What you do before sleep could add years to your lifespan.

An article written a while back by a neurologist in California commented on some of the recent research suggesting a connection between sleep and dementia.

While the measurement of your potential lifespan is not an exact science, it’s interesting to think of sleep as an aspect of your health you can control.

According to a 2009 research study by the Public Health Agency of Canada, sleep apnea impacts 3% of Canadians over the age of 18 and 5% of Canadians over the age of 45. Consider that sleep apnea (a commonly known disorder) is only one type of condition that can interrupt sleep. Other common conditions that impact sleep quality and quantity include insomnia, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, acute pain, unmanaged stress, and thyroid dysfunction. Recent American research showed that 35%-40% of the adult population of the USA experiences problematic tiredness or sleepiness during the course of a day.

While health issues can cause sleep dysfunction, other issues such as medication side effects, needing to get up for natural reasons (hunger, thirst, bladder/bowel pressure, etc.), or social or lifestyle issues can interrupt our regular sleep patterns.

Some health experts expect to see sleep issues grow into one of the biggest drains on our healthcare system over the next few decades. Some anecdotal evidence of this is reflected by the number of high profile groups, research collectives, clinics, and universities that are setting up shop to devote effort towards studying, understanding, and treating sleep issues.

What experts know is that sleep is highly controlled by a set of behavioural skills that can help your body promote easy, restful sleep or can prevent your body from getting the sleep it needs. These skills are collectively called “sleep hygiene” skills. A good question to ask yourself is, “When was the last time you felt well-rested in the morning?” Perhaps you could start to integrate some more sleep hygiene into your bedtime routine.

Do you have a health or medical condition that is impacting your sleep? If you don’t feel your condition, or your sleep, is well managed, you should contact your healthcare provider to discuss potential treatment. Sometimes a counsellor or psychologist can even be the right healthcare provider to help coach you to better sleep hygiene habits to get you started.

Joel Roos

Mr. Joel Roos, MA, RPsych is a registered psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists. He works part-time in the public healthcare system in the field of health psychology. He also manages the Collaborative Care Network, a creative and boutique health-services group practice in Calgary, Alberta.