5 Habits That Could Be Wrecking Your Sleep
Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. In fact, poor sleep quality and sleep disorders are among the most common, yet most frequently overlooked and readily treatable health problems today . Recent research shows that poor quality of sleep and chronic sleep deprivation can lead to problems such as daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and weight loss or weight gain . Scientific research studies have demonstrated that in addition to negatively affecting our health, sleep deprivation also causes cognitive performance and memory impairments . The good news is: it is possible to reboot bad sleeping habits and get the good night’s sleep you need. Here are some sleep-disrupting habits to avoid if you would like maximize your sleep quality:
- Eating too close to bedtime
It is hard to resist the temptation of finishing that leftover pizza right before going to bed. However, eating too close to your bedtime will disrupt the quality of your sleep because it increases the risk of acid reflux and overloads your stomach during a period when it should be resting . In addition, the feeling of being bloated after a big meal can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Experts suggest avoiding calorie-rich foods, such as ice cream or potato chips before going to bed, since they put a heavy workload on our digestive systems and can lead to weight gain. If you feel really hungry and need to eat something before going to sleep, try having a light but filling snack, such as a small fruit salad or a cup of fiber-rich cereal.
2. Using technology at bedtime
Many of us have taken on the habit of casually browsing the newsfeeds of our social media accounts in bed before going to sleep. According to sleep researchers, this is a terrible habit and interferes with our ability to fall asleep . First of all, using technology devices before bedtime stimulates mental activity and promotes the state of wakefulness. In addition, artificial light sources, such as the screens of our phones, interfere with sleep by interrupting our body’s natural circadian rhythms by producing “blue” light. The circadian rhythm is the body’s 24 hour sleep/wake cycle, and interfering with it can result in health problems such as depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and insomnia. Blue light suppresses melatonin, which is a hormone that is needed to promote sleep and regulate circadian rhythms . To break the bad habit of using your smartphone before going to sleep, don’t keep it near where you sleep. In addition, you can avoid other artificial light sources by turning off your television long before you get ready for sleep, and by facing the screen of your alarm clock away from you.
3. Drinking alcohol close to bedtime
Think twice before pouring yourself that nightcap. While it’s true that having a drink before going to sleep will make you fall asleep faster, alcohol actually has detrimental effects on the quality of your sleep. According to a recent study by sleep scientists at the University of Melbourne, having just one drink before going to bed alters our sleeping brainwave patterns, disrupting our sleep and interfering with the restorative efforts of our brain cells . Consequently, the disruption of our brainwave patterns during sleep can lead to daytime drowsiness, headaches and irritability. Sleep scientists suggest avoiding all alcohol before going to sleep, and opting for herbal teas, such as chamomile instead. Herbal teas provide a calming and sedative effect before going to sleep without interfering with our sleep’s quality.
4. Consuming caffeine-containing drinks or snacks close to bedtime
When considering your choice of late afternoon or evening beverages and snacks, keep in mind that caffeine-containing foods and drinks will interfere with your ability to fall asleep for many hours after consuming them. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has demonstrated that caffeine consumed even as far in advance as six hours before bedtime disrupts the quality of sleep . It is also important to remember that caffeine is not only found in coffee, but is also contained in soft drinks such as soda, ice tea, and in certain foods, such as chocolate. Although caffeine does not affect everyone in the same way, with some people being more sensitive to it than others, researchers agree that it is a good idea to avoid all caffeine around dinnertime.
5. Hitting the snooze button
Paradoxically, hitting the snooze button and trying to get those extra precious minutes of sleep will make you more tired during the day and will do you more harm than good. According to sleep researchers, we often make the mistake of thinking that those extra five minutes of sleep will give us an energy boost during the day. It turns out that the “snooze time” between the beeps of your alarm is not enough for your body to fall back into deep sleep, and will also confuse your brain about the meaning of the alarm sound, making it harder to get out of bed . As a result, the fragmented sleep will result in daytime drowsiness and fatigue. Sleep experts’ advice? Set your alarm exactly for the time you will need to get up.