Did you ever notice that when you’re exhausted, small problems can seem ever bigger? That’s because, in addition to having a shorter fuse, lack of sleep can also affect your ability to solve problems. Poor sleep can also lead to a variety of other issues from increasing your risk of accidents to being overweight.
It’s clear getting enough sleep is a critical factor in maintaining good health. Shooting for seven to nine hours of sleep each night is optimal for most adults. But sometimes we might sabotage our sleep with certain habits.
We all have at least a few bad habits. But when it comes to sleep, bad habits may be preventing you from getting the rest you need. The good news is bad habits are just that; habits and they can be changed.
The first step is recognizing what routines and practices may be interfering with sleep. Below are some common bad habits that can affect your quality of sleep.
Exercising too close to bedtime: Exercise is great for overall health. In fact, regular exercise can even improve sleep. But it’s important to time your workout, so it does not interfere with falling asleep. If you work out too close to bedtime, it can act as a stimulate and keep you from falling asleep. If you’re hitting the gym in the evening, make sure it’s three or four hours before you plan to hit the hay.
Scanning your phone in bed: Many of us are tied to our phone. But before you check email once more before bed, consider how screen time affects sleep. Exposure to bright light from your cell phone, tablet or notebook can trick your body into thinking it’s daytime. When you are exposed to light, melatonin, which helps regulate sleep, may be suppressed and make falling asleep more difficult. Consider making your bedroom a tech-free zone or at least shut off your devices and limit screen time to an hour or two before bed.
Late-night eating: Have you gotten in the habit of eating dinner late at night or having a heavy snack before bed? If so, late night eating can affect sleep. For example, lying down shortly after eating a heavy meal or eating acidic, greasy or fried foods can cause heartburn. Also, if you’re eating or drinking foods that contain caffeine, it can also interfere with falling asleep. If you’re hungry at bedtime, go ahead and have a snack, but keep it light. A small snack containing protein and carbs may be your best bet to curb your hunger and promote calmness.
Working right up until bedtime: It’s easy to take the laptop to bed and get in a little work before you close your eyes. The problem is, working right up until bedtime doesn’t allow you the time you need to unwind. If you’re thinking about work, bills or other business, it’s hard for your mind to settle down. Instead of working before bed, do something relaxing like meditation, listening to music or taking a warm bath.
Staying up late or sleeping in on the weekends: If you have a typical Monday through Friday workweek, your sleep schedule may be different on the weekends. It’s common to stay up late or sleep in when you can. Although that extra sleep on Saturday morning might feel good, it may disrupt your body’s natural rhythm. Consistency is key to developing sleep patterns that improve the quality of your sleep. So, consider sticking to the same sleep schedule even on the weekends.
Having a couple of drinks before bed: For some people, having a nightcap is part of their bedtime routine. Alcohol is a sedative, but does it make sleep better? The answer is no. That glass or two of wine may help you fall asleep, but as it’s metabolized, it can disrupt your slumber later. Consider skipping the nightcap or have it a little earlier in the evening.
Cleveland Clinic. Why you Should Limit Alcohol Before Bed for Better Sleep. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/12/why-you-should-limit-alcohol-before-bed-for-better-sleep/ Retrieved November 2016.
Harvard Medical School. 8 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep. http://www.health.harvard.edu/sleep/8-secrets-to-a-good-nights-sleep Retrieved November 2016.
Author: MaryAnn DePietro, CRT is a medical writer and licensed respiratory therapist with over a decade of clinical experience.