Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is defined as behaviours that one can do to help promote good sleep using behavioural interventions.

Sleep problems are fairly common. In fact, 1 in 4 people experience sleep difficulties, which include trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, early morning waking, sleeping too much, or restless or unsatisfying sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep can improve your mental well-being and help you to better manage your anxiety. The good news is that there are things you can do to improve your sleep.

TIP: Sleep problems can be the result of various physical conditions or medical problems. Therefore, it is important to discuss your sleep problems with your doctor.

Sleep deprivation

To Improve Your Sleep Hygiene, Try Some of the Following Strategies

Create a comfortable sleep environment. If you want to have a good sleep, it helps to create a comfortable sleep environment. Make sure that you have a supportive mattress and fresh, comfortable bedding. Also, try to ensure that your room is not too hot or cold, minimize noise, and block out light.

Relax. Try doing something to relax your body and mind before going to bed. Try taking a hot bath about 1.5 – 2 hours before you plan to go to bed. Or try a relaxation exercise such as meditation, or listening to calming music.

Get physical. People who exercise tend to have more restful sleep. Exercising for at least 30 minutes 3-4 times a week can improve your sleep. So, get moving! Go for a walk or a run. The best time to exercise is in the late afternoon or early evening. Exercising in the morning, while good for you, won’t help with sleep as it is too far off. And exercising less than 2 hours before bedtime can actually interfere with sleep as its too close.

Set a bedtime routine. Having a bedtime routine cues your body that it’s time to sleep.  Establish a set routine that you follow every night. For example, have a hot bath, put on your Pj’s, brush your teeth, and then listen to soft music and read on the couch until you start to feel sleepy and then go to bed.

Establish a fixed awakening time. Try waking up at the same time every day (even on weekends) no matter how well or how poorly you have slept. This way your body will begin to get used to a regular sleep rhythm.

Sleep only when sleepy. Don’t force yourself into bed at a particularly time if you’re not feeling sleepy. You’ll only lie awake in bed, frustrated that you can’t sleep.

Just for sleeping. Your bed should be used strictly for sleeping. Try to avoid reading, watching television, working, or studying in bed, because these activities keep your mind active, which gets in the way of sleep.

Get out of bed. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 to 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring (e.g. read the manual on how to program your clock radio, read the sports section of the newspaper if you’re not a sports fan) or try relaxing (e.g. meditate, listen to calm music, have a warm de-caffeinated drink). When you start to feel sleepy, try going back to bed. This strategy can feel like you are making things worse, but if you stick with it, it can really help. There is nothing worse that lying in bed getting frustrated that you can’t doze off to sleep

Don’t worry. Leave your worries about work, school, health, relationships, etc. out of the bedroom. Try scheduling a “worry time” earlier in the evening to deal with your worries. If you wake up in the middle of the night worrying, try writing down your worries and tell yourself that you will address them in the morning.

TIP: Worrying about not sleeping doesn’t help – it just makes it more likely that you won’t sleep. Let go of your belief that you have to get 8 hours of sleep or you can’t function. Stop looking at the clock and stop trying to make yourself fall sleep. It will happen when it happens.

Avoid caffeine. Avoid consuming caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, some teas, soft drinks and chocolate. Caffeine is a stimulant and it can keep you awake.

Avoid alcohol. Although you may think that alcohol will help you fall asleep, it interferes with sleep later in the evening. So, try to avoid consuming alcohol at least 4 hours before bed.

Don’t smoke before bed. Try to avoid smoking at least 4 hours before bedtime as it can interfere with a good night’s sleep.

Skip the nap. Naps can interfere with normal sleep cycles. So, if you’re having trouble sleeping, avoid taking naps. That way, your body will be more tired when it’s bedtime.

Get some natural light. Try to spend some time outdoors or in natural light every day. Getting some sunlight early in the day can be helpful for setting your body’s natural wake and sleep cycle.

Keys to Success

Start small.  Making small changes can have a large impact on your sleep. Don’t try to do everything all at once. Instead, pick 1 or 2 strategies and try them consistently. When you’re ready, try adding a new strategy. The goal is to slowly start increasing behaviours that can help you sleep, while reducing the things that are interfering with your sleep.

Be consistent. Pick a strategy and use it consistently. Try to do the same thing every night.

Be patient. These strategies can take time to improve your sleep. In fact, sometimes things can get worse before they get better. Hang in there and stick with it.

Chart your progress. Use a sleep diary form to keep track of the strategies you’re using and your weekly progress.

5 must try recovery techniques for the Office Athlete

Where is the off switch? We work late, go to bed with a little stress, wake a little stressed and have probably replied to a few emails in between. Workplaces refer to employees as ‘office athletes’. Pushing the limit, high performing, working “training” longer, harder and faster. But where is the recovery?

But the analogy misses one key point. 6 time SuperBowl champion Tom Brady has long displayed the importance of recovery training after pushing hard, for top-notch physical and mental performance. The push-recover approach helps to build speed, strength and endurance for professional athletes to expand the limits of human performance and endurance, while avoiding injury.

In contrast, office athletes generally follow the push till you break approach. And the evidence shows that “always on” is extremely costly in terms of burnout, stress, depression, chronic pain, injury, pharmaceutical usage and related healthcare costs. That’s a lot of red flags.

Personally, I spent most of my career being always on. Following up with patients after hours, studying in my spare time, getting into work 2 hours early to prepare my notes. I didn’t know what impact it could have on my physical and emotional well-being. I pushed hard with 12-hour work days for years. Without understanding the importance of recovery periods. I definitely hit a wall one day and just excused myself from work, with the explanation of “I have compassion fatigue and need the rest of the day off”.

