Scientists can't be sure why exactly, but they know that one thing is for certain: Everybody needs sleep. Although each person differs in terms of how much is best, the general consensus is a minimum of seven to eight hours is needed for peak performance.
Unfortunately, few in Canada – not to mention most of the world – are getting that amount, and are putting their short- and long-term health in jeopardy.
"51 per cent of people in Canada wake up two to three times per night."
Not only are men and women throughout the country not getting the recommended amount, but they're having a hard time staying asleep. According to a survey from Dermalogica Canada, only 11 per cent of respondents said they slept without waking up once in the average night. Fifty-one per cent awoke two to three times, with 10 per cent awaking as many as four times or more.
Adding to their frustration is how long it takes them to actually fall asleep. On average, the typical adult in Canada falls asleep around 30 minutes after their head first touches the pillow, the report found, while around 33 minutes goes by for Alberta residents, the longest wait time in the country.
Inability to Fall Asleep Can Cause Stress
The trouble with wakefulness – aside from the obvious effects, such as difficulty concentrating, irritability and tiredness, among others – is that it can be compounding. Instead of putting your thoughts to bed, you wind up focusing on why you can't fall asleep, which can lead to increased levels of stress.
Adults aren't the only ones who are tossing and turning. It's problematic for adolescents as well. Dr. Jennifer Vriend, a child and adolescent psychologist, told CTV Ottawa that 28 per cent of teens who don't get enough sleep admit to dozing off in their classrooms at least once a week, and 22 per cent say they frequently nod off when working on their school studies.
Poor attention span, memory recall and learning comprehension are some of the more obvious side effects of not getting enough shut-eye. But lack of rest has been linked to debilitating diseases as well, such as Alzheimer's and high blood pressure. Additionally, according to the World Sleep Society, several population-based studies have all come to the same conclusion: sleep debts can lead to weight gain. This is mainly due to the hormones involved in appetite regulation misfiring, making the body feel like it's hungry when it really isn't.
The 3 Key Elements to a Good Night's Rest
There are three components to high-quality sleep: duration, continuity and depth. Duration, of course, refers to the length of time that you're not awake, continuity is how long you're able to stay asleep throughout the night, and depth refers to the stages in the sleep cycle, with REM being the deepest. Generally speaking, REM is the most restorative, helping you to feel truly refreshed and invigorated when you get up to face the new day.
Sleeplessness is a common problem that you may need to speak with your doctor about, depending on its severity. However, there are several things you can do on your own that may prove helpful:
Develop a Nightly Ritual
The body thrives on routine, as it's an indication of normalcy and familiarity, two things that are crucial for a good night's rest. Try to get into a routine where you go about the same activities, all of which should promote sleep. For example, experts recommend having a light snack before bedtime to avoid hunger pangs. Going to bed – and awaking – at as close to the same time each day as possible is also a good routine to get into.
Reduce Caffeine Consumption as Day Progresses
Dozens of beverages contain high levels of caffeine, a stimulant that increases alertness. You may not need to swear off caffeine completely, but it's best to steer clear at least six hours before you head to bed.
Don't Exercise Too Late
Exercise is great for sleep in the long run, but not if it's close to when you typically hit the hay. Aim to get your workout in during the morning or afternoon hours.
Create Conditions Conducive to Sleep
See if you can build a "sleep sanctuary" by establishing the atmosphere that allows for restful sleep. For example, the room should be as dark as possible, quiet and on the cooler side.
Visit this website for more helpful tips and tricks, as well as a collection of articles that talk about the importance of sleep to your overall health. Sweet dreams!