There are a lot of advantages to enjoying a good night sleep. You feel better, more productive and research even says you are much more likely to have a happier life if you sleep well.
You should know that this is not just about the duration of your sleep, it also has to do with the quality. With that in mind, here are 13 common things that are ruining your sleep.
1. Using smartphones or other screens before bed
Several studies have suggested that using electronic devices like e-readers and smartphones, or even watching television in or before bed can disrupt sleep.
2. Drinking coffee
You might already know that coffee before bed is a bad idea, but most people still indulge several hours before bedtime thinking it would leave their system after a couple of hours.
Truth is, caffeine can stay in the body for up to 12 hours. Even caffeine at lunch can be too close to bedtime for some people.
3. Drinking tea
While this might sound like an alternative to coffee because you simply enjoy a hot beverage before bed, it might come with its own issues.
Some teas actually contain some level of caffeine. If you do have to indulge, dunk your tea bag quickly into a cup of hot water, then dump the water out and make a second cup using that same tea bag.
Most of tea’s caffeine is released early on in the steeping process, so this may help you enjoy the flavour and warmth without so much of the stimulant.
4. Eat chocolate
Another sneaky source of caffeine is chocolate, especially dark chocolate with high cocoa contents. Keep off anything with chocolates in it, including ice cream, before bed especially if you are very sensitive to caffeine.
Chocolate also contains the stimulant theobromine, which has been shown to increase heart rate and sleeplessness.
5. Avoiding the wind-down process
When people say they can’t shut their mind off in bed, it’s often because they haven’t given themselves adequate time to relax in the hour or so beforehand.
When you’re going from one distracting activity to another and not giving yourself time to sit back and reflect on your thoughts, it’s no wonder that your mind is racing when you finally climb into bed.
Take at least 30 minutes before you head into your bedroom to put away anything that’s too stimulating, thought-provoking, or absorbing – anything from action-packed TV shows to work that you’ve brought home with you. Instead, focus on activities that relax you and bring closure to your evening, like making a to-do list and organizing your clothes for the next day.
6. Eating spicy/fatty foods
Having a large meal too close to bedtime can make falling asleep uncomfortable if you’re bloated or painfully full, Spicy or fatty foods may be particularly risky because they’re associated with acid reflux, which often rears its head when a person lies down at night.
Ideally, you should have dinner at least two hours before going to sleep, to give your body enough time to begin digesting it. If you’re used to eating something right before bed, stick with sleep-promoting foods like simple carbs or a glass of milk.
7. Drinking alcohol
Alcohol tricks you into thinking you will sleep better because it often makes you drowsy and makes it easier to fall asleep. But as your body begins to metabolize the alcohol, REM sleep, the period where our sleep is most restorative, is reduced.
Impaired REM sleep often leads to waking up tired and unable to concentrate. Also, alcohol is a diuretic and may make you have to go to the toilet to pee during the night. For most people, it’s okay to have a drink or two at night but try not to do so immediately before you sleep.
Many people smoke to relax, but nicotine is a stimulant and can make insomnia worse, especially if you light up close to your bedtime. Nicotine withdrawal can also cause smokers to wake up earlier than they normally would in the morning.
9. Too much water
Staying hydrated is important, but it may not be the best strategy to drink a huge glass of water before bed or sleep with one water by your bed. This will only cause you to keep waking up to urinate.
Instead, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day—and always be sure to use the toilet before you head to bed, even if you don’t feel like you have to.
10. Too intense exercise
Prolonged or very high-intensity exercise late at night may make it hard for some people to fall asleep. If you’re staying up late to squeeze in an extra hour or two of exercise and you think it may be keeping you up, see if you sleep better after an earlier workout.
11. Video games
Electronic media that requires a lot of interaction – like video games – can definitely wreak havoc on your slumber.
Anything that’s highly engaging will almost certainly keep you awake. Stimulation from these devices can activate and excite the brain, which presents a challenge when it comes to trying to fall asleep.
There’s a good reason couples are told to never go to bed angry. Stress is a major cause of insomnia. If a conversation is stressful, it will elevate cortisol and other stress hormones impeding your ability to fall asleep. In addition, angry people tend to ruminate, or play over thoughts again and again in their minds, which can also make falling asleep difficult.
Try to hash out any problems earlier in the night, and saving important decision-making or serious conversations for days when you have more time to reflect and relax afterward.
13. Switching things up
Doing the same thing every night before bed is one of the tenets of good sleep hygiene. Brushing your teeth, washing your face, and laying out your clothes for the morning, for example, can all send a signal to your brain that it’s time for bed – especially if you do them in the same order, at the same time every night.
But switching up that routine, by doing things out of order or earlier in the night than usual, can disrupt that mental process.
Without a consistent bedtime routine, your brain doesn’t go into sleep mode until you crawl into bed and turn out the light.
You’ll fall asleep much faster if you can start that process a little bit earlier, as you’re getting ready.