Updated: Nov 7
Written by: Talia Noya
Although it’s an integral part of our daily lives, the topic of sleep can bring up mixed feelings. For some people, sleep can feel like a luxurious activity, providing a sense of comfort and relaxation. But for others, it can be a source of stress and anxiety, especially when sleep is hard to come by. This can look like racing thoughts, waking up at night and having trouble falling back into a slumber, or feeling unrested the next morning. In fact, a third of Canadians report that they struggle with getting good quality sleep. If not attended to, poor sleep can affect us in a variety of ways.
What exactly is sleep and why is it so important?
Although it still remains somewhat mysterious to researchers, we know that the purpose of sleep is to allow the systems within our bodies to process, repair, and reset. Time for rest is essential to our well-being. It promotes healthy development, a strong immune system, and it even wards off certain health conditions and diseases.
Benefits we might be more familiar with are those related to our mental health. For instance, we’ve all likely felt more irritable, reactive, or distracted after a bad night’s sleep. This is because a good snooze supports how we process the events of our lives and how we emotionally or behaviourally respond to stressful situations. Feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as other mental health concerns are often correlated with sleep challenges. Since sleep is tied to our memory, focus, and learning skills, it influences how we see and make sense of the world around us. This is why sleep plays a vital role in our quality of life.
How can therapy help with my sleep?
If you’re looking to get more restful ZZZs, the best way is to assess and work on your sleep hygiene. This is a term that may come up in therapy, and refers to our sleep habits. This could include what you do during your day that could be impacting your rest, how you prep for bedtime, as well as the physical set-up/environment you have for sleep. If you’re struggling with sleep quality or quantity, make sure to bring it up with your therapist because they can support you in setting up sleep hygiene goals, exploring how you can feel motivated and invested in your new sleep routine, and coordinating medical care when needed. Learning different relaxation techniques in therapy can help with sleep too. For instance, tools like paced breathing, mindfulness, and meditation have been shown to improve sleep. For more complex sleep issues, it could be worth seeking out a therapist trained in providing more structured approaches like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I).
Tips for better sleep
If you’re finding it hard to get a good night’s sleep or even if you simply want to level up the quality of your sleep, here are some ideas you can try to strengthen your sleep hygiene:
Stick to a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible. This means trying to wake up around the same time each day (yes even on the weekends!) and aiming to get 7-9 hours in.
Create a reasonable wind-down routine that you can stick to. Recommendations include decreasing your exposure to light, unplugging from your devices, and doing an activity that will help relax your body and mind before getting into bed, such as having a bath or reading.
Set up a calming sleeping space. A cool, dark, and quiet room is ideal but using sleep masks and ear plugs can also be useful. Finding a mattress, pillows, and sheets that suit your sleep preferences are demonstrated to be helpful too.
Alter some daytime habits that can improve your circadian rhythm—your body’s wake/sleep cycle. Going for a walk outside can be helpful in making sure you get a daily dose of sunlight and physical movement in. Afternoon onwards, it’s best to avoid caffeine, limit alcohol, and larger meals closer to bedtime.
Preparing for time changes
With Daylight Saving Time coming to an end soon, we will need to turn back our clocks by an hour on November 5th. This small change can be quite disruptive to our sleep (car accidents are known to increase exponentially the day after daylight savings!). Here are some tips on how to best prepare for any time change:
Slowly shift your sleep and wake window as well your daily routines leading up to the time change. Small tweaks of 15 to 20 minutes a day are enough to make a difference.
If you don’t usually use relaxation techniques ahead of bedtime, try them out the days before to help with the small increments of change to your routine.
Allow yourself to get more rest the days ahead of the time change to help with your daytime alertness.
If you’re feeling tired during the day after the time change, try to keep your schedule more relaxed and take a 30-min cat nap if needed.
Sleep is essential to your holistic health, so we believe in making it a priority within your wellness plan. It can be helpful to talk to someone about it, so don’t hesitate to reach out to our therapists if you’re looking for this kind of support.
Columbia University Department of Psychiatry (2022, March 16). How sleep deprivation affects mental health. https://www.columbiapsychiatry.org/news/how-sleep-deprivation-affects-your-mental-health
Harvard Medical School (2021, August 17). Sleep and mental health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health
Made in CA (2023, August 11). Sleep statistics in Canada. https://madeinca.ca/sleep-canada-statistics/
Sleep Foundation (2023, October 5). Mastering sleep hygiene: Your path to quality sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene
Sleep Foundation (2022, October 19). How sleep works: Understanding the science of sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works
Sleep Foundation (2023, October 20). How to prepare for the start and end of daylight saving time. https://