Counting sheep? Here’s what you can do to get to sleep
VANCOUVER -- Losing sleep is not only tiring, it also has an impact on your health. Long-term sleeplessness has been linked to many health issues.
“The truth is, not sleeping enough isn’t just annoying, it can actually contribute to serious health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain and depression,” says Lauren Friedman of Consumer Reports.
But there are a few things you can try that could help you get back on track when you’re having problems sleeping.
If you’re tossing and turning all night long, your doctor may recommend taking something to ease your insomnia.
“All prescription sleep meds come with risks, including being drowsy the next day,” Friedman says. “Some have also been linked to sleepwalking and other odd nighttime behaviors. So, you should take the lowest dose for the shortest time possible.”
While sleeping pills do help, some studies show they may only get you an extra half-hour of sleep. If your doctor does prescribe them, make sure you know how long you can use them for and how to stop – they can be habit-forming if used in the long term.
If prescription medication isn’t the way you want to go, there are over-the-counter sleep drugs, but they have similar problems - they can also be habit-forming.
Many people use melatonin to get to sleep. Melatonin is often used to reset sleep cycles, like when you have jet lag and can’t fall asleep at the right time in the time zone you’re in. But Consumer Reports says there’s little evidence that it works for regular, chronic sleeplessness.
Since cannabis is legal in Canada, CBD oil is another possibility. Consumers use the oil for many purposes, including for anxiety and insomnia, chronic pain and depression. CBD, or Cannabidiol, doesn’t get you high like THC, cannabis’ active ingredient. While many people do take it for sleep, there haven’t been enough clinical trials in humans to prove that it really works. And you shouldn’t use it for any medical purpose without advice from your doctor.
There are also methods of sleep therapy, if you really want to get to the root of what’s causing your sleeplessness. Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, for insomnia works to change behaviours that keep you from falling asleep.
But there are also some common-sense ways you can help yourself. Don’t use your smartphone too close to bedtime, as the blue light from the screen can keep you up. Keep your bedroom cool and dark, and don’t use your bed for anything other than sleep. Don’t watch TV or movies in bed – you want to send a firm signal to your body and brain that when you do get under the sheets, it’s time to sleep.