7 Things You Didn’t Know Were Sabotaging Your Sleep
Sleep is so incredibly important for our mind and body, and is a necessity for optimal functioning and for us to feel our best. After a good sleep you feel energized, happy, less stressed, and that’s because all of your hormones were able to reset and recharge while you were sleeping. Unfortunately, the opposite is true when you get a bad sleep – you are irritable, tired, hungry, the day just seems longer and everything appears harder. This is why we want to minimize bad sleep as much as possible!
Most of the things that can prevent you from getting a good sleep occur just a few hours before you want to sleep, which is a good thing because this means they can be completely avoidable – you just need to know what they are.
Below lists what NOT to do right before bed:
1. Keeping lights bright
There is a biological and hormonal reason that we sleep in darkness and that the sunlight makes us feel energized – bright lights block the production of melatonin, which is a hormone that your body produces to help you sleep.
Dim the lights an hour before bed, also you may want to change the light bulbs in your bathroom and your bedroom (or in every room) to soft light which is less severe than bright lights.
2. Watching the news
Watching the news or watching or reading any other upsetting material before bed is setting yourself up for a bad sleep. Not only will this keep you up thinking about what you’ve just seen or read, it may also give you nightmares – no bueno!
Reserve the news for the morning, and leave the evening hours to watch silly shows or to read light fiction.
3. Eating a large meal
Laying down flat after a large meal is not a good idea and will be uncomfortable because your body is going to have an even harder time digesting it and this is going to make it harder to fall asleep. This is especially true if you eat a healthy dinner high in protein, fat, and fiber all of which take the longest to digest – which is a good thing, but not a good thing right before you want to go to sleep.
Note: Another reason to avoid a large meal right before bed is that this can trigger acid reflux, which is also very uncomfortable and definitely not what you want when you are trying to fall asleep.
Aim to finish your last meal 3 hours before you want to go to sleep, the longer time between your last bite and your head hits the pillow the better!
4. Intense exercise
I love high intensity exercise, but this is a definite no-no right before bed. High intensity exercise is great for boosting energy and focus which is what you want in the morning, not what you want right before you are trying to fall asleep.
Avoid intense exercise 3 hours before bed. Instead, do light activity such as a walk after dinner, stretching, or gentle yoga.
5. Reading a screen in bed
This includes the screen on your computer, cell phone, iPad, or any other device that has a screen. These types of screens emit a type of light that messes with your brainwaves and ultimately inhibits you from getting a good sleep.
Use “night mode” or download an app that will change the lighting or your screen. Best yet, put the electronics away at bedtime and read a real book or magazine 🙂
6. Afternoon coffee
I’ll be the first to say that I love a good cup of mid-day coffee, but drinking coffee too close to bed time can definitely make it harder to fall asleep and can also mess with the quality of your sleep. Coffee takes a few hours to get out of your system, it varies person-to-person, but allow for at least 6 hours between finishing a cup of coffee and trying to go to sleep.
Stick to your morning coffee and a good rule of thumb is to avoid drinking coffee (or any caffeinated beverage) after 3 pm.
7. Over-the-counter medication for migraines
Most over-the-counter (OTC) medications that are marketed for migraines and headaches have caffeine added to them. Caffeine may help your head, but is not going to help you sleep – and lack of sleep can make headaches worse.
Aim to take OTC migraine medication in the morning and check the labels of any OTC medications you take before bed to see if they secretly contain caffeine.
The above are the top factors that can interfere with your sleep. Check-in with your own routine and see if you are doing one or more of the above.
About the author: Sarah-Kate Rems is an Ivy League trained board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with an expertise in preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet. Sarah-Kate is also a co-founder of The Mindful Tech Lab