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What keeps you up at night?


What keeps you up at night? 

Sleep disorders affect 1 in 3 adults. Learn what you can do about it.

Running through tomorrow’s to-dos? Overthinking the what ifs? Maybe even replaying the events of the day? It can be difficult to turn off our brains and allow ourselves to shift into a more restful mode. Many of us carry the stresses of our day into the night, creating a deep connection between sleep and stress. 

Dr. Lephuong Ong, Registered Psychologist, explains more about this interconnectedness. “Stress”, she says “creates physiological, emotional, and cognitive arousal -- and all this arousal is incompatible with sleep. Stress activates our sympathetic nervous system, which prepares our bodies to expend a large amount of energy, to fight, flee, or freeze in response to a perceived threat. During this stress activation, sleep and digestion are suppressed, until the threat has passed or is dealt with. Poor sleep can, in turn, lead to increased stress levels and compromised stress coping and emotion regulation.” 

The cycle is clear, and if you’re suffering from lack of sleep, you’re not alone.

1 in 3 adults suffer from some form of insomnia*

That’s a lot of Canadians losing out on sleep. Beyond the connection to stress, 

 Raabia Hassanali RPh BPharm, Pharmacist, Virtual Pharmacy, tells us “lack of sleep can kill sex drive1 and age the skin2”. 

So, what can be done? Where do we begin to address our sleep quality and stress levels? Which should be dealt with first? Fortunately, Dr. Ong suggests there’s hope for any troubled sleeper: “If we take steps to improve our stress coping and reduce arousal, we can improve our sleep. Also, if we improve our sleep, we can improve our ability to handle daily stressors and help keep us even keeled, emotionally.” 

Surprise! There are many factors that affect your sleep

There are many habitual things that could be preventing you from getting a good night’s rest. “Many clients that I work with find it surprising that everyday, seemingly harmless activities can have an immense impact on sleep quality. For instance, people do all sorts of mentally and emotionally activating things in bed and in their bedrooms, such as, watching television, scrolling on smartphones.” Says Dr. Ong. “Over time, our minds and our bodies become conditioned, and we learn to associate the bed and the bedroom with these wakeful activities, and their associated emotions and mental traffic, rather than falling asleep quickly and deeply.” Inadequate sleep hygiene creates unsatisfactory sleep, which causes a big ripple effect throughout your day.

Poor sleep can result in poorer mental health

As Dr. Ong explains, “Past epidemiological studies suggest that 40% of individuals with insomnia also had a psychiatric disorder. Poor sleep quality also predicts poorer mental health in the future, such as future depressive symptoms, depression and anxiety diagnoses, and depression returning after a depressive episode. It is believed that sleep disturbances impair one’s ability to regulate emotions, which elevates the risk for developing depression. Sleep quality can actually affect one’s personality over time, which is surprising, as personality traits are generally thought to be pretty stable. Research findings show that poor sleep quality reduces personality traits like extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.” 

Turning it all around

While we could go further into how sleep impacts the body, let’s instead dig into ways to stop the bad sleep cycle. First, let’s talk about the wind down: creating a routine one hour before bed that allows us to begin to calm the arousal from our day. “If we do not wind down prior to bedtime” says Dr. Ong, “we will end up winding down from the day while we are in bed, which can promote sleeplessness.”

Check out these tips:

  • Dim the lights throughout the house

  • Play relaxing music

  • Turn off electronics

  • Ensure bedding and pjs are comfortable

  • Take a warm bath or shower

  • Try deep belly breathing

  • Stretch and/or meditate

  • Reflect on the day for about 15 minutes

  • Write down your thoughts and worries

Getting help throughout your day

Beyond creating a mindfulness routine, removing some potential stressors from your life and simplifying daily tasks can really help your sleep hygiene. Try to offload some of your daily tasks. Give your family chore charts to take some of the day-to-day off your hands. Try using your smartphone calendar for helpful alerts and reminders. Take advantage of other helpful apps such as the TELUS Health Virtual Pharmacy app. It’s a great way to manage your prescriptions - or your family’s prescriptions, and you can have your medication delivered right to your home. The app will also remind you when you’re running low and will even send you reminders. This frees up your time so you can skip heading to the pharmacy, and let the pharmacy come to you. You can also connect virtually with pharmacists to speak about prescriptions, your family’s health, and sleep issues you may have. 

Medication, sleep and how your pharmacist can help

A great jumping off point is to speak to your TELUS Health Virtual Pharmacist about how medication may be impacting your sleep. Additionally, Dr. Ong suggests it’s important to be aware of certain qualities of a medication before you begin taking it and says, “medication and supplements can have an impact on sleep depending on the time of day they’re taken.”:

Some antidepressants tend to cause insomnia 

Some antidepressants can cause sedation

Antihistamines can cause sedation (Benadryl(r) and are best taken at night)

Antihistamines can also be non-sedative (Reactine(r) and can be taken during the day)

Diuretics can indirectly cause insomnia as they increase urination frequency

A good night’s sleep is key to our overall well-being.

Sleep acts as the foundation on which we build all important pieces of our lives. If you’re experiencing ongoing issues with your sleep or health, it’s important to talk to your doctor or your pharmacist. If you choose to do so, you can set up a virtual chat with your TELUS Health Virtual Pharmacist here. [link: appointment booking]


The information provided in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical diagnosis or treatment. You should seek the advice of your doctor or pharmacist prior to starting any treatment or in connection with any health problems or questions.

The Information is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice for you and should not be relied upon in that regard. You should not act or rely on the Information without seeking the advice of a professional. YOU SHOULD NOT USE THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE FOR DIAGNOSING, TREATING, CURING OR PREVENTING A HEALTH PROBLEM OR PRESCRIBING A MEDICATION. ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR OWN PHYSICIAN FOR ADVICE AND TREATMENT


*(Morin et al, 2013)




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