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Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is an important part of maintaining your overall health and helps you function at your best.
Sleep tips

Sleep is important for the health of your body and your mind. Getting enough sleep keeps your immune system strong and helps you maintain a healthy weight.  Sleep also reduces your stress levels and boosts your mood. 

Factors that affect our sleep

  • Age – we need different amounts of sleep as we get older.
  • Hormones –  menstruation (your period), pregnancy, and menopause (end of your periods) affect our quality of sleep.
  • Roles – shift work and caregiving for children and elderly family members can cause sleep deprivation (a lack of sleep). 
Good sleep is a combination of quantity - getting enough hours of sleep - and quality - feeling rested when you wake up.

Why is sleep important?

A good night’s sleep has many health benefits. It can help you:
  • get sick less often
  • reduce your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • reduce stress, anxiety and improve your mood
  • focus better on activities
  • prevent injuries (e.g. falling asleep at the wheel of your vehicle)
Sleep tends to be the first thing women lose when juggling work and family demands. Making time to sleep will help you protect your health and give you the energy to cope with life’s challenges.

Making your bedroom into a quiet, comfortable sleeping area can help you sleep better. 
  • use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex
  • keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and comfortable - block out light with curtains or blinds, use ear plugs or soft music to block out noise
  • keep TVs, radios, computers and other screen devices out of your bedroom
  • set limits – if you have children or pets, set boundaries on how often they sleep with you; set up sleeping areas for them beside your bed
 
Sticking to a regular bedtime schedule with the same ‘before bed’ routine lets your body know it is time to sleep. 
  • try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends and holidays
  • reduce screen time one hour before bed – TV, cell phones, computers and video games; research suggests that the light from screen use before bedtime interferes with sleep
  • use the hour before bed to do something relaxing – take a warm bath, read a book, listen to soothing music; relaxing activities tell your body it is time to shut down
 

Getting regular exercise during the day can help you fall asleep faster at night. Research shows that getting at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise a week – the amount recommended by the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines - helps you sleep better and feel more alert during the day.


Exercise in the daytime – at least 4 hours before you plan to go to bed. Exercising in the evening can energize your body and make it difficult to fall asleep.


Visit Physical activity for more info. 
 

What you eat and drink affects your sleep. Alcohol may make you sleepy at first but it can disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night. Caffeine (coffee, black tea, caffeinated soft drinks, chocolate) is a stimulant and will make it difficult to fall asleep. A heavy meal or late night snack can cause discomfort that keeps you awake. 

  • avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening
  • limit your alcohol intake
  • avoid big meals or before bed snacks – stick to healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables before bed if you are hungry, and avoid eating in bed
Visit Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines for more information on alcohol intake. 
 

Napping during the day can improve how alert you are and help you function better. Naps can also impact how well you sleep at night. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, limit your naps or try to avoid them.


  • Limit naps to 20 minutes before 3 pm in the afternoon for adults. Napping in toddlers is normal and is good for healthy growth and development.
  • Take naps if you work shifts or have an early school schedule. Try to increase the amount of time you have for a full sleep.
  • If you work nights, and need to sleep during the day, block your windows to keep the sunlight out so the light will not interrupt your daytime sleep.

Stress can play havoc with your health and cause you to toss and turn in bed at night. Find out what’s causing your stress and come up with ways to manage it better during the day – that will help you sleep better at night. 


  • take a short, easy walk, do yoga, meditate, or take a bath to relax before bed
  • cope with anxious thoughts by jotting down what's on your mind before bed and then setting the concerns aside until tomorrow
  • imagine yourself in a favourite peaceful place – focusing on the details and feelings of being in a relaxing place can help calm you and make you sleepy
  • if you are still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes - get up, do something relaxing and quiet like reading until you feel sleepy
Visit Here to Help to find out how to use the power of your mind to reduce stress and sleep better.

Women & sleep

Women sleep differently and are at higher risk for certain sleep disorders than men. Changes that happen to your body at various stages in your life – puberty (start of your period), pregnancy, menopause (end of your period) – impact your sleep. For example, 70 out of 100 women report that menstrual symptoms – tender breasts, headaches, cramps – affect their sleep a few days each month.

Changing hormone levels in the body mean sleep disorders are more common among women. Sleeping problems women struggle with include:
  • insomnia – difficulty falling asleep, constant waking at night or waking too early
  • restless leg syndrome – uncontrollable urge to move your legs
  • obstructive sleep apnea – difficulty breathing during sleep

Research shows more women than men report not getting enough good quality sleep. Women have less spare time and spend more time than men doing unpaid work (housework, caregiving).


