Many studies have pointed to the importance of sleep in a variety of health conditions.
There are several tips for getting optimal sleep: maintain a regular sleep schedule, create an environment conducive to sleep, avoid stimulants (caffeine, nicotine) & sedatives (alcohol, sleeping pills), get regular exercise, and keep napping to a minimum. There is evidence that “screen time” affects sleep patterns as well, so limit television and computer use an hour or two before bedtime.
Many people prefer to skip good “sleep hygiene” to manage insomnia and, instead, turn to drugs for “immediate” relief.
However, these medications don’t produce a good “restorative” sleep and come with their share of side effects, including dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, and hang-over effects. They also cause confusion and can increase the risk of falls – especially in the elderly. At best, they are a band-aid and you’re best to address any underlying causes.
If you suffer from more than occasional insomnia, bypass medications and look to one of the following techniques to re-set your sleep cycle.
1) Sleep Restriction: do not allow yourself to nap to make up sleep shortfalls and, if awake in bed, get up and do something relaxing until the urge to sleep returns. 2) Reserve the bed only for sleep (and sex!) – no TV, paperwork, etc. 3) Learn relaxation techniques. 4) Look into CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy.
Jet lag can occur any time our travels take us more than a couple of time zones away – and seems to be particularly bad when travelling east. There are steps you can take to minimize jet lag. Gradually start moving bedtime and mealtimes towards those of your destination, starting about a week beforehand. Once there, go directly to the new schedule (avoid naps and snacks) and get as much daytime sunlight exposure as you can, to reset your circadian rhythm.
Whether you’re considering a sleeping pill or something “natural,” such as melatonin, to help re-set your sleep cycle, our pharmacists can help steer you in the appropriate directions to improve the quality of your sleep.