Getting a good night’s sleep is important for your mood, your energy levels, and your overall health. It’s also dependent on what you do during the day—how much physical activity you get, what you eat and drink, and how mentally stimulated you are—especially in the hours before you crawl into bed.
“When people suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues, it’s often because of something they’re doing, probably unintentionally, when they should be preparing for rest,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, a psychiatry instructor and member of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Here are bedtime behaviours you might want to avoid at night, especially if you’re suffering from a lack of shuteye. Majority of what is advised here are from Grandner.
Using an e-reader or smartphone
Several studies have suggested that using electronic devices like e-readers and smartphones, or even watching television in or before bed can disrupt sleep. Robert Rosenberg, author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, recommends avoiding any light-emitting technology for at least one hour before bedtime.
“The blue light given off by computers, smartphones, tablets, and TV prevents the production of melatonin which helps the body become sleepy,” he says. If you don’t want to give up reading your Kindle Fire or using your iPad in bed, follow this advice from a 2013 Mayo Clinic study: Keep the device at least 14 inches from your face and turn down your screen’s brightness to reduce your risk of light-related sleep problems.
Taking certain medications
If you take medicines or supplements on a daily basis and you’re also experiencing sleep problems, ask your doctor whether the time of day you take your dosage may be keeping you awake. The effects may be subtle, but some medicines can make you alert for several hours after taking them. For example, antidepressants can have strong effects on sleep in either direction, and some pain medications may upset your stomach and make sleep more difficult. (On the other hand, some other medicines—such as some types of blood pressure pills—have been shown to work best when taken at night; talk to your do about when to take yours.)
A sleeping pill isn’t always the answer, either: They’re generally only recommended for short-term use—over-the-counter meds, especially—so if you find yourself taking them regularly, talk to your doctor about other options. A prescription drug will be safer and more effective to use for more than a few weeks at a time, but a longer-term solution that doesn’t rely on medication is your best bet.
A sneaky source of caffeine is chocolate, especially dark chocolate with high cocoa contents. People might not think about ice cream that contains chocolate or coffee as something that might potentially keep them awake, but if they’re sensitive to caffeine that could definitely do the trick.
Milk chocolate bars usually have less than 10 milligrams of caffeine per serving. Chocolate also contains the stimulant theobromine, which has been shown to increase heart rate and sleeplessness.
Skiping your wind-down time
When people say they can’t shut their mind off in bed, it’s often because they haven’t given themselves adequate time to relax in the hour or so beforehand. When you’re going from one distracting activity to another and not giving yourself time to sit back and reflect on your thoughts, it’s no wonder that your mind is racing when you finally climb into bed. He recommends taking at least 30 minutes before you head into your bedroom to put away anything that’s too stimulating, thought-provoking, or absorbing—anything from action-packed TV shows to work that you’ve brought home with you. Instead, focus on activities that relax you and bring closure to your evening, like making a to-do list and packing a bag for the next day.
Checking your work email
Aside from the fact that a blue-light emitting device can mess with your body’s natural sleep rhythms, there are other potential problems with checking your email too close to bedtime. Unless you’re waiting for a specific email that’s going to put you at ease and help you sleep better, I would advise against it. Checking in with the office too late at night is more likely to make you nervous or agitated, or fill your mind with things you’ll need to do in the morning. In a 2014 Michigan State study, people who used their smartphones for work purposes after 9 p.m. reported being more tired and unfocused the next day.
Eating spicy or fatty foods
Having a large meal too close to bedtime can make falling asleep uncomfortable if you’re bloated or painfully full, Spicy or fatty foods may be particularly risky because they’re associated with acid reflux, which often rears its head when a person lies down at night. Ideally, you should have dinner at least two hours before going to sleep, to give your body enough time to begin digesting it. If you’re used to eating something right before bed, stick with sleep-promoting foods like simple carbs or a glass of milk. (And ask yourself if you really need it: If you’re not careful, late-night snacking can lead to weight gain.)
“Alcohol tricks you into thinking you will sleep better, because it often makes you drowsy and makes it easier to fall asleep,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “But as your body begins to metabolize the alcohol, REM sleep, the period where our sleep is most restorative, is reduced.” Impaired REM sleep often leads to waking up tired and unable to concentrate, he adds. Plus, a 2014 University of Missouri study points out that alcohol is a diuretic and may make you have to go to the bathroom through the night. Dr. Rosenberg’s advice: For most people, it’s okay to have a drink or two with dinner—but skip the nightcap or the glass of wine on the couch right before bed.
We could go on and on about all the ways smoking is terrible for you, including disturbing your sleep. Many people smoke to relax, but nicotine is a stimulant and can make insomnia worse, especially if you light up close to your bedtime. Nicotine withdrawal can also cause smokers to wake up earlier than they normally would in the morning.
If you’re a smoker and you’re having trouble sleeping, that may be another reason you should talk to your doctor about quitting. It’s not just traditional cigarettes you should avoid at night; e-cigarettes, smoking cessation patches, pipes, cigars, and chewing tobacco can all keep you up.
Chugging lots of water
Staying hydrated is important, but it may not be the best strategy to drink a huge glass of water before bed or sleep with one water by your bed, unless your goal is to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Instead, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day—and always be sure to use the bathroom before you head to bed, even if you don’t feel like you have to.
Picking a fight
There’s a good reason couples are told to never go to bed angry. “Stress is a major cause of insomnia,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “If a conversation is stressful, it will elevate cortisol and other stress hormones impending your ability to fall asleep.” Plus, he adds, angry people tend to ruminate, or play over thoughts again and again in their minds, which can also make falling asleep difficult.
Going to bed with unresolved issues may not be your best bet either, but Dr. Rosenberg suggests trying to hash out any problems earlier in the night, and saving important decision-making or serious conversations for days when you have more time to reflect and relax afterward. “A serious conversation before bed is not a good idea,” he adds.
Culled from Health.com