I've had some rare few nights recently where I've either found it hard to go to sleep or I've woken up in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep. Generally, though, my sleep habits are relatively good in my opinion. I go to bed at the same time most nights and wake up around the same time...which is kind of early since I have to be at my day job around 7:00am on school days (I'm a teacher).
Some people aren't so lucky when it comes to sleep. They suffer from insomnia. Insomnia is defined as a prolonged and usually abnormal ability to get enough sleep. A recent survey found that nearly 22% of the people polled claimed that they slept poorly most nights. The number one self-reported reason for lack of sleep was stress and worry that keeps them awake. And yet, nearly half of the people who claimed that they were having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights have never taken steps to help themselves sleep better.
If you find that you're having a hard time falling or staying asleep, there are things you can do to help. There are also several mistakes you may be making. Correcting these mistakes can make a big difference in your quality of sleep. Read on for seven common sleep mistakes.
Caffeine and Sugar Too Close to Bedtime
I'm willing to bet that this is the most common mistake that people are making that interferes with good quality sleep. I see it more often than not, the lines at the Dutch Bros. drive-thru are packed at dinner time. What are you people doing? You're not ordering take-out dinner at the Dutch Bros window. The only things you can get there are coffee and energy drinks full of sugar. So quit it. I generally recommend to my clients with sleep issues that they stop drinking caffeine by noon. However, some people have a gene mutation that makes them a slower caffeine metabolizer. These people should only drink one caffeinated beverage early in the day or give up caffeine altogether. So if you're still feeling wired at bedtime even though it's been hours since your last caffeinated beverage, this may be something you want to look into.
Another issue is snacking on chocolate too close to bedtime. I tracked my nights of poor sleep to this common mistake. I love chocolate, but it contains caffeine. So it's best avoided close to bedtime. Instead of snacking on chocolate after dinner, it'd be better to not snack at all. But I get that some people need something. Your best bet for a pre-bedtime or midnight snack is something that contains tryptophan. This can help with melatonin production. Melatonin is best known as the sleep hormone. Reach for some yogurt (full fat options are best), a slice of organic deli style turkey, or a green-tipped banana. Having a banana that's too ripe may harm you since it can make blood sugar levels all wonky while you sleep. This could have negative effects on your adrenals, which can signal you to wake up in the middle of the night with cortisol spikes.
Not Going to Bed and Waking Up at the Same Time Every Day
This is a big mistake. Sometimes people try to makeup for lost sleep on the weekends by sleeping in later. They're also probably going to bed later due to social events. You can't actually makeup sleep debt. I mean every once in a while won't be so harmful, but don't make it a habit. Instead, try to stick to a common sleep schedule as much as possible.
Sleeping With Pets
I love animals but I refuse to sleep with them in my room. I get that some people consider their pets to be their children. But that still doesn't mean you're going to sleep well with them in the room. Instead, shut your door and say goodnight. They'll still be there in the morning.
Hitting the Snooze Button
I'm guilty of this at least once a week. There are just some days where I'd love to sleep a little bit more. But I've realized that when I do this and doze back to sleep, I actually feel more groggy throughout the day. The reason for this is that I'm sending a signal to my body to begin another sleep cycle that it won't have time to complete. The solution to this is to actually set my alarm for the time I need to get up. For me, that's 5:15am. It's early, but I find that if I wake up and begin my day without thinking of the actual time, it's not so bad. I also put my alarm (my phone) all the way on the opposite side of the room so I'm forced to get out of bed to turn it off. And while I'm on the subject of cell phones...make sure you're putting yours on airplane mode while you sleep.
Drinking Alcohol Before Bed
I'm not a drinker of any kind of alcohol. It's not for religious or moral reasons. I just don't like the stuff at all. It makes me feel like crap. One of the main reasons it makes me feel like crap is because it has a negative impact on my sleep quality. Alcohol is a depressant and studies have shown that it may help people fall asleep faster. However, the sleep these people get is light sleep. The goal is deep sleep, or REM sleep, where your body can go through all of its repair processes that it needs to do during the night. It cannot repair and rejuvenate you if you're not in deep sleep. Instead, try a cup of herbal tea an hour before bedtime to help you fall asleep faster. A lot of tea companies make bedtime blends that are widely available in most health food stores.
Using Technology Before Bed
Do you really need to check your social media accounts right before bed? If you've answered 'yes', then you may need to consider a digital detox altogether. Looking at your electronic devices right before going to bed has been shown to have a negative impact on your sleep quality. These devices make it harder to fall asleep because they block the production of melatonin thanks to the blue light they give off. If you need to use an electronic device before bed, make sure you have installed an app that is specifically designed to block or turn off blue light. Blue light blocking glasses are another option. I love the ones I got from Prospek. Something else you can do is to give yourself a tech device curfew. Tell yourself that you must not look at any tech devices at least 30-120 minutes before bedtime. An optimal screen curfew time would be two hours before your scheduled bedtime.
Leaving the TV On
I know quite a few people who have TVs in their bedroom. Bad idea. Some of the people I know claim to not be able to fall asleep without the TV on in the background. They use the TV sleep function and set it to go off after they have hopefully dozed off. But this isn't a good thing at all. In fact, some studies have found that color TV may be making us