After a long and restful sleep, we wake up feeling energized. Our mood is positive, we’re focused and attentive, and we’re generally more resilient against day-to-day stressors. But when we are lacking in sleep, we’re more likely to feel irritable, annoyed, experience changes in appetite, and be much more distracted. And realistically most of us seem to be lacking in sleep these days. One of the most common sleep problems is insomnia. So, what can you do, other than rolling a joint, to get better sleep more often? Two of the important things we should consider when attempting to get better sleep is the potential causes of sleep disturbances and improved sleep hygiene.
Discover the cause of disturbed sleep
Before implementing tips to enhance your sleep hygiene, it’s important to consider if there are any variables that may be contributing to disturbed sleep.
First, consider if there are any physical conditions or factors, including medication side effects, that may play a role. If you aren’t sure about underlying health conditions or if medication is affecting your sleep, book an appointment to speak with your doctor.
Second, consider whether or not you find yourself excessively worrying or ruminating before bed? A certain amount of stress and anxiety is a normal part of life, but also one of the strongest factors that influence sleep. If you find yourself excessively thinking or ruminating at night, and that’s preventing you from sleeping, it can be helpful to keep a worry log. To do this, write down all the potential worries that may keep you up at night. Recording these an hour or two before bed can serve a preventative role. If, once in bed, you still find yourself worrying, get out of bed, write down your concerns, and ask yourself three key questions:
- What’s the evidence for this worry?
- What’s the problem to be solved?
- What can I do right now?
Finally, if you are unsure of what is keeping you up at night consider starting a sleep diary for one to two weeks. Track your diet, work, & leisure activities, and level of stress and sleep/wake times. This can help identify patterns and factors that are affecting sleep that you may not otherwise be aware of. Be sure to include what types of cannabis you are consuming, what dose, and at what times so that you can determine what is most effective for sleep and what isn’t helping you sleep. It may also be helpful to note which mornings you wake up feeling groggy as this can be a side effect of cannabis with high THC.
10 ways to improve sleep hygiene
Once you have done the above, it’s time to implement good sleep hygiene principles. Here are 10 tips to help you sleep better, more often.
- Have a consistent, fixed wake-up time – even on weekends – to build a steady sleep pattern.
- Expose yourself to natural outside light upon waking: open your blinds and have your morning cup of coffee or tea while gazing out the window!
- Do not nap! Naps interfere with the restorative value of sleep later at night. If you’re tired, the best strategy is to get into bed earlier that evening.
- Do not have caffeine after noon! The half-life of caffeine is five hours – which means that five hours after having caffeine, 50 per cent is still left in your body; it takes another five hours for the caffeine to be reduced in half again to 25 per cent, and so on. So, by 10pm, 25% of the caffeine from your 12pm coffee will still be in your body.
- Don’t do intensive exercise 2-3 hours before bedtime. Exercise gets us physiologically aroused and activated, and this is incompatible with sleep.
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol use. Even one drink interferes with sleep quality and makes sleep less restorative.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine. This can include drinking decaffeinated tea, warm milk or having a warm bath. Make a clear distinction between daytime (alert) activities and bedtime (relaxing) ones.
- Make your bedroom environment comfortable and conducive to sleep. Get comfortable pillows and bedding, darken the room, and keep the temperature moderate.
- Restrict your bed for two activities: sleep and sex. Do not watch TV, eat, talk on the phone, argue or use your computer while in bed.
- If you can’t fall asleep within 15-20 minutes, get out of bed and don’t go back to bed until you are sleepy – not just tired.