There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep, but sometimes those restful nights can be frustratingly elusive. However, when sleep has been shown to help with weight control, protect you from heart disease and diabetes, help you regulate your emotions, repair and restore tissues in the body, and even help you solidify and consolidate memories, there’s very good reason to try to get the best sleep you can.1
But did you know there are actually things you may be doing that could be making it difficult to settle down and snooze through the night?
Stop sabotaging your sleep by avoiding these sleep-busting habits identified by Reader’s Digest:
- Being productive at night. Sometimes the wee hours are the only time we have to catch up on a bit of work or to pay bills, but try not do these tasks right before bed. Instead, choose a soothing ritual that relaxes your mind and body. Try listening to music, meditating, or having a warm bath or shower.
- Oversleeping on the weekends. It’s common not to get enough sleep during the week, but don’t try to make up for the deficit by sleeping for huge chunks on time on the weekend. Sleeping in a little can help make up for lost sleep, but don’t overdo it or you’ll ruin your sleep cycle and have difficulty getting to sleep on Sunday night. Just give yourself a couple of extra hours of makeup sleep.
- Staring at screens. Our bodies take their signals from the world around them. As darkness falls, our bodies know to start producing sleep-inducing melatonin. The problem is, your brain can’t tell the difference between sunlight and artificial light, so if you keep lots of lights on, watch TV or stare at a device right up until bedtime, your body will stay alert as though it was daytime. Try shutting down your devices two hours before bed and watching TV with no other lights on to help your body recognize that it’s time for sleep.
- Reading in bed. For some people this is the perfect way to wind down and fall asleep, but for others, it may be too stimulating an activity because your brain associates reading with wakefulness. If reading doesn’t do the trick for you, try listening to soft music or meditating instead.
- Brushing your teeth before bed. Obviously you should brush your teeth before you turn in for the night, but instead of flicking on those bright bathroom lights and getting revved up by that peppy peppermint right before you go to sleep, brush your teeth a couple of hours before bed instead.
- Cranking up the heat. Sure, you want to be warm and snuggly in bed, but just like light, our bodies take cues from the temperature around us to help it know when to sleep. Warmer temperatures can confuse your body into thinking it’s earlier than it is, so try to keep your room at about 65F (18C). If you’re worried that it might be too cold for you, add extra blankets that you can pull on and off in the night as need be.
- Drinking coffee in the afternoon. You might be one of the lucky ones who metabolizes coffee quickly, but if you’re not, that late afternoon cup of coffee or tea could actually impact your ability to sleep at night. Some studies suggest that people feel the effects of caffeine for as long as four hours, and for some even longer than that. Switch to decaf in the afternoon.
- Eating too much right before bed. A little snack, like a handful of nuts or a small bowl of cereal is fine and a good way to keep your rumbly tummy content before bed, but anything more and your body will spend too much energy trying to digest the food, which will keep you awake.
When you’re a child, you hate having to go to bed. But as an adult, all we crave is a good, long, restful sleep. Try avoiding some of these habits and see if you can finally get a good night’s sleep.
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