from serious sleep disorders like insomnia (which is defined by WebMD as having difficulty falling and/or staying asleep).
The benefits of getting enough shut eye includes everything from being more organized to being more likeable, and it's hard to argue to how much better you feel in general after a good night's sleep.
Don Gauvreau, the co-CEO and co-founder of Pharmafreak Technologies and SD Pharmaceuticals, is also a personal trainer and former competitive bodybuilder who believes in the healing power of sleep. He's put some of his knowledge about how the body functions towards common myths and facts about how to get better sleep, and shares them with us here:
Drink Warm Milk
Theory: Warm milk makes you sleepy due to its tryptophan content (an amino acid that promotes sleep).
How to: The reality is you’d have to drink over five litres to feel the effects of tryptophan. Warm milk is more of a placebo — which is perfectly fine, because if it helps you sleep then why not try it?
Theory: Bananas contain high levels of magnesium, a mineral that acts like a muscle relaxant, and potassium which can help regulate sleep patterns and calm your nerves.
How to: Make bananas your bedtime snack and it could help you get to sleep faster.
Theory: Although drinking warm tea before bed hasn’t been proven to help you sleep better, the ritual of sitting down to drink it can help you unwind after a long day.
How to: Make sure to reach for non-caffeinated teas, such as valerian and chamomile, which can help make you drowsy. Although sleep-inducing benefits aren’t actual properties of these teas, making this a part of your bedtime ritual can help you relax before bed.
Maintain A Regular Exercise Regimen
Theory: Regular exercise maintains and improves cardiovascular health, which is a key to a good night’s sleep.
How to: The most efficient way to maintain a regular exercise regimen is to find a form of physical activity that you enjoy and schedule it into your day as you would a meeting or a meal. Regular exercise will help you feel energized throughout the day and tire you out for a restful night’s sleep.
Avoid Evening Workouts
Theory: Although all physical exercise is good, no matter what time of the day, exercise stimulates your heart, brain and muscles, so working out right before bed might make it harder for you to fall asleep.
How to: Exercise gives you energy, so try morning and afternoon workouts to get you through the day and avoid exercising four hours before bedtime.
Theory: Practicing a five to 10-minute yoga routine before bed can help you ease into a sleeping mode.
How to: Some helpful poses you can do to prepare for sleep are the upside-down relaxation, winding down twist and the night-time goddess stretch. The best part is you can do all these moves on your bed!
No Large Meals Within Three Hours Of Bedtime
Theory: Eating a large meal right before climbing into bed puts a lot of stress on your stomach to digest, which may keep you awake. Also, watch out for spicy or acidic snacks, as they may cause indigestion and heartburn.
How to: Aim to eat dinner no later than three hours before your bedtime to ensure it’s been fully digested before climbing into bed.
Grab Protein Instead Of Carbs For A Bedtime Snack
Theory: If you are exercising regularly, having a bedtime snack to curb the hunger pains can help you focus on sleep instead of your rumbling tummy.
How to: Bread, cookies and cereal seem like the obvious go-tos, however they will spike your blood sugar. This causes your body to release hormones to regulate your sugar levels, stimulating your brain and causing you to lay awake counting sheep. Instead, reach for low-sugar, high-protein foods such as Greek yogurt, a few ounces of chicken or a tablespoon of nut butter, all of which won’t spike your blood sugar and will allow your brain to be ready for sleep.