Not a morning person? Here's how to get a restful sleep

We spoke to expert Alanna McGinn about how to make the most of your zzz's every night. And the answers may surprise you!
(Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Watch today's full episode online now!

There's nothing quite like a good night's sleep, but the fact remains that many of us aren't getting the recommended seven to eight hours of shut-eye we should be getting each night. In fact, 30% of Canadians suffer from sleep deprivation, which can result in serious consequences, like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even Alzheimer's.

So, to help us all get some much-needed zzz's, we enlisted the help of sleep consultant Alanna McGinn from Good Night Sleep Site. Here are her tips for creating the perfect sleep sanctuary.

Focus on Your Five Senses to Promote the Perfect Sleep Environment

Installing black-out blinds or panels can help darken a bedroom and can be an inexpensive way to help someone fall asleep. There are many factors that influence our natural circadian rhythms, the main one being our external environment and the light and dark of the day. Darkness turns the sleep switch on. When it's dark outside our sleep drive is stronger making us more tired at night. It's important to make your sleep environment dark, as in cave like, to rev up your sleep drive and naturally release the sleep hormone melatonin, which aids in you falling into a blissful slumber.

If a snoring partner or loud external sounds are keeping you awake, you may want to consider installing a white noise machine or sound spa to drown out the noise. Any consistent sound like static, running water, rainfall, a fan, etc. can help push you into your next sleep cycle more easily and into more of a restorative sleep.

Keep the temperature in check – too warm or too cool means that our body is working too hard to keep the body at an ideal temperature and is ultimately keeping us in a lighter phase of sleep.

Avoid caffeine and sugar before bedtime. Replace caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and pop, with a soothing bedtime herbal tea, like chamomile tea, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and provide a calming response throughout the body. Or try a glass pf warm milk and honey. We don't know for sure that a warm glass of milk actually helps us sleep better, but we do know that it's a very comforting drink to have before bedtime, perhaps bringing you back to a moment from your childhood. The relaxing sensation it provides in itself can encourage sleep.

The scent of lavender has been proven to promote a more restful and restorative sleep, as well as decrease anxiety. There are many ways you can introduce lavender to your sleep environment. You can spray it on your pillow or use lavender oil and rub three drops into your cupped hands and inhale until you feel relaxed. You can also make your own small satchels filled with fresh lavender and throw it under your bed or on your night table.

Other helpful sleep tips

Stow and sleep
Clutter and disorganization can also become an obstacle for sleep. Often our bedrooms become our offices, gyms, entertainment centres, and storage closets, McGinn points out. Make sure that you are strengthening the association between bed and sleep—the first step in doing so is by making sure that your bedroom is for sleep only. If we are trying to clear out the clutter from our brain, we first have to clear out the clutter in the environment in which we sleep. So that means fold and put away that laundry and get that television out of the bedroom!

Evaluate your mattress
We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, so it's important to invest in healthy sleep by understanding that a mattress is the most important piece of furniture that we own. Just like we equip our kitchens with the tools we need to create delicious meals, we have to equip our bedrooms to help us create a sound sleep. You should be replacing your mattress every five years, McGinn recommends. Sometimes just by replacing your mattress people find themselves falling asleep easier and feeling better when they wake up.

Give your night table an audit
The number one reason we are such a sleep-deprived society is our obsession tech and that our devices are finding their way into our bedrooms. It's so important to clear these sleep busters out of the bedroom, says McGinn. Remove TV's, tablets, and phones and create a family docking station within your home, in a place like the kitchen, where everyone can plug in and stay organized overnight. It keeps tech out and helps establish sleep rules within your home.

Practice a calming and consistent bedtime routine
Bedtime routines are not just for kids, notes McGinn. It's hard to fall asleep without quieting our minds and turning off from our busy days. Replace your devices with bedtime activities like reading a paperback novel, doing some adult colouring, or practicing calming activities like meditation and pre-bedtime yoga. Also, you can keep a journal beside your bed where you can write all your worries and stresses out before you go to bed so that they are out of your head. It's also a good idea to jot down a to-do list for the next day before you go to sleep, so things are not constantly swimming in your head while you are trying to get some shut-eye.

Night table tip
Instead of using your phone as an alarm clock use an actual alarm clock, preferably an analog clock to avoid the bright numbers that come on a digital clock. Set the alarm for your usual morning wake time, recommends McGinn, but turn it around so that if you wake up throughout the night you don't start clock watching, which can add to the stress of not being able to fall back asleep.

Add a few calming touches

  • Choose soothing paint colours. The colour blue is said to slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure. Muted greens, yellow, and silver are good calming colours as well. Purple is said to be the least restful colour as this colour can stimulate the brain.
  • Keep day clothes and pj's separate. Don't sleep in the same outfit that you stay awake in. According to McGinn, it's important to strengthen the association between sleep and your bed, and if you are wearing the same yoga pants and t-shirt that you cooked and ate dinner in your brain will have a harder time understanding that it's time to sleep.
  • Create your own sleep tool kit equipped with your own sleep tools. Things to include could be an eye mask, ear plugs, and your favourite hand cream.

    What bedtime rituals help you get to sleep faster? Tell us on our Facebook page