In the spirit of helping other Office athletes, here are five recovery strategies to help you push hard and recover better.

1. Work like an athlete? Train like one.

Build in little ‘micro breaks’ for recovery. Try a few short mindfulness meditations throughout the day, especially after stressful situations. A good tip for those glued to the computer, is to take a moment and look ideally out the window on an object such as a tree or the water and focus on that, calming the nervous system, relaxing the face and resetting your eyes. You can also find a quiet spot, sit and take a one to five minute break to re-centre and clear your mind for what you need to take care of next.

2. Manage mindful meetings with efficiency and effectiveness.

Too many meetings start late, end late and don’t accomplish goals and to be honest, could have been an email. That creates unnecessary stress. Start and end on time. Take one minute to center the room and ask everyone to drop whatever they’re bringing to the meeting extraneously. Take a page from Oprah Winfrey‘s playbook. Brendon Burchard, the author of High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, says Oprah starts every meeting the same way: She says:

“What is our intention for this meeting? What’s important? What matters?”

Why does she start a meeting that way?

High performers constantly seek clarity. They work hard to sift out distractions so they can not just focus, but continually re-focus, on what is important

3. Let the team recover too.

Tempted to draft emails on the weekend or at 10pm at night? Don’t hit send until Monday. It may feel good to get things off of your chest in the moment, but weekend emails are simply a way for you to pass the stress baton. Avoid the temptation. It’s not the E.R.

4. Protect and value recovery time.

Turn your phone off (or at least put it on do not disturb) at the same time each evening. You may be in a globally connected business, but your state of mind and emotional health play a big role in the healthy functioning of your family and your business. What happens with your family in the short time you spend together is more important than emails from 8-11 p.m., as is your sleep.

recovery Tom Brady

Rest and recovery are critical components for any athlete’s training. As an athlete, you are only as good as your ability to recover, so to maximize your training, it’s important to take care of your body. TB12 sports

5. Show the team you care by the way you listen.

When speaking with colleagues, let them speak for two to three minutes without interrupting. Ask the same of them. This creates a recovery period where you’re listening, not thinking and outdoing your teammate — it’s ok, we are all guilty of it (especially me being a non-stop talker). Small changes in how you communicate will strengthen connections and reduce stress in your relationships.

You don’t have to run in that beast mode. These simple habits applied consistently could create long-lasting, impactful benefits, while avoiding injury and burnout for you and your fellow office athletes.

Tech Neck

What is tech neck?

It’s safe to say that a majority of our population has a smartphone, sometimes two. Unfortunately, we all are susceptible to tech neck syndrome. However, small changes to the way you consume content on your phone can make all the difference between a healthy neck and one that hurts from all that texting.

It’s not uncommon to see a patient walk into the Clinic I consult in with a twelve-pound head that’s migrated three inches forward on their body because of Forward Head Posture (FHP).

Forward Head Posture (FHP) is a common problem for many people, among other postural issues. Over time, it will cause substantial damage to the spine, in what is otherwise a preventable injury.

Did you know for every inch of FHP, the weight of the head on the spine increases by an additional 10 pounds?

weight of head is 5.4kg and dramatically increases in weight every cm we look forward and down

The extensive spread of this particular postural issue is partly due to our society’s addiction to prolonged sitting, and through excessive use of tablets and smartphones. By doing so, your forward posture can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine, resulting in that tech neck pain.

Forward Head Posture has also been shown to affect the brain in negative ways. Research shows that 90 percent of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine. Therefore, less cervical movement results in less nutrition to the brain. Only 10 percent of the brain has to do with thinking, metabolism and healing.

Consequently, FHP will cause the brain to rob energy from thinking, metabolism and your immune function to deal with the abnormal gravity/posture relationships and processing.

Here are four simple strategies and stretches that will tackle that strain and pain.

1. Bring your phone closer to your face

Neck problems from cell phones can be fixed simply by bringing your phone a little closer to your face. Ultimately, you decide on positioning; your phone doesn’t. By putting 10 degrees of extension in your neck (bringing your head back up) can alleviate about 10 pounds of sustained weight on your neck. As long as you’re more conscious about positioning, it’ll help you find opportunities to bring your phone up to your face.

2. Talk more and text less

We have lost our ability to make more genuine connections. We rarely call to wish each other happy birthday anymore, for example. We pretty much say all of our well wishes with one emoji. In an age when hearing a voice over the phone is rare, take the advantage by making a call. It could set you apart in many ways and even give you a competitive edge.

3. Tuck your elbows in – it provides you with a checkpoint

When you tuck your elbows into your body it gives you no room to drop your arms down any more. When your arms drop down, your head will just end up following.

4. Get into the habit of simple and quick neck exercises

Working on these deep neck flexors is an excellent way to create a stretch of the posterior neck muscles that tend to tighten up. It also builds the strength of the muscles deep in the front of the neck that tends to get weaker and inhibited due to constantly being on the phone.

• Lie on your back.

• Tuck in your chin slightly.

• Raise your head up just high enough to force you to contract the muscles in the front of your neck against gravity.

• Slowly continue to raise your head into more neck flexion (chin down to chest).

• Don’t let your chin jut forward.

• Hold for 30 seconds (or however much time you can tolerate; many of you will become quite tired after 10 seconds).

• Repeat three times daily (ideally, doing it at meal times is a good way to remember).


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