Women also tend to prioritize family needs over their own needs and this impacts the ability to get uninterrupted and long enough periods of sleep. New mothers and parents of young children commonly experience sleep deprivation.


Research shows that women who are shift workers (work outside the typical hours of 9am to 5pm) – have more difficulty falling asleep during daytime hours. More female than male shift workers get less sleep and have interrupted sleep more often.

It is common to experience problems getting to sleep, staying asleep or feeling rested and awake after sleep. One in 4 people experience regular sleep problems. You are more likely to have sleep difficulties in your life when you experience:
  • stress
  • major life changes
  • health problems
  • substance use problems (alcohol and drug addictions)
  • common physical conditions such as pain, incontinence (needing to pee often) and chronic conditions like fibromyalgia can also affect your ability to sleep
 
Sleep affects your mental health as well as your physical well-being. Sleep problems can influence your emotions, thoughts, behaviours and body sensations, causing you to:
  • feel irritable, grumpy, numb, sad, anxious, worried or stressed
  • have difficulty concentrating, think clearly or make decisions after a poor night’s sleep
  • avoid your usual activities when you are experiencing sleep problems – meeting with friends or getting exercise
  • feel tired, drowsy or worn out
Sleeplessness is linked to most mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Approximately 1 in 4 women suffer from an episode of depression at some time during their lives.

Insomnia and depression occur together more than with any other illnesses. Poor sleep is often the first sign of depression in women – difficulty getting to sleep, waking up a lot during the night, feeling tired in the daytime – these symptoms can make depression difficult to cope with.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing insomnia, crying a lot, taking less pleasure in usually enjoyable activities or feeling sadness that lasts more than 1 month.
Throughout your life

How much sleep you need to feel good and keep your body working at its best changes throughout your life. Learn how much sleep is right for you and your family. 

Sleep is important for a child’s growth and development. The sleep needs of children gradually decrease as they get older but maintaining good sleep habits like regular bedtimes will help keep your child healthy. 

  • Newborns and infants need a total of 14-18 hours of sleep – naps and nighttime sleep all count towards this total.
  • Toddlers need 10– 13 hours of total sleep – including naps and nighttime sleep.
  • Children aged 5 13 need between 9-11 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Daytime napping is common for infants and toddlers. Napping drops off for school-aged children when sleep happens mostly at night.

See the resource links on the right side for age-specific suggestions to help your child have a good night’s sleep.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your child’s sleep.
 
Sleep is important during your teen years - its like food for your brain and is as important as eating well and getting regular exercise. During sleep your body heals and grows and important brain activity happens.

As a teen, you need more sleep than adults because your body is changing.
 
Adolescents need 8 – 10 hours of sleep each night.
During your teen years, your sleep cycle shifts. You may not be able to fall asleep before 11pm and wake later in the morning. This is normal at this stage in your life and part of the adjustment that happens in your body’s rhythms. It can be a challenge to get enough sleep on school days due to early start times.

Getting enough sleep will:
  • make it easier to concentrate, solve problems and make decisions
  • improve your mood and reduce stress and anxiety
  • give you more energy
  • help you maintain a healthy weight

Tips for a good night’s sleep

  • Keep a diary or to-do list – write out what is worrying you before you go to sleep so you do not stay awake worrying.
  • Take naps to help pick you up and make you work more efficiently- nap for no more than 20 minutes and in the mid-afternoon so you can still get a good night’s sleep.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks (Red Bull, Coke, coffee or tea) late in the day or evening to help you sleep at night.
  • Avoid staring at the clock. When you have trouble falling asleep, it is normal to check the clock and worry about getting through the next day. Turn your clock away from your view to reduce your anxiety – remind yourself that you can likely do what you need to even if you feel tired.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you are having trouble sleeping.

Our need for sleep remains about the same throughout our adult lives, despite the idea that we need less sleep as we age. Sleep is important for our overall functioning – it improves our mood, makes it easier to focus on tasks and gives us energy.


Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
A National Sleep Foundation (NSF) poll found that the average adult woman (30-60 years of age) sleeps about 6.5 hours per night during the workweek. Juggling the demands of work and family among other life challenges means women often put sleep last among their priorities.

Getting the right amount of sleep and good quality sleep is important for maintaining your overall physical and mental health. You are getting the right amount of sleep for you if you feel refreshed and not tired or drowsy during the day.

