Better sleep? Tun off, tune out and clean up

If bedtime means a frustrating night of sleeplessly tossing and turning, Red Deer’s author Angela Hobbs has some advice.

If bedtime means a frustrating night of sleeplessly tossing and turning, Red Deer’s author Angela Hobbs has some advice.

The woman behind Sleep-Powered Wellness: Better Bedrooms for Turbocharged Zzzzs says as many as 40 per cent of us may not be getting a decent night’s sleep.

And many times, those trying to find a way to get some shut-eye are looking in the wrong places, she said.

One of the culprits many don’t even consider are the plethora of wireless devices found in the modern home.

From wireless routers and cordless phones to utility meters and baby monitors, our homes are filled with electronics that a number of studies have linked to sleep problems and other health issues.

“It becomes an awful lot of wireless and we need to be very aware of that because it does elevate the heart rate and change the organization of the sleep stages,” she said.

Hobbs got an unwelcome introduction to the effects the home environment can have on health when she moved into a newly renovated home in Ontario about 13 years ago.

Within six weeks, she had become so ill she couldn’t stand or complete a sentence. Within a year she was in a wheelchair.

“I was really getting no help from the medical community at all,” she said, adding she was diagnosed with everything from brain tumors to depression.

It was only after moving to a new home in Calgary, that her symptoms began to disappear.

She now believes that among the problems were airborne chemicals left over from poor renovations, the nearby presence of a broadcasting transmitter and other issues.

Within a couple of years she began working and her experiences led to her first book The Sick House Survival Guide: Simple Steps to Healthier Homes.

Her experiences led her to research what it is in the environment that seems to be making some people so ill, which led to the age-old problem of sleepless nights.

There are six main factors at work, she says.

Wireless signals are one, but noise, electricity, excessive light, chemicals and air pollutants also play roles.

Those factors can have a cumulative impact on sleep and health.

Hobbs believes many aren’t aware of some of the simple things they can do to improve their home environment.

Wireless signals promote stress. It is not as big an issue during the day, but when the body is trying to shut down for rest, stress is not good.

Hobbs recommends turning off wireless devices or putting phones in airplane mode. If turning off isn’t practical keep them at least six metres from your head at bedtime, she suggests.

Many people who have come to her with sleep issues have managed to improve their rest by making a few simple changes.

For a long time her sleep work was more of a personal interest, but she is now offering consulting services to those looking for sleep help.

She also runs a strategy consulting business with her husband Lawrence that helps organizations map out future direction.

“It’s kind of becoming a parallel career,” she said of her sleep work.

“It’s certainly been growing an awful lot,” she says.

“There’s a lot of people with sleep problems. And I’m more than happy to help them figure it out. And most of the time I can.

“Usually it’s just something that needs to be turned off, moved or adjusted.”

Sometimes it can be as little as moving your head to the other side of the bed, or changing sheets to a different fabric or stopping the use of a certain cleaning detergent.

Even overly scented sheets can be too much for some.

“We think that our bodies and brains see things the same way. And they actually see things very, very differently.”

The brain may register a nice fresh scent, but the body finds itself coping with the unwanted chemicals behind the “lemon fresh.”

“A lot of the time we look everywhere but our bedrooms for answers.

“And much of the time the answers to sleep problems are right there in the bedroom.

“What I try to do is help people look at their bedroom and really see their surroundings through their body’s eyes as opposed to their mind’s eye.”

For information go to www.sleeppoweredwellness.com.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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