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Nearly a third of Canadians report that they don’t get enough sleep, and they are not alone. Throughout the modern world, there is a sleep-loss epidemic that is an enormous health challenge.

In his 2019 TED talk “Sleep is your Superpower,” Matt Walker, a sleep researcher at the University of Berkeley, states that in spring, when we lose one hour of sleep at the start of daylight savings time, there are 24% more heart attacks the next day.

The “American Academy of Sleep Medicine” agrees and states that there is an increased risk of stroke and hospital admissions and an increase in car accidents during the week following the change to daylight saving time.

Conversely, when we gain an hour in the fall, heart attacks and traffic accidents go down by similar percentages.

Sleep can be the key to fighting many of our chronic health problems. Potential consequences of consistently poor sleep include obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

Sleep does a lot more than make us feel rested. When it comes to our mental well-being, sleep helps us regulate emotions, consolidate memories, focus, and connect to others.

So, how much sleep do we need?

We need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, and Walker does not believe that older adults need less sleep.

How do I get a good night’s sleep, you ask?

  • Set a Routine. This is the most important piece of advice. So, if you change nothing else, do create a healthy routine by going to bed at the same time and get up at the same time daily, including weekends.
  • Darken your room. Blue light from devices disrupts circadian rhythm and interferes with our melatonin production. Darkness prompts the pineal gland to start producing melatonin, while light causes that production to stop. Therefore, do not bring your cell phone, tablet or laptop into the bedroom. One hour before bedtime, stop watching TV, emailing, or looking at your cell phone.
  • Keep your room cool. Your body temperature needs to drop 2-3 degrees while you sleep.
  • Impact of marijuana. It does induce sleep, but depending on THC levels, it can also block the deep sleep we need.

And what about the caffeine in coffee? For some of us, coffee can last a long time in our body and prevent us from falling asleep. Try not to have coffee somewhere between 7 to 14 hours before bedtime and see if you notice a difference.

If you are still having a hard time falling asleep, try going to a different room to read, or do something that does not require an electronic device, until you are tired. Your brain makes the association between your bedroom and sleeplessness, which can keep you awake.

If you do not see an improvement in your sleep pattern after several weeks, it’s time to see a doctor for help; it will change the way you feel for the better, physically, mentally, and emotionally!