BY DILIA NARDUZZI
WE ALL WANT to get a good night’s sleep,
but that seemingly simple goal proves elusive for many. In ;;;;, insurance provider
Aviva International found that ;; per cent
of Canadians feel they are not getting
enough sleep. And sleep quality is also an
issue; according to Statistics Canada, ;; per
cent of women and ;; per cent of men have
difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
What is interfering with quality sleep?
Smartphone usage and other screen time
is a huge culprit. New research out of the
University of California, San Francisco
found the more screen time people accumulated during the day, the less sleep they
got, and the sleep was of inferior quality.
The effects were heightened if people used
their phones closer to bedtime.
The blue light from the screen, which
reduces the amount of natural melatonin
the body produces to help us get to sleep, is
only partially to blame; it’s also the stimulation, excitement or worry caused by
whatever we’re interacting with that makes
it harder for the brain to settle down, says
Dr. Reut Gruber, a clinical child psychologist and sleep expert at McGill University.
Research out of Ohio State University
found that people who watched violent
media an hour and a half before bedtime
were ;; times more likely to have violent
dreams. What’s more, people who are
sleep-deprived drink more sugary, caf-
feinated beverages, according to a new
study in the journal Sleep Health, though
researchers have yet to determine if lack of
sleep drives sugar consumption or if sugar
consumption drives shorter sleep duration.
How do you get a good night’s sleep,
then? Practice sleep hygiene to improve the
amount and quality of the sleep you’re getting. Prioritize sleep and follow consistent
sleep patterns, says Costco member Alanna
McGinn, a sleep consultant in Toronto and
Warehouses and Costco.ca carry mat-tresses, pillows, sleep aids, alarm clocks
and more to help members get a good
founder of Good Night Sleep Site (good
nightsleepsite.com). “Go to bed at the same
time, wake up at the same time, even on
weekends,” she advises.
The next step? You guessed it: “Remove
tech from the bedroom and give yourself a
tech curfew.” This means at least an hour
before bed, you and your children should
stop looking at all your screens—
including the TV. Don’t use the excuse that your
phone is your alarm clock. “Stores still sell
alarm clocks,” says McGinn. It’s a matter of
changing your habits.
Clearing clutter from the bedroom is
also important, says McGinn, as well as
doing whatever you can to create a calming
environment for sleep. She also suggests
bringing back bedtime for adults, which
means including activities around bedtime
that encourage sleep. Reading books—not
an e-reader—is the go-to, but there are
other things you can do to relax, like using
an adult colouring book, journaling before
bed to help empty your mind and practicing
Be wary of naps too late in the day, says
Gruber, as anything after ; p.m. can interfere with nighttime sleep and set up a cycle
of sleep deprivation. How much sleep is
ideal? The National Sleep Foundation in
the United States has updated guidelines
regarding the number of hours needed per
age group, says Gruber. (See “Bedtimes”
for recommendations on how much sleep
people of varying ages need.)
Why is getting sleep so important?
Consistently having a bad night’s sleep
“causes physiological changes to our metabolism and increases obesity. It can also
contribute to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and it weakens the immune
system,” in the long term, at the same time
that it makes us tired, irritable and moody
during the day, says Gruber. She adds that
for teens, “even when they’re well rested,
regulating emotions and mood is very challenging,” so when they aren’t sleeping well
it can make an already challenging “period
of turmoil” even worse.
Kids need more sleep than adults, and
researchers think there are many reasons
for this: Partially it’s because they are still
growing and developing and therefore need
more shut-down time, says Gruber. Sleep
hygiene recommendations are mostly the
same for kids and adults, even though bedtimes are earlier for kids and teens. In the
summer, kids’ routines go out the window,
says McGinn: “Bedtime gets pushed [back];
naps have been missed.” Back-to-school
time is the time to get back to normal in
many areas of life, including sleep. C
Dilia Narduzzi lives in Hamilton, Ontario,
and writes about food, health and farming.
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Skipping sleep can
According to the Canadian Paediatric
Society ( www.cps.ca) and the Canadian
Sleep Society ( css-scs.ca), your sleep
needs change depending on your age.
Here’s a guideline:
• Toddlers: 10 to 13 hours.
• Preschool and school-age kids:
10 to 12 hours.
• Teenagers: 9 to 10 hours.
• Adults ( 18–25): 7 to 9 hours, though it
can range from 6 to 9 hours, depending on the person.
• Older adults: 7 to 8 hours, though even
healthy elderly folks can experience
less sleep at night and more naps.—DN
FOR YOUR HEALTH