What’s your night-time tradition?

Do you sleep like a baby, never stirring? You lucky so-and-so.

Or are you closer to a lot of us, tossing and turning and never getting a restful sleep?

Or even staring at the ceiling, counting thousands of those damn sheep and getting more ticked off at each little lamb because it just isn’t working?

If you don’t sleep well, you are not alone.

One sleep study shows that roughly 40 per cent of Canadians experience a sleep disorder during their lifetime. The Institute of Medicine in the U.S. says 50 to 70 million Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders and intermittent sleep problems.

That’s a lot of zombies walking around North America every day!

It wouldn’t be so bad if all our sleeplessness caused was dry eyes and a little grumpiness.

Trouble is, sleep issues can significantly diminish health, alertness and safety. Untreated sleep disorders have been linked to:

  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Diabetes and other chronic diseases

And check out the infographic on the effects of sleep disorders that Business Insider published this week:

sleep issues


[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Sleep problems affect everything from work productivity to behavioural and relationship problems.[/tweetthis]

Most people know when to seek medical help for physical discomfort such as fever or pain — but sleep problems are often overlooked or ignored. In fact, the overwhelming majority of people with sleep disorders are undiagnosed and untreated.

How to catch your Zs

I am a chronically light sleeper. My friends call me the princess from the Princess and the Pea.

If someone walks down the hallway, I wake up.

If the wind blows in the trees, I wake up. Camping in a tent is next to impossible to get a good sleep!

All George (hubby extraordinaire) has to do is wake up and lay there. I wake up. He has that wake-y, uppy energy and I sense it. When I was being tested for adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome, I got hooked up to an EEG and bio feedback machine. I learned I wasn’t dropping into REM.

It gets worse when I’m facing high amounts of stress. I burrow myself into an insomnia state very easily and, of course, any stress reaction becomes exacerbated by sleep issues.

Sanoviv Medical Institute says our ability to overcome insomnia depends on how well we deal with stress.

The stressful situations in our lives may not always be within the bounds of what we can handle.

This can create a state where we are unable to “shut off” our minds at night and think, worry or ponder about things, instead of relaxing into sleep and rest which our body might sorely need.

Thus, we have to take a two-pronged approach to get back to a place of wellness:

  • Get the sleep to handle the stress
  • Deal with the stress to get your restorative sleep

But Janice, you ask, how can I get the sleep to handle the stress if it’s the stress that’s keeping me up at night? It feels like I’m never going to win at this!

I know. I feel your pain.

When my clients are having trouble sleeping, I tell them to book two or three weekends in a row where they can focus on sleep. Just sleep. Nothing but sleep.

With our busy schedules, that’s tough to do but we have to make this a priority for our overall well-being.

They have to take all the clocks out of the house, so they have no idea what time it is. When they feel tired, they go to bed. It’s as simple as that.

A lot of the time, we push through those feelings of fatigue because we think it’s too early in the day. We have items left on our to-do list. That next episode of The Walking Dead is coming up (ahem … PVR that stuff!).

Go. To. Bed.

They must stay in bed until they wake up naturally. Waking up for bathroom breaks doesn’t count. They must go back to bed (resting or return to sleep) until they have the energy to get up and face the day.

Two things happen:

    1. You reset your own circadian rhythm, your natural energy clock.
    2. You find out how many hours of sleep you need.

You can get yourself into a new habit of sleeping, and the more you can work with the natural rhythm of sunrise and sunset, the better off you are.

Turn your bedroom into Sleepytown

You can create good sleep habits for yourself.

Those good sleep habits revolve around creating the right environment in your bedroom, both physically and emotionally.

The Mayo Clinic has a great list of sleep habits, including:

        1. Find your sleep schedule and stick to it
        2. Mind your eating and drinking — limit sugar, caffeine and alcohol
        3. Have a bedtime ritual to wind down
        4. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet
        5. Limit the length of your daytime naps
        6. Exercise every day, but not too close to bedtime
        7. Manage your stress

And, last but not least, if you’re in a mode of chronic insomnia, it’s a good idea to go see a doctor or Certified Health Practitioner.

It is up to you to figure out what gives you the best chance to get that restorative sleep you need. Try each one of these tips and keep a sleep diary. When you track your go-to-bed and wakeup habits, you get a better idea of the environment you need to sleep well.

Then you’ll start waking up with energy and feeling refreshed.

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