Sleepy equals sloppy: What does your body need to regulate sleep so you remain sharp at work?

According to the American Academy of Sleep, you need eight hours of rest to feel alert the next day.

This is neither a random number nor a casual suggestion. A study done in 2005 found that people who get less than six hours sleep per night were at an elevated risk of having a stroke.  The link appears to be a disruption in hormonal levels, as well as metabolism disturbances.  Less sleep means less ability to concentrate and focus, not to mention a higher risk of obesity and its associated health issues.

So, how much sleep do you get every night?  Perhaps it’s time to evaluate your sleep hygiene.  Here are some basic ways to improve sleep habits, stay mentally sharp and optimally healthy.


Esthetics: Do you have calming colours and a relatively tidy space with clean sheets and blankets? Or would you offer visitors an evacuation suit before entering? We need our environment to induce calm feelings in order to relax and fall asleep. Dirt and clutter can disrupt that state of relaxation. Also, the National Sleep Foundation suggests we keep our sleep environments cool and dark.

Noise: Background noise from tvs, radios, computers and other electronics cause a disturbance to the body and its natural sleep cycles. In fact, there is evidence that these devices may interfere with hormones that regulate our sleep. So, to get a good night’s rest, keep electronics turned off in the bedroom.

Mental factors:

Stress: try to find a way to unload your problems at the bedroom door. Write in your journal, call a friend or take a bath to let go of the days stresses. Fretting and worrying in bed will only heighten frustration.  If feelings of tension arise, it’s best to get out of bed and attempt to adjust your mood back to neutral before returning.

Physical factors:

Exercising: going to the gym a few hours before bed or playing sports late at night can  increase your energy to the point of causing sleep disturbances.  Try to work out or exercise early in the evening or after work/before dinner time.

Caffeine/Sugar: These substances cause the blood sugar to spike and will definitely create difficulties falling asleep.  Some people need more than five hours to process caffeine, meaning that late afternoon coffee could be perking you up while you’re trying to lay down. And remember, chocolate contains both caffeine and sugar!

Food: Large spicy meals affect your digestion significantly, and this has an impact on sleep.  Besides heartburn — which is worsened by lying down — and bloating, the body must work hard to digest which is not conducive to resting.  Try to eat at the same time every evening, and give yourself at least three hours to digest properly before bed.

Relaxing foods:

If you feel worked up in the evening, try eating a piece of whole grain toast a few hours before bed. The complex carbohydrates will help your brain increase serotonin levels, leading to positive, relaxing feelings.

 Eleanor Healy is the founder of Truly Me-holistic support services for busy people. She is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and Reiki Master/Teacher in Toronto with over a decade of experience supporting people during stressful times.  As a former child and youth care worker, she noticed that frequently her co-workers would fall ill from stress (including her). This experience motivated her to remind other caregivers and holistic practitioners not to forget their most precious clients-themselves! With plenty of experience successfully navigating the choppy waters of burnout, she offers practical tips on how to put yourself back together again and more importantly, how to stay balanced in a demanding world.Follow Eleanor on Facebook, visit her website  and sign- up for the email list on her page-you’ll receive a free e-booklet with tips for staying healthy and balanced! Or email your questions/comments to