A Sleep Expert Tells us Why We Really Should Be getting 8 Hours of Sleep A Night

Between a full-time job, side hustles, kids, pets, catching up with friends, working out, and the list goes on and on – it’s no wonder we as a society struggle to find the time to actually get some rest, let alone enough hours to sleep at night. But is it actually vital to get that eight hours of sleep a night we have been drilled about our whole lives? Will it really affect our health? More importantly, will it give us the energy we need to function in our busy daily lives? We spoke with the Founder and Sleep Consultant of Goodnight Sleep Site and host of the top-rated podcast This Girl Loves SleepAlanna McGinn on the importance of a good night sleep and why we really should stop scrolling on Instagram before going to bed.

We are always told that it is super important to get a good night's sleep. Can you share insight on why this really is?

We spend one-third of our lives sleeping. Our bodies repair themselves and restore our energy. It helps our body repair and restore from the day it's had. It also helps the brain and mind rest and prepare for the day ahead. We are able to file away our long-term memories and flush out toxins.

Research shows that our brains drainage system – the glymphatic system – washes the junk and toxins from our brains primarily throughout the night.

Research shows that our brains drainage system – the glymphatic system – washes the junk and toxins from our brains primarily throughout the night. This is one of the major reasons why we sleep.

Alanna McGinn, Founder of Good Night Sleep Site
Alanna McGinn, Founder of Good Night Sleep Site

Should we really be getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night?

Adults typically need 7-8 hours of consolidated restorative sleep per night. We all have a personal baseline for rest. Our “Basal Sleep Need” is the amount of sleep our body needs each night. When we don’t meet this need on a regular basis, we accumulate a “sleep debt.” This is the amount of sleep you owe your body. Determine your wake time and base your bedtime on that by counting 7 to 8 hours back. Sticking to that consistent bedtime will help synch the natural body clock. This will assist in falling asleep easier and even waking up easier in the morning.

What causes people to be sleep deprived?

Many times, we don’t realize we need to make the change. When we look at the three pillars of health: sleep, exercise, and nutrition, it’s easy for us to see that we need to eat better or workout more, but because we already sleep every day, we don’t know that we may not be sleeping enough or getting the right amount of quality and restorative sleep.

It’s difficult to start meeting our sleep needs better when we don’t realize we have to.

It’s difficult to start meeting our sleep needs better when we don’t realize we have to. We need to stop wearing lack of sleep as a badge of honour. We think we are better workers if we sacrifice our sleep to work more hours. We believe we are better parents if we sacrifice our sleep to tend to every need of our children, but at the end of the day we aren’t doing ourselves and, more importantly, our family unit any favours. Put sleep in your schedule.

Alanna McGinn is the host of This Girl Loves Sleep Podcast
Alanna McGinn is the host of This Girl Loves Sleep Podcast

What are some factors that causes sleep disorder and how can people take simples steps to help prevent it?

Insomnia is the leading sleep disorder. Ways to combat it is to follow simple steps of proper sleep hygiene.

Establish a Consistent Sleep Pattern
It’s important to go to bed and wake up in the morning at around the same time to keep our body clock in synch.

It’s important to go to bed and wake up in the morning at around the same time to keep our body clock in synch.

This can be a tough step for some. When we synch our sleep with our natural sleep rhythms and internal 24-hour biological clock (sends signals to your body to be awake or asleep) we are able to achieve the best restorative sleep possible and going to bed and waking up become easier. When we keep a consistent wakeup time and allow our body to naturally wake it helps our body build enough drive to sleep throughout the day making falling asleep at night much easier.

Practice a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Parents create a consistent and calming routines for their little ones (Change into PJs, dim the lights, set a soothing environment, read a bedtime story etc.). The same can be done with your own bedtime routine. Doing these calming activities before bed will cue your body and brain that sleep is expected.

Clear the Clutter
The bedroom should be for sleep and sleep only. Start off by removing distractions such as the television, workout equipment, and work papers. It’s important to create a sleep sanctuary and to be comfortable in your sleep environment.

Turn off Tech and Keep it Out of The Bedroom
Remove over stimulating activities before bedtime. Turn off the TV, the internet, the iPad, and the iTouch, whatever you use.

That blue LED light from the screen can really over stimulate the brain and turn the sleep switch off. It suppresses melatonin and make it diffi

That blue LED light from the screen can really over stimulate the brain and turn the sleep switch off. It suppresses melatonin and make it difficult for you to fall asleep. So, 60 minutes before bedtime, 90 minutes if you can do it, turn off tech.

If You Can’t Sleep, Stop Trying
There are going to be nights where you just can’t sleep. Sometimes it takes time to teach our bodies to fall asleep and lying there staring at the clock is just going to make you more anxious.

Sometimes it takes time to teach our bodies to fall asleep

Our goal is to train our brain that bed = sleep so you don’t want to lie awake for hours. It’s best to get out of bed if you can’t sleep and go into another room and do a quiet and restful activity like reading a book, drinking a warm glass of milk, etc. until you feel sleepy enough to head back to bed. Plan what you will do before you go to bed. Quality vs quantity. You should be sleeping 85% of the time you are in bed.

I've heard supplements like magnesium can help you sleep throughout the night. Do you recommend taking the natural route vs. sleeping pills?

Magnesium is an important mineral, which is essential in the functioning of over 300 enzymes in the body. It aids in muscle relaxation and it has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and help individuals sleep better. Health Canada claims that 43% of Canadians are deficient in magnesium.

What is a sleep consultant and how will seeing a professional help?

A sleep consultant is a certified and trained professional that can work with you on changing habits and lifestyle to better your overall sleep health. We are able to answer your sleep questions, look deeper into your sleep issues and determine if we see any red flags towards serious sleep disorders or if we can change any lifestyle factors that may be contributing to poor sleep health. We educate and coach you through your physical and emotional relationship with sleep to help you achieve ultimate sleep success.

When do you know it's time to see a sleep consultant?

If you are ready to put a sleep plan together and follow a consistent plan, one where you can be held accountable for and you are ready to become more educated on your personal sleep needs, a sleep coach may be a great professional to contact.

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