I love sleeping more than most other things. Actually, I like the general routine of bed time. Getting into my jammies, watching TV, settling into bed...it's all so comforting. But some nights I find it harder to sleep than others, and I couldn't quite figure out why. Since I retired, I became a "go to bed when I want" kind of person. Early, late, it doesn't matter to me.
But as it turns out, there are a few things I'm doing before bed that are ruining my sleep, and they're pretty easy to fix! If you do any of these things, you might need to rethink your bed time routine.
1. Use Your Electronics
I'm guilty of this one for sure! Using your phone, tablets, and even watching TV can hurt your sleep routine because of the blue light these devices emit.
“Blue light upon striking your retina will shut down your normal production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, not only impairing your ability to fall asleep but also leaving you sleepy in the morning,” says Dr. Rosenberg, a board-certified sleep medicine physician.
Having a fun night out with friends is always exciting, but if you do it too close to bed time you could be jeopardizing your sleep routine. Even if you're just talking to someone on the phone or texting them, your brain is going to be in overdrive thinking about the interaction you had, and considering possible replies. Especially if you've been texting someone, replies could wake you up as you try to sleep.
Late-night exercise can be exhilarating, but just make sure you're giving yourself enough time after the workout to wind down and get back into a normal rhythm.
“The best time to exercise is three to four hours prior to going to sleep,” says Dr. Oexman. “The increase in core body temperature followed by a decrease in core body temperature mimics the natural drop in body temperature needed to fall asleep and maintain sleep.”
4. Turn The Heat Up
I know that this one isn't what's affecting me! I love sleeping in nice and cool temperatures, but I know some people love cranking up the heat to sleep at night. This could actually be making your sleep worse. Getting a ceiling fan to keep air flowing and the temperature cool is a good idea.
“The ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Rachel Wong, a certified sleep coach. “Anything cooler or warmer will likely cause discomfort and restlessness. You can also try temperature regulating sheets and pillows."
5. Take A Warm Bath
Yes, a warm bath right before bed sounds divine, but when you take one, you're increasing your internal body temperature. The same principles apply for exercising before bed and sleeping in warm temperatures as they do for taking a warm bath.
6. Drink Caffeine
This seems like a no-brainer, but drinking caffeine even a few hours before bed can be a nuisance. I know that personally if I drink coffee past 2pm, I'll be up all night. If you're someone who drinks tea or hot cocoa before bed, you could still be falling into this trap.
"The caffeine from these drinks increases adrenaline and energy levels, producing an effect that will keep you up rather than helping you doze off," says registered dietician and nutritionist, Lauren Minchen.
7. Late-Afternoon Naps
Again, a no-brainer. Napping too close to bed time can ruin your whole night, even though it feels great in the moment.
“There is data to suggest that the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep is directly related to the last time you were asleep,” says Dr. Breus. “Napping too close to bedtime will lower your sleep drive, which is what helps you fall asleep.”
8. Put Off Sleep
I've been guilty of staying up late to get something done, even if I know I'm exhausted.
“Procrastinating sleep throws your circadian rhythm out of whack," says founder of SleepZoo, Chris Brantner.
What's worse is that if your body becomes too exhausted, it can actually make it harder fo you to fall asleep. Being tired and unable to sleep sounds like a nightmare.
9. Dealing With Conflict
Conflict and confrontation are stressful any time of the day, but getting into an argument or trying to resolve a problem right before bed will not end well for your sleep schedule.
“Confrontations lead to a stress response, with your adrenal glands producing cortisol and adrenaline,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “This is the exact opposite of what you want if you’re trying to fall asleep easily. In fact, once your body starts producing these stress hormones, you cannot wave a magic wand and get them to return to normal levels.”
10. Bright Lights
Taking some time to wind down before bed is a great idea, especially if this happens in a dark room. When you expose yourself to a lot of bright light, your quality of sleep can be affected.
