The Big Sleep: Overcoming Insomnia

If you’re waking up tired and grouchy every morning, it’s likely you’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep problems are a common affliction as we age – up to 40 per cent of Canadians over 60 don’t get the required eight hours shut-eye needed to restore our bodies and prepare us to face the world.

But don’t fret — many sleep problems can be overcome simply by observing proper sleep hygiene. Here are my seven ways to make your night-time behaviour and environment more conducive to sleep.

1) Building a sleep routine can help. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

2) Avoid catnaps. This way you’ll be sleepy at night.

3) Don’t use your bed for reading, watching TV or paperwork. Use it only for sleeping (um and sex too, of course).

4) Avoid stimulants such as food or caffeinated drinks.

5) If you still can’t sleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something else. Otherwise you’ll only get more anxious about not sleeping.

6) Regular exercise (just not before bed) has been shown to improve our ability to fall asleep.

7) Certain relaxation techniques, such as a warm bath or reading, can also help.

If all else fails, book an appointment with your doctor who will determine what’s causing your sleep disturbance and give you advice or, as a last resort, prescribe medication that should help. Just don’t put it off – lack of sleep is associated with a host of health problems. Happy dreams!

Dr. Zach (Zachary Levine) is an emergency physician at the McGill University Health Centre and the medical correspondent for Zoomer Radio (AM740;