Canadians and Americans tie for third worst sleepers worldwide. Are you one of them?

I have been. I’ve had nights where I wake up dripping sweat, nights where I can’t get to sleep because my mind won’t shut down, nights where I wake up three hours before my alarm goes off and can’t get back to sleep.

I didn’t think it was bad. I thought it was normal. And then I spent a week away on a little Canadian island and I slept. Hard. I woke up every morning refreshed, energized—I didn’t even want coffee! I was able to focus on work, I felt calm, and I wanted to run everywhere I went.

And then I went home and I hardly slept for a week…and another week. What gives? Find out more in this Own Up Grown-Up podcast episode.

A third of us are sleep-deprived. A third of Canadian kids are sleep-deprived. This is not okay.

What’s causing us to lose sleep?

Anxiety and screens. That’s probably not surprising. Deep down, you probably know why you can’t sleep, but what are you doing about it? Why do you let this go on?

My biggest problem is winding down. When I work late and try to fall asleep, instead of drifting off my mind races. I start thinking about a project I’m working on tomorrow. I think about something that happened that day, and I play it over and over again in my mind. I’m convinced anxiety is at the bottom of my sleep problem.

At the end of the day (literally), being able to do something as natural as going to sleep shouldn’t require chronically medicating ourselves or putting ourselves on a nightly war footing against all the screens, foods, and activities that stand between us and a good night’s sleep. Rather, it starts with something as simple as it is profound: asking ourselves what kind of life we want to lead, what we value, what gives our lives meaning.”—Arianna Huffington, The Sleep Revolution

I love this quote from Arianna, because it ties in so well with everything that Own Up Grown-Up is all about. If we prioritize the wrong things, like pleasing our boss by being available 24/7 instead of delivering our best quality work.

Poor sleep is a symptom of living out of alignment with your values.

4 tips to help you sleep better

I got fed up. Lack of sleep was affecting my work, my relationships, my motivation to exercise, my skin. In early 2017, I started experimenting with different things to help me sleep better. This is what’s worked so far:

  1. Quit work and screens at least an hour before bed. The blue light emitted by phone and computer screens prevents your body from producing melatonin, a brain chemical that induces sleep. Read, bathe, stretch, or do some other relaxing activity that doesn’t require using a screen. I’ve found TV doesn’t seem to impact being able to sleep, though I’m not sure why that is. It could be because I don’t really pay attention to the TV when it’s on.
  2. Start a bedtime ritual. I love my bedtime routine. It’s a reward at the end of the day. I will read and sip chamomile tea, and then listen to a guided body scan meditation to help me fall asleep. Go to bed at the same time every night and get ready for bed long before you crawl under the sheets.
  3. Meditate before bed. Guided meditation has had the biggest impact on my sleep. I have UCLA’s Body Scan for Sleep bookmarked on my phone. Meditation relaxes your entire body and calms your mind. I often fall asleep before the recording ends.
  4. Exercise. I run, bike, or do yoga almost every day for 30-60 minutes and I can feel it when I don’t, particularly when I try to go to bed. I find that cardio exercise that gets your heart pumping is what helps me sleep best. Walking doesn’t quite do it.

While I still struggle to get to bed in time for 8 hours of sleep (my average is 7 hours), these activities have helped immensely. I’m able to focus better, be more creative, and I feel a lot more relaxed. If you’re experiencing troubles sleeping, give these simple things a try. I feel like I’ve gained so much by gaining more Zs.