“Light decreases melatonin, a natural sleep hormone that floods your brain when you sleep,” says Dr. Aloia. “Keeping your bedroom free from light is an important way to enable better sleep.”
Another good way to keep light out is by getting an eye mask.
11. Drink Water
Not drinking water before bed is going to seriously help your sleep routine. Think about it: when you drink water...you have to pee. You don't want to be disrupting your sleep schedule by getting up to pee two or three times a night. Once you've reached a couple of hours before bed time, it's time to stop your liquid intake.
12. Eat Fatty Foods
A good midnight snack can be the difference between a good day and a bad day, but unfortunately it can also be the difference between a good sleep and a bad sleep. Because your stomach is working overtime to process foods like fries, burgers, chips, or whatever else you're indulging on, you can feel discomfort when trying to go to sleep.
13. Watch The News
Surprise, surprise...the news is stressful. Though a lot of us have a habit of watching the news before falling asleep can cause you unneeded stress which will hamper your sleep.
“No matter the network, most of the information on the news is really a dramatization meant to scare you to death and make you dislike everybody who doesn’t think like you,” says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD. “Leave off the news, and do something else that is calming and relaxing.”
14. Drink Alcohol
A night cap is classic, but it's also a good way to ruin your sleep schedule. Even if you feel sleepy at first, as the alcohol leaves your system it can trigger your fight-or-flight system, which in turn makes it hard to stay asleep.
"It can also trigger disturbing dreams, as, at first, it suppresses dream sleep, but then you may develop increasingly vivid and disturbing dreams as the alcohol wears off," Dr. Rosenberg says.
15. No Clean Sheets
I'd be willing to bet that no one changes their sheets as often as they should. With dust mites and dry skin building up on the covers, sleeping on dirty sheets can be detrimental to your rest.
“Allergy-prone sleepers should be especially vigilant about sticking to a weekly laundry cycle to prevent the buildup of dust mites, allergens, and bacteria in your linens,” Wong says.
16. Dwell On Life
This is the one I'm most guilty about! Stressing about life and everything that worries you can cause you to lose sleep. Your mind runs a mile a minute, and it feels like all the world's problems are piling up while your head rests on the pillow.
"One of the number one anxiety complaints and negative habits people come to see me about is at night when they can't fall asleep because they can't turn their mind off," says Nicole Martinez, Psy.D . "Something like yoga, meditation, mantras, or something along these lines to relax and center you, as this promotes sleep."
17. Go To Bed Hungry
Alright, so I know we mentioned not eating too much before bed, but going to bed hungry can also cause some problems.
“In many cases, this can cause a drop in blood sugar which could actually be waking you up at night,” warns Dr. Breus. “When your blood sugar gets low, insulin is produced to help utilize fat stores, but this can be stimulating and keep you awake.”
Breus suggests taking a teaspoon of raw honey before bed so your blood sugar can stabilize.
Attention all you workaholics: it's ruining your sleep. According to health writer Amanda MacMillan, checking your work email before you go to bed can ruin your sleep.
"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," MacMillan said.
19. Changes To Your Bed Time
"Many people alter their bedtime and wake time multiple days of the week, which results in a common behaviour known as ‘social jet lag,’” explains Dr. Oexman. “The result is the body’s natural circadian rhythm has to continually adjust to a new routine.” To avoid this, try your best to set a consistent bedtime and wake time, even on the weekends.
20. No Routine
This feels like a personal attack on me...but I need to hear it! Adults should be setting set bedtime routines so that we can settles in to our rest period without feeling rushed or out of place.
“When it comes to falling asleep, adults are really just big children,” Dr. Teitelbaum says. “Establish a calm and enjoyable bedtime routine that gives your body the cues that it is time to ease into sleep.”
As you can see, there are a lot of things that can affect your sleep, and it's important to eliminate as many of them as possible.
Are you guilty of any of these sleep-ruining habits?