Getting a good night’s rest is imperative if you want to stay on top of your health. But we all know how elusive sleep can be. Tossing and turning in bed for hours on end staring at the ceiling waiting for sleep to overcome us is something we’re all only too well aware of.
Perhaps it’s not just noisy neighbors or traffic sounds coming through your window that are to blame. Maybe your sleep routine is full of habits that not only induce insomnia-like symptoms but are also bad for your overall health in the long run. Here are 6 such bedtime habits that you need to drop starting today.
1. Using Electronic Devices
Computers, laptops, tablets, kindles, smartphones, and televisions have become a large part of our activities throughout the day. While there’s no denying that these electronic devices have made life much easier, the blue light emitted by them could wreck the quality of your sleep. This kind of light stops your pineal gland from releasing melatonin, the essential sleep hormone that is released a few hours before bedtime to make you sleepy when you hit the sack.1 2 This is why spending hours watching Netflix right before bedtime is such a bad idea and no amount of counting sheep is going to help you sleep when you finally get to the pillow.
Our advice? Set a rule for yourself, where you ditch all your electronic devices and gadgets at least an hour before you head to bed.
2. Checking Work-Related Emails
Leaving aside that fact that any blue-light-emitting device can interfere with your body’s natural sleep rhythms, there are a few other problems that are linked to checking your work email too close to bedtime.
When you’re going to sleep, you want to relax your brain and train it to stop thinking about all sorts of things – something which is a tough thing to do by itself. If you check into work right before bedtime, there are chances it will fill your mind up with thoughts about things that you need to do the next day, and according to research, it may even trigger feelings of anxiety or nervousness.3 This will leave you feeling exhausted and unfocused at work the next day and this will only make you feel more agitated and restless, causing you to fret and lose out on another night of sleep. It’s a vicious cycle.
Once again, if you want to avoid yourself from being sucked into this vicious cycle, tune out of your work emails at least an hour before bedtime, and leave your smartphone in a far corner.
3. Drinking Coffee Or Tea
There’s a reason we all make coffee an important part of our morning routine. The caffeine contained in coffee is a natural stimulant – and it gives you a generous energy boost that helps fight off that grogginess and help you be your most productive self.
Therefore, it’s no rocket science why drinking coffee before bedtime can make it difficult for you to fall asleep. In fact, studies have shown that consuming caffeine even 6 hours before turning in can dramatically disturb your sleep patterns.4 This includes not just coffee, but also tea and chocolate.
Therefore, be sure to switch to decaf in the afternoons and the evenings. When it comes to tea, try and stick to the peppermint or chamomile varieties, as the ones that contain black, white, and even green tea leaves will still contain a fair amount of caffeine. As for chocolate, it would be pretty harsh to expect people to go without dessert. So indulge that sweet tooth, by all means, but make sure to do it a few hours before your bedtime. Another tip: stay away from dark chocolate at night. Even though it’s healthy, dark chocolate is bittersweet in taste, and this makes it more likely to have a higher dose of caffeine as compared to regular varieties of chocolate.5
4. Loading Up On Booze
Reaching out for another refill of your wine glass before bedtime can be tempting, and may even make sense, since alcohol is, after all, a sedative. While it is true that alcohol can make you feel sleepy, it is definitely going to give you trouble staying asleep. Not only may it make you wake up at odd hours of the night to take more trips to the bathroom, it can also block REM (rapid eye movement) sleep – which is considered to be the restorative type of sleep. This phase facilitates the proliferation of brain cells which contribute to long-term memory. REM sleep is also where most of your learning takes place. Research claims that when the brain is unable to enter into REM sleep mode, it affects your ability to recall what you taught yourself before going to sleep.6
Alcohol has been shown to negatively impact your REM sleep even when had as much as 6 hours before bedtime.7
So there are two takeaways from this piece of information – one, avoid drinking alcohol right before bedtime in general, and two, if insomnia is getting the better of you, stay away from those happy hour cocktails as well, please!
5. Drinking Water
Yes, sticking to the right amount of water intake is a health necessity, but it may not be the best thing to do right before going to bed. The last thing you want is to be prodded awake by your full bladder in the middle of the night and when you’re groggy, that walk from your bed to the bathroom can feel like forever.
So stay hydrated throughout the day and lay off the water before bedtime. Also, make sure you get a few minutes of toilet-time before you get to bed, even if you don’t feel like peeing.
6. Turning Up The Heat
As you fall asleep, your body’s temperature drops naturally by a few degrees and then returns to a warmer temperature as you approach the waking hours. If your bedroom is too warm, it will interfere with your body’s ability to lower your temperature which will, in turn, disturb your sleep.
The next time you prepare yourself for bedtime, lower the temperature in your room by a few degrees than usual. Experts suggest that a temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for optimal sleep.8
|↑1||Figueiro, Mariana G., Brittany Wood, Barbara Plitnick, and Mark S. Rea. “The impact of light from computer monitors on the melatonin levels in college students.” Biog Amines 25 (2011): 106-116.|
|↑2||Gooley, Joshua J., Kyle Chamberlain, Kurt A. Smith, Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Shantha MW Rajaratnam, Eliza Van Reen, Jamie M. Zeitzer, Charles A. Czeisler, and Steven W. Lockley. “Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 96, no. 3 (2010): E463-E472.|
|↑3||(Dis)Connected. American Psychology Association.|
|↑4||Drake, Christopher, Timothy Roehrs, John Shambroom, and Thomas Roth. “Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine 9, no. 11 (2013): 1195.|
|↑5||Ramli, Nazaruddin, A. R. Suriah, Osman Hassan, Ayuh Mohd Yatim, Mamot Said, Luan Siang Lim, and Wai Fong Ng. “Caffeine and theobromine levels in chocolate couverture and coating products.” Malaysian journal of nutrition 6, no. 1 (2000): 55-63.|
|↑6||Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.|
|↑7||Alcohol and Sleep. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.|
|↑8||The Ideal Temperature For Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.|