Pregnancy & Sleep

Getting enough sleep is important for your health and your baby’s when you are pregnant. You generally need more sleep when you are pregnant to help your body cope with the major physical changes you are experiencing.

pregnant women need 8 – 10 hours of sleep per night.

The quality of your sleep can change with each trimester.

  • First trimester – drowsiness and the need to sleep increases due to the rise in the hormone progesterone during the first 12 weeks. Sleep can be more difficult if you experience morning sickness, breast tenderness or the need to pee more often.
  • Second trimester – sleep often improves between weeks 13-26 of your pregnancy when you have more energy and less need for naps. Some women experience heartburn and leg cramps that cause sleep problems.
  • Third trimester – sleep can be more challenging during the final 12 weeks of pregnancy due to an increase in the need to pee more, leg cramps, heartburn and difficulty getting comfortable in bed.

Tips for sleeping better during pregnancy

  • Take naps (20 minutes maximum) to help with daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
  • Limit how much you drink (water, juice, tea, pop) after 6pm to reduce having to pee in the night.
  • Get regular exercise during the day – brisk walking is safe during pregnancy.
  • Sleep on your side with a pillow in between your legs to be more comfortable in bed.
If you are having problems sleeping, talk to your healthcare provider. 

Women in their midlife years report the most sleep problems and have the most trouble getting the necessary amount of sleep they need each night to function at their best during the day.

Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
The multiple social, family and work responsibilities you juggle at this stage in your life limits your ability to get enough sleep. This can impact your health, reducing your productivity, increasing irritability and negative moods. Getting enough sleep each night can help you manage the challenges at this point in your life.

Menopause

Difficulty sleeping is a key symptom almost all women experience during perimenopause (time leading up to the end of your period) and menopause (end of your period). Not every woman experiences sleep issues but it is a common and natural part of the changes happening in your body.

As your hormone levels change – progesterone and then estrogen drops - you may find yourself waking up repeatedly with hot flushes (unexpected feelings of heat all over the body with sweating) and have difficulty falling back to sleep. Your total sleep time may not suffer but women typically report that their sleep quality goes down and they experience fatigue the next day.

Two major sleep disorders in menopause

  • insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or waking up often in the night)
  • sleep apnea (difficulty breathing during sleep)
Midlife women are more likely to use sleeping pills, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or try alternative and complementary therapies such as relaxation therapy, bedtime rituals, biofeedback and cognitive therapy to ease sleep problems.

Visit Menopause and U for info.

Tips to help you sleep
  • sleep in lightweight clothes to cope with night sweats
  •  avoid heavy blankets
  • use a fan or air conditioning to cool the air and increase air circulation in your bedroom
  • place an icepack under your pillow and turn the pillow over during the night to cool your face
  • avoid stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine (cigarettes) throughout the entire day, not just during the evening as their affect on your body can last up to 20 hours
  • try to reduce your stress - try relaxation techniques, massage and exercise; talk to a health care provider if you are depressed or anxious
  • adopt a regular sleep schedule, go to bed and get up at the same time as much as possible
  • avoid working at night to help reduce stress and calm yourself
  • follow the 15-minute rule - if you do not fall asleep within 15 minutes, do something relaxing, such as reading or listening to quiet music; return to bed when you are drowsy.
The quality and amount of sleep we get changes as we get older. It typically takes us longer to fall asleep and we wake up more often during the night or earlier in the morning than younger adults.

Older adults need between 6-8 hours of sleep per night.
During this stage of life, the total amount of sleep we get each night becomes shorter (6 hours on average). You may experience the following:
  • spending less time in deep sleep
  • waking up more frequently
  • waking up for longer periods of time in the night
  • napping during the day to fight off fatigue
It is common to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier than you once did. This shift to an earlier sleep time is normal among women and is due to changes in your body’s rhythms.

If you find that you are sleeping less and it is making your ability to function difficult, talk to your healthcare provider. Side effects from medication, chronic health conditions and other factors may be affecting your sleep.

The Canadian Sleep Society offers these tips to help you sleep better as you get older:
  • Sleep a sufficient number of hours every night – it is harder to recover from sleep deprivation as you age.
  • Reduce your use of drugs and stimulants (caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol) as much as possible.
  • Allow yourself more time to adjust to a new time zone when you travel as it takes longer the older you are for your body to shift.
  • Reduce your stress if possible – write down your worries or talk them out before you go to bed.
  • Be active, eat well and exercise – being healthy helps you sleep.
 

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SOURCE: Sleep ( )
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