The ABZzzs of Sleep

What’s keeping you up at night? If sleep is eluding you, don’t remain in the dark.

Have you ever been so tired that when you try to sleep, your mind just won’t shut?

Maybe you’re worried about a family member, your job, your relationship, getting things done, getting things done well. You ruminate, you refl ect, you reminisce. You toss and turn, count sheep, sip warm milk and listen to the soothing sounds of a noise machine. Try as you might, that digital clock keeps ticking in the back of your head, reminding you how much time has passed since you last checked – which, by the way, was only five minutes ago.

Regardless of what’s keeping you up at night, a soundful slumber plays too critical a role in our health and well-being to miss. During sleep, our bodies are working to support healthy brain function and maintain our physical and mental health. The way we feel when we’re awake has much to do with what happens while we’re asleep.

St. Michael's Foundation caught up with Dr. Richard Leung, Director of St. Michael’s Hospital’s Sleep Laboratory, and Associate Scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, and asked him for some advice on how to turn a less than ideal sleep pattern around.

Dr. Leung’s recipe for curing restlessness? A few tweaks are usually all it takes for a peaceful sleep. According to Dr. Leung, quality and consistency are key to getting your best night's sleep.

  1. Establish a routine and stick to it.
  2. Eat meals earlier and avoid television, tablets and smartphones before bedtime, since the light from these devices can throw off our circadian rhythm. And, you should try to avoid activities that are stimulating before you go to sleep.
  3. Don’t rely on cat napping on your commute and catching up on weekends. It’s akin to starving yourself during the week and binging on the weekend, he says.

“Many of us simply need to learn to relax and be mindful of how important it is to wind down to avoid getting caught up in that classic paradox where you’re so worried about not sleeping that it prevents you from being able to.” It’s not uncommon for many of us to feel a little sluggish from time to time. But if you’re constantly drained, it may be time to look into what’s getting you down. For those unable to turn off the mind, Dr. Leung says, “consider cognitive behavioural therapy or making an appointment in St. Michael’s Sleep Lab.”

A few tweaks are usually all it takes for a peaceful sleep. According to Dr. Richard Leung, quality and consistency are key.

Is your iPhone or iPad keeping you from falling asleep?

For some of us, falling asleep is the dreaded, drawn-out phase before eventual slumber. For others, sleep comes so naturally they can do it with their eyes closed.


There's a nap for that!

F.lux: Countless studies have shown that prolonged exposure to blue light prior to falling asleep can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin – generally leading to a poor night’s sleep. F.lux makes the colour of your computer/phone/tablet adapt to time, so that the bright light you’re looking at is increasingly dimmed throughout the day.

Sleep Genius: This app was developed from research that was conducted to help astronauts sleep and was recognized by NASA as a “Spinoff Success Story.” The app trains users to sleep using acoustics designed to reduce stress and calm the body’s cardiac and respiratory systems. Snooze like an astronaut!

Sleep Cycle: This app tracks and analyzes your sleep patterns, generating a visually pleasing dashboard of sleep statistics displayed in charts and graphs. What truly sets this app apart, though, is its use of your phone’s microphone to detect, track and measure snoring!


St. Michael’s Sleep Laboratory performs almost 2,000 sleep studies per year and is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including video and sound monitoring equipment. The Lab is actively involved in sleep research with particular emphasis on the links between sleep disorders and cardiovascular disease. The Sleep Lab also provides consultative services for sleep-related breathing disorders like sleep apnea and non-respiratory disorders like insomnia, narcolepsy and restless legs syndrome.