When it’s time for bed, you do everything right, turning off your electronics, setting the thermostat to a perfect 67 degrees, and maybe even enjoying a nice cup of sleepytime tea or warm milk. But still, you find yourself tossing and turning, unable to nod off. What’s the deal?
Post by Sleep Advisor
As it turns out, it’s not just what you do when it’s time to go to sleep and your sleep environment that’s keeping you awake. Everything you do, from the moment you wake up until you head to bed, can potentially affect how well you sleep. And there are some habits that are more detrimental than others. If you’re struggling to get to bed, watch for these signs of poor sleep hygiene and start working on breaking the bad habits that are keeping you awake at night.
Bad Habit #1: Avoiding the Sun
So maybe you aren’t actively avoiding the sun, but if you aren’t getting enough exposure to natural light each day, it could be affecting your sleep-wake cycle. Not only does getting some sunlight each day help boost your vitamin D levels and improve your mood, but seeing the sun in the morning will automatically reset your circadian rhythm for the next 24 hours. When you wake up in the morning, open the curtains to let in the light, or try having your breakfast outside to soak up some rays.
Bad Habit #2: Smoking
If you need yet another reason to quit smoking, here it is: Smoking disrupts your sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, which can prevent you from falling asleep or staying asleep. Not only that, but smokers are more likely to have restless nights and are at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea. Research indicates that smokers lose 1.2 minutes of sleep for every cigarette they smoke, so if you puff a pack a day, you’re losing 24 precious minutes of rest every night.
Bad Habit #3: You’re Spending Too Much Time in Bed
We aren’t talking about the time you spend sleeping. Rather, we’re talking about the time you spend doing everything but sleeping in bed: Working, watching TV, eating dinner, etc. Ideally, your bed should be reserved for sleeping and sex, and nothing else. This way, your brain associates the bed with sleep, making it more likely you’ll fall asleep as soon as you slip under the covers. If you spend hours working on your laptop before bed, you will carry that stress and tension with you, and be less likely to fall asleep. Your bed might be the most comfortable place in your home, but if you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s time to find a different place to hang out.
Bad Habit #4: Not Exercising
No, you don’t need to be a gym rat to get a good night’s sleep. But limiting the amount of time you spend sitting every day and making a point to get at least some physical activity can help you sleep better. Almost every major health organization recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, which isn’t all that hard to do. Just a short walk during lunch hour or after dinner or some gentle yoga before bed can provide significant health benefits, not the least of which is better sleep, so if you tend to be a bit of a couch potato, commit to being a bit more active.
Bad Habit #5: Too Much Caffeine
Caffeine consumption is a bit of a vicious cycle: You drink coffee or soda to perk up after a poor night’s sleep, but the excess caffeine keeps you awake at night, and so on. The solution is simple: Cut back on the caffeine. Generally speaking, you should avoid caffeine after 3 p.m. if you want to be able to sleep, and avoid sugary sodas and energy drinks as much as impossible. Excess sugar contributes to both poor sleep and weight gain, which are linked to chronic diseases, including diabetes -- which should be reason enough to cut back. Chances are, once you reduce your caffeine consumption during the day, you’ll sleep better and actually need less.
As it turns out, many of the habits that disrupt your sleep aren’t good for your overall health, and making some changes will support an overall healthier lifestyle. Exercising, not smoking, reducing caffeine, spending time outside and getting plenty of sleep are all important to maintaining good health, so if you’re struggling to feel your best, try kicking some of these habits and see what happens.