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Health & Fitness Sleep-deprived? Our exhaustive guide to getting a good night’s rest

We all know what we’re supposed to do – set a consistent bedtime routine and wake-up time, and follow them regularly. Get the right pillow for your sleep style. Get rid of distractions that make it harder to fall asleep (that means you, cellphone). But just as there are many ways to lose sleep – struggling to doze off, lying awake at night, waking up too early – there are many ways to try to fix your sleep stresses. Within the stories we’ve written about sleep over the past few years, gathered here below, are tricks and tips that may help you on your journey to a full night’s rest. Read what it’s like to submit to a sleep clinic for testing. Discover how some insomniacs actually find getting things done at night helps them fall back asleep. Learn what you should and shouldn’t be eating to make you drowsy. And, when all else fails, have a laugh with our First Person essay writers who’ve been there, snored through that, and have found novel ways to get to bed (boring podcasts for the win). Now get some rest!

Table of contents

Read more of The Globe’s guides to living well, from how to shop for wine to how to be more productive

The science of sleep


Why women sleep worse than men

According to a 2005 Statistics Canada survey, women reported more problems getting to sleep and falling asleep than men (35 per cent versus 25 per cent). A U.S.-based 2002 National Sleep Foundation study found similar results: Women were more likely than men to experience at least one symptom of insomnia at least a few nights a week (63 per cent versus 54 per cent). And a 2013 study out of Duke University found that women experience more mental and physical consequences from inadequate rest.

Can night owls become early birds?

Larks get sleepy soon after supper, but are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by the time the sun starts to blush on the horizon. Owls are those late-night party animals who thrive in the wee hours, but struggle to get to that 8 a.m. meeting or class the next day. Why do some of us seem built for the morning while others thrive at night? The answer lies in an individual’s chronotype.

Tired of being tired? Turns out we’re not as sleep-deprived as we think

Researchers studied the sleep habits of three pre-industrial societies, the Hadza in Tanzania, the San in Namibia and the Tsimane in Bolivia, whose hunter-gatherer and hunter-horticulturalist lifestyles are believed to closely resemble those of ancient humans. What they found was striking: These traditional groups don’t sleep any more than we do; in fact, they sometimes sleep even less.

Medical conditions and sleep


Chasing the dream of a good night’s sleep

A full night’s sleep seemed like pure fantasy to Erin Anderssen, until a quest to solve her chronic fatigue led to a failed bake-off, midnight pep talks and a sleepover under the watchful eye of a clinician wielding electrodes

What it’s like to have narcolepsy

Narcolepsy advocate Carrie-Ann Burns describes living with a disorder that affects all aspects of her life: mood, energy, physical fitness, social life, comprehension and retaining information.

How sleep plays a role in depression (and vice versa)

Researchers who have followed people with insomnia over months and years have found that (non-depressed) people who have insomnia are more likely than those without insomnia to subsequently develop major depression. And studies have found that treating insomnia has the pleasant side-effect of enhancing mood.

The dangers of sleeping pills for seniors

As people age, their ability to get a good night’s sleep becomes more elusive. And, to add insult to injury, those who might have reached for a sleeping pill to get through the night when they were younger are no longer good candidates for doing so after age 65 or 70. Side effects can be more pronounced in older people, and they’re at risk from falls.

Why snoring is such a hard problem to fix

Forty years ago, snoring was considered little more than an annoyance. But, in recent years, research has shed light on the harmful health effects of snoring and its more extreme form, obstructive sleep apnea, which can include a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. And with rates of snoring believed to be on the rise, partly because of an aging and increasingly overweight population, snorers (and their bedmates) are increasingly in search of solutions.

Airway to heaven: How I finally hit snooze on my snoring

Before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I didn’t think much about sleep. Apart from resentful family members and the odd stinkeye from strangers on the bus, I was functioning as well as any First World, 21st-century, working mother could (naps at stoplights notwithstanding). Once asleep, I am told, the noises that came out of me were more suited to a slaughterhouse floor than a suburban bedroom.

Coping with partners and kids

ANABGD/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The night divorce: Why more and more couples are sleeping apart

Slumber-starved couples are upending traditional bedroom setups – supposedly intimate, romantic places where secrets are shared and all the sex happens – instead sleeping solo in spare rooms full-time or shuffling off to some other bed in the house before especially gruelling days at work. The reasons partners flee the bed are varied, but what separate sleepers have in common is desperation for optimal sleep – even though the unconventional arrangement comes with judgment and sidelong glances.

Why won’t he sleep? A parent’s lament

When I was pregnant, people warned me I would never sleep again, but I brushed these harbingers aside. As it turns out, sleep deprivation is something no one can prepare you for until you experience it yourself.

Kids, apnea, menopause: Will my husband and I ever get a good night’s sleep?

We begin each day with the same question: “How did you sleep?” It has preoccupied us since the children arrived. Gradually, the children learned to sleep and we recovered our sleep mojo. Then, the eldest learned to drive.

Finding the right mattress and pillow


How the ‘hipster mattress’ is changing the way we buy beds

The direct-to-consumer online mattress market has its eyes set on the coveted, tech-savvy consumer. What this means for the industry is that the old-fashioned way of marketing mattresses won’t work any more. Enter the hipster mattress, a bed in a box with celebrity buzz and strong social-media presence.

