Sleep & Your Health

Facts about sleep

  • Sleep plays an important role in your physical and mental health. During sleep, the body physically slows down, the brain stores new information, and the body repairs and restores energy.
  • Based on current research, evidence suggests most adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.

Complications of long-term poor sleep

  • Cardiovascular disease: Over time, poor sleep is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Sleep plays a vital role in your body’s ability to heal and repair the blood vessels in the body. Sleep directly affects blood pressure, and even one night of poor sleep can cause an elevation in your blood pressure for up to 24 hours.
  • Weight and waist circumference: People who do not get enough sleep are less likely to exercise regularly. To make matters worse, when your body does not get enough sleep, you are more likely to eat more often, to eat larger portions, and crave foods that are rich in caffeine, fat, and/or sugar.  These long-term changes to exercise and eating habits can lead to unhealthy changes to body weight and waist circumference.
  • Uncontrolled blood sugar: Poor sleep has been shown to increase blood sugar levels, which results in an increased risk of developing diabetes, or makes diabetes more difficult to manage.
  • Mental health concerns: Poor sleep has been linked to an increased risk of developing anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Long-term exposure to poor sleep can also lead to memory and concentration impairments.
  • Weakened immune system: Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy.  When you do not get enough sleep, the body’s immune system, which is important to fight off infections and disease, is reduced. This increases the risk of getting sick and makes it more difficult to recover if we do become ill.

Improving your sleep hygiene

  • Regular physical activity and exercise: Aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise each week and resistance training a minimum of twice per week.
  • Stick to a regular schedule: Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. A regular schedule helps our body regulate when to release the hormones which wake us up, and when to release the hormones that make us tired.
  • Bedroom setup: Consider blackout shades and hiding electronics in your room to prevent unnecessary light. Set your home thermometer to drop a few degrees while you are sleeping.  Consider a good mattress and breathable bedding. Consider soothing colours for wall paint and minimize clutter in your bedroom.
  • Avoid screens: Screen time, such as time watching TV, on your phone, or tablet, is stimulating to the brain. Try to avoid screens for 1-2 hours before your bedtime. Instead of screen time before bed, try winding down by taking a bath or reading a book in dim light.
  • Avoid alcohol or heavy meals before bed: While alcohol may initially increase your downiness, 1-3 hours after consumption it will wake you up. Heavy meals before bed can also cause disruptions in your sleep and can lead to stomach upset, indigestion/acid reflux. Avoid drinking lots of fluid before bed, as this will increase urination.
  • Evening muscle relaxation techniques: Some people find spending a few moments practicing muscle relaxation techniques helpful before bed. Try an evening muscle relaxation session.
  • Reduce stress: Some people find yoga class, meditation, or deep breathing helpful. Keep a diary on your night table to write down anything that is on your mind.  For more information on stress, visit our section on Stress.
  • Mouthpiece or mouthguard:  If you have been advised to wear a mouthpiece at nighttime, regularly wearing it could improve your sleep quality, as it allows your jaw to rest while you sleep.
  • Manage sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition in which you have one or more pauses in breathing while you sleep. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, it is important to follow the recommendations of your doctor or sleep specialist.

Want more information?

  • Speak to your Exercise Therapist.
  • View our handout on Sleep & Your Health.
  • Speak to your family doctor or specialist.