Avoid These Bad Sleep Habits For A Better Night’s Sleep
Over a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep per night and, as a result, are at risk for excessive hunger, chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease, a weakened immune system, bad mood, fatigue, and poor cognitive performance. Poor sleep is commonly triggered by sleep disorders, chronic pain, mental illnesses, and bad sleep hygiene.
While some causes of sleep deprivation require a doctor’s attention, you can remedy minor issues on your own, such as fixing an irregular sleep schedule or limiting your caffeine consumption. We’re sharing a few of the most common bad sleep habits and how to resolve them.
1. Using Electronics Before Bed
Many of us are attached to our electronics and enjoy using them at night to relax. But watching TV or browsing on your phone before bed isn’t doing your sleep any favors.
The blue light emitted from electronics blocks melatonin release and alters your circadian rhythm cycle, raising blood sugar levels and lowering leptin levels (the hormone affecting your appetite). We suggest putting your electronics away at least 30 minutes before bed to avoid sleep deprivation. Instead, try reading a book or taking deep breaths to wind down.
If you use your cell phone as your alarm, it’s tempting to scroll through it before going to bed since it’s sitting right there. Instead, consider using a traditional alarm clock and place your phone outside of your bedroom at night.
2. Vigorous Exercise At Nighttime
Working up a sweat seems before bed is quite counterproductive. Although the evenings might be the only time you can exercise, it’s too overstimulating to sleep afterward. Exercise releases endorphins and raises cortisol levels, leaving your body alert and wide awake.
Don’t completely cut exercise out of your life, as even 10 minutes of exercise a day can improve sleep quality. Schedule intense exercise at least 3 hours before bed so you have enough time to relax afterward, and if you can only exercise at night, stick to light stretching and walking.
3. Eating In Excess Before Bed
Eating late at night can cause indigestion and heartburn, leaving you uncomfortable and in pain. Acidic, spicy, sugary, and salty foods are likely to keep you awake, so avoid them before bed. Enjoy heavier meals earlier in the day so your body has time to digest and metabolize the food.
Still, going to bed hungry isn’t ideal. If you need a snack before bed, eat something high in protein and fiber, such as a piece of whole-grain toast with peanut butter.
4. Caffeine Consumption in the Evening
Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, black and green teas, soda, and energy drinks are notorious for inhibiting sleep. They’re stimulants meant to keep you awake, so don’t drink them late at night. Drinking coffee is helpful when you’re feeling groggy in the morning, but remember—caffeine doesn’t eliminate fatigue—it only temporarily relieves it.
Enjoy soda or coffee in the mornings or early in the day. During the evening, a glass of non-caffeinated tea or warm water is a good way to wind down.
5. Following Inconsistent Sleep Hours
Following a sporadic sleep schedule is tough on your body and may mess up your circadian rhythm. If you barely sleep during the workweek, only to sleep all weekend, your body clock falls out of line. Build a schedule to ensure you sleep around 7 to 9 hours per night. Try sleeping and waking up within the same 30 minutes every day, even on weekends.
Although it seems helpful at the moment, taking a long daytime nap only makes it harder to get to sleep at night. Keep naps brief (30 minutes or less), and schedule them at least 7 hours before bedtime. Stability in your sleep schedule improves your circadian rhythm and makes it easier to get quality rest.
6. Sleeping in Uncomfortable Bedroom Conditions
Sleeping in a noisy, bright, or hot bedroom is disruptive and makes falling asleep difficult. Ideally, your bedroom should be between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit and, if needed, add blackout curtains to your bedroom, and wear earplugs. This way, your bedroom can be a quiet and dark oasis.
One of the foundations of quality sleep is investing in a high-quality mattress and pillows. Use a mattress and pillows fit for your body type and sleeping position to properly support your body and prevent aches and pains. Without any pain and discomfort, sleeping undisturbed might get easier.