How to choose the right pillow to help you get a better sleep

Unless you’ve been waking up with neck pain, proper pillow selection is likely not on your radar. Most people use a pillow that is well past its prime – if it has lost its original shape, become flat or lumpy or has been in regular use longer than a year, it’s likely ready for replacement. Although there is no single pillow that is best for everyone, some new options allow you to modify the height and firmness.

A key to better sleep: the perfectly personalized bed

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the obvious: When seeking out a better sleep, start with the bed. To help you make that investment, a roster of opinionated sleep experts offer tips for light sleepers, sweaty sleepers and the long-suffering partners of tossers-and-turners alike.

The links between food and sleep

If you're having trouble sleeping, you might want to take a closer look at what – and how – you're eating. Dietitian Leslie Becks offers some tips for a better night's rest Globe and Mail Update

Nine diet mistakes that are making you tired

Feeling tired all the time despite getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night? To help you feel energized during the day, adopt smart eating habits to sidestep these nine blunders that rob you of energy.

Try these foods to help you sleep better

Mounting evidence suggests that what you eat – and what you don’t eat – affects the time it takes to fall asleep when you go to bed and the amount of time you spend in deep, restorative sleep.

Is my insomnia making me gain weight?

There is evidence that sleep loss is linked to weight gain, in particular abdominal weight gain. Too little sleep has been shown to slow the body’s resting metabolism – the number of calories burned at rest – and increase hormones that stimulate appetite and eating.

Getting rest while travelling

Air Canada

The travel industry wants to put you to sleep

In recent years, the travel and hospitality industry has taken considerable measures to help travelers get adequate sleep, from designing optimal sleep environments, sometimes with the help of doctors and researchers, to providing high-tech devices such as sleep trackers and sound machines. Not only do airlines and hotels aim to provide convenience and comfort while you’re awake, these days, they’re also trying to make sure you rest well along the way.

How to sleep better on a plane

With the right accessories, seating arrangement and timing, you can better your chances of drifting off during your flight.

The red-eye plan: A five-step routine for overnight flights

First things first – find a comfy sleeping position while others are boarding. This way you’ll be ready to nod off as soon as you want.

How to help children cope with jet lag

Before you leave start adapting kids’ sleep schedules to your destination, even by an hour or two, to help make the time change come as less of a shock.

Tips for a better night’s rest

Yoga instructor Amber Brown walks us through two yoga poses designed to relax the body and mind at the end of the day. If you have trouble sleeping, these may offer some relief. Globe and Mail Update

Why high-tech gadgets are looking to the past to help us sleep better

With machine learning on the horizon, many sleep aids are expected to become increasingly responsive and customized to help us get the shut-eye we need. The hope is that such innovations will create the optimal environment – that is, one that resembles what it was in the past, before our nights were disrupted by artificial lights, central heating, digital distractions and the stresses of modern life.

Sleep your way to better – and happier – memories

As early as the 1920s, research has shown that memory retention improves after sleep. What we have come to realize since then, however, is that sleep is not just an essential part of improving our ability to remember, but also effects what types of things we actually do remember.

Banking sleep ahead of time can stave off exhaustion, study shows

For shift workers, ultra-endurance athletes and even jet-setting executives, missing sleep is a confidence-sapping occupational hazard with both mental and physical consequences. The solution? It turns out you can ward off some of the effects by “banking” extra sleep in advance, according to research.

Three ways to improve sleep quality and brain function

Our best intentions to catch up on a sleep debt can lead to inconsistent patterns of sleep. This is a slippery slope. Unfortunately, an hour less tonight does not equal an extra hour tomorrow.

Tossing and turning? Sleep coaches have a game plan for that

Traditionally, sleep coaches help parents figure out how to get their little ones to sleep through the night. Companies offer plenty of options at various price points, ranging from 15-minute phone consultations to overnight visits. But some infant and child sleep coaches are branching out into the much more complicated world of adult sleep.

Thoughts keeping you up? 5 ways to settle yourself to sleep

Sleep does not arrive quickly to a darting mind. Nor does it arrive when the mind is actively engaged in other activities such as worrying or problem solving. So how do you calm that racing mind in order to sleep?

The best therapy for insomniacs? Getting things done

Members of the can’t-get-no-shuteye club are trying new hobbies and getting chores done well into the night. In the process, they have stumbled upon one of the top recommendations sleep experts now give their patients.

When all else fails …


To overcome my insomnia, I had to change the way I thought about sleep

Over six months I waded through solutions. Some came from the doctor, while other came from my faulty, exhausted logic. They almost all cost me money, but at the end of the day, what saved me was the most simple – and free – change in thinking.

My fear of the dark led me to a new bedtime ritual

I hated the night. I couldn’t learn to quiet my fears and turn off my brain. But then I discovered podcasts.

Napping my way to nirvana: Learning to love the late-afternoon snooze

Napping returned in my early 50s, initially prompted by necessity born from attending early-morning boot-camp classes that had me foolishly doing burpees at 6 a.m. and nodding off at 3 p.m. I perfected the snapnap, becoming a master of the three-minute reboot. Then I discovered the full-on, late-afternoon, under-the-covers nap.

Lost sheep, lost sleep: Counting the woolly beasts may help some, but for me there are complications

There’s no point counting unless you’re going to get a reasonably accurate figure, right?

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