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Boning up on your sleep hygiene

Having trouble sleeping? A program at the library Tuesday evening just might do the trick.

If you’re one of the thousands upon thousands of Canadians who have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, there’s a program coming to the St. Albert Public Library tonight that just might answer a few of your ‘whys’ so that you can get a few more ‘zzz’s.

At the very least, Good Night Sleep Tight should help you rest easy that you’re not alone in the world of sleeplessness.

“About eight years ago or so, we developed (the program) because we were noticing a lot of our patients ... no matter what they're coming in to see us for, most of them are coming in with a lack of sleep, just not being able to sleep at night,” said Shelley Porter, registered nurse and clinical lead for mental health and social work with the St. Albert and Sturgeon Primary Care Network.

Indeed, she added, that insomnia and other sleep disorders are less rare than many might think.

“It's very common ... 50 per cent of seniors experience poor sleep. I don't have a stat for just the average population of adults but I know just personally, when we see patients, almost everybody coming in to see us with other issues also experiences poor sleep.”

The 90-minute “psychoeducation” program will review some common causes and effects, which include a whole host of other physiological and psychological issues. It can cause a shortened lifespan and an increased risk of heart disease, stomach problems, obesity, diabetes, irritability, increased risk of automobile crashes and decreased performance at school or work, relational problems, difficulty with learning, and, of course, “the whole effect on your mental health,” she added.

“We're finding that about half the people who think they have insomnia actually have anxiety and depression.”

It begs the question: which came first ... the chicken or the egg? Does the poor sleep cause the ailments or is sleeplessness just a symptom of the other health issues?

“Both. You have some people that come in and maybe they've had a stressor, or maybe they've had a physical injury, and so they're not sleeping well, or maybe even just a new baby or (they’re) a caregiver. So their sleep goes down, and then it results in the health issues. Vice versa, if you're suffering from anxiety and depression, most likely you're going to have some sort of sleep disorder to go with it. Whether it be that you can't sleep at night because of that busy mind, or whether you're sleeping more and more, and you’re still fatigued and have no energy.”

It will be an action-packed 90 minutes, with the PCN staff member also reviewing some basic tips and tricks to help get your sleep on. Hint: if you’re reading this on our website, that could be part of the problem. Their mantra is ‘stay away from the screen to improve your sleep hygiene.’

“That's a common term that we use for all the different strategies for sleeping that a lot of people don't even realize. When you can't sleep, a lot of people first thing they'll do is get out their phone or their iPad and go on there and play with it. Actually that false light is one of the worst strategies of sleep hygiene because it actually affects your melatonin.”

The program runs Tuesday evening from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the St. Albert Public Library. Visit for more details.

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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