Did You Know | Health

9 Things You Should Avoid To Get A Good Night's Sleep

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After a long day of work, one of my favorite things to do is come home to my warm and cozy bed.

But sometimes when I curl up with my quilt, I don't get as much sleep as I'd like. After consulting a doctor, I realized even though I don't consume caffeine, the activities I did before bed could actually hinder my ability to get a full night's rest.

Luckily, these 9 actions can be easily stopped without significantly altering your lifestyle.

1. Exercise

If you're like me and get some exercise in during the day, try to avoid doing so right before you go to bed. But after you're done working out, you'd have an increase in energy and a faster heart beat, which would make falling asleep a truly difficult task.

"The best time to exercise is three to four hours prior to going to sleep," said Dr. Robert Oexman, a chiropractor, and director of The Sleep to Live Institute.

"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," he added.

Instead Oexman recommends taking either a hot shower or bath which will increase blood flow in your skin and thus decreasing your body temperature.

2. Go to bed at varying times during the week

It turns out having a bedtime shouldn't be just for kids anymore. When you alter your sleep schedule (going to bed early one night and then staying up late the next), your body won't be able to maintain a routine and have their internal clock tell them it's time to have some shut eye.

"Many people alter their bedtime and wake time multiple days of the week, which results in a common behavior known as 'social jet lag,'" Oexman shared. "The result is the body's natural circadian rhythm has to continually adjust to a new routine."

3. Have an alcoholic beverage

While plenty of people like to enjoy a nice glass of wine with their dinner, it's best to avoid drinking anything alcoholic at night, as it shortens the length of your sleep.  

"Alcohol tricks you into thinking you will sleep better, because it often makes you drowsy and makes it easier to fall asleep," said Dr. Robert S. Rosenberg, a board-certified sleep medicine physician. "But as your body begins to metabolize the alcohol, REM sleep, the period where our sleep is most restorative, is reduced."

Since it takes about an hour for your body to digest alcohol, it's better to finish your drink about three hours before you plan on hitting the sack.

4. Don't try to resolve a fight

Even though you've heard all your life to "never go to bed angry," it's advisable to hold off on a reconciliation until the next day. By doing so you're either staying up all night to resolve the issue or just glossing the problem over with a temporary solution, which will still keep you brooding all night long.

"Confrontations lead to a stress response, with your adrenal glands producing cortisol and adrenaline," Rosenberg said. "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."

5. Take certain medications

While there are some pills that make you drowsy (and are actually designed to make you fall asleep), taking stimulating medication can keep you up all night.

"The effects may be subtle, but some medicines can make you alert for several hours after taking them," explained Dr. Michael Grandner, a psychiatry instructor and member of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

This includes a variety of antidepressants, such as Prozac, Cymbalta and Zoloft, along with over-the-counter allergy medications.

6. Use electronic devices

We've been told this before, but it is crucial to turn off all of your electronics at least an hour before you grab some shut eye. Even when you do use it at night, try to keep them at least 14 inches away from your face with the brightness turned down.

"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," Rosenberg explained.

7. Drink a lot of water

Although it's important to drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day, doing so before bed will cause disturbances in your sleep cycle by constantly waking up at night to use the bathroom.

"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," Grandner said, adding it's better to sip on water throughout the day and to use the bathroom before you go to bed, even if it feels like you have an empty bladder.

8. Eat spicy or fatty foods

While everyone gets a hankering for a late night snack once and a while, it's important to avoid having one right before you go to bed - especially if it's in the fatty or spicy category. Not only will it take a while for your body to process, it can cause indigestion and discomfort, making it difficult to sleep.

9. Let your pet share your bed

As much as you might love snuggling with your furry friend in bed, having them sleep with you throughout the night can be detrimental.

"Everyone with a pet knows that inviting that pet into your bed is inviting a whole lot more awakenings during the night," Grandner said. "If you're cool with that, go right ahead—but it's definitely something to consider if it starts to affect your sleep

[H/T: Health, MSN, Reader's Digest]

How many of these do you do?

Maya has been working at Shared for 11 Months. She just begrudgingly spent $200 on a gym membership. Contact her at maya@shared.com