7. Laying In Bed Too Long
Many people know the frustration of getting into bed only to sit there, unable to fall asleep for hours. If you’re struggling to sleep for more than 20 or so minutes, it’s better to get out of bed rather than staying put.
Now is not the time to turn on electronics. Instead, relax by sitting upright, breathing deeply, splashing water on your face, or reading a book next to a warm-toned lamp. Once you’re tired again, get in bed and try sleeping.
It’s difficult to relax at night when all you can think about is tomorrow’s stressful tasks, though canceling meetings or avoiding tests isn’t the answer. Try transferring any stress-filled thoughts into a journal to put your worries at ease until the morning. You might also tame your thoughts with a relaxing bedtime routine: wash your face, lightly stretch, take deep breaths, or take a warm bath.
The Importance Of Good Sleep
Sleeping well is essential for basic brain and bodily functions. Your brain and body don’t “turn off” during sleep, but instead, repair themselves.
Your sleep quality is linked to the body’s ability to fight off disease and infections, and how quickly you recover from illnesses. Sleeping sufficiently is linked to a lower risk of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease or high blood pressure, because your body has more time to regulate its blood pressure and hormones.
Also, ample sleep promotes healthy metabolism and weight since sleep regulates your hormones and energy levels, resulting in a balanced appetite and more energy for physical activity.
Good quality sleep improves your overall cognition, productivity, and concentration, and people who sleep well generally have strong knowledge retention and memory. They also tend to have better moods and are more alert compared to sleep-deprived people. Overall, sleeping well is linked to a better quality of life for people of all ages.
Do I have poor sleeping habits or a sleep disorder?
If you practice good sleep hygiene and avoid bad bedtime habits for several weeks and still struggle to sleep, it’s time to reach out to your doctor and get a professional opinion.
Sleep disorders can disrupt your rest regardless of your habits, resulting in fatigue and possible frustration. Common disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, and Restless Legs Syndrome.
How much sleep do I need?
The amount of sleep you need depends on your age, lifestyle, and health, though age is the most common baseline for sleep recommendations:
- 0 to 3 months old: 14 to 17 hours of sleep per night
- 4 to 12 months old: 12 to 16 hours of sleep per night
- 1 to 2 years old: 11 to 14 hours of sleep per night
- 3 to 5 years old: 10 to 13 hours of sleep per night
- 6 to 12 years old: 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night
- 13 to 18 years old: 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night
- 18 to 64 years old: 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night
- 65 years old and older: 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night
Sleeping more than 9 hours per night is considered excessive for the average adult. If you sleep more than 9 hours and still feel tired, it may be a sign of another health condition, including malnutrition, depression, anxiety, or stress.
What is the best time to sleep and wake up?
The best time to go to sleep and wake up varies based on individual needs and schedule. However, most people’s bedtime is between 8 p.m. and 12 a.m. as this suits most work and school schedules.
At the very least, you should wake up a minimum of 7 hours after going to sleep. You can use a sleep calculator to find the ideal bedtime.
Is it bad to stay in bed all day?
Yes, being sedentary can be harmful to your health. Only use your bed for sleeping—that means no eating, working, or watching TV in bed.
A sedentary lifestyle is linked to bedsores, back and joint pain, weak and stiff muscles, and blood clotting. Incorporating activity into your day, even if it’s just ten minutes of light stretching or walking, reduces the side effects of being sedentary.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices one follows to get a good night’s rest and feel more energized during the daytime. A consistent sleep schedule, eliminating electronic use at nighttime, and following a bedtime routine all positively impact your sleep.
Addressing and working on any bad habits is the first step to better sleep. You don’t need to overhaul your entire lifestyle in one evening—in fact, this can do more harm than good.
Instead, start by making one or two small and simple changes to your routine. With a little patience, you might notice your sleep becoming more consistent and restorative after a few weeks. Regardless of age, gender, activity level, or weight, getting quality sleep positively influences your overall quality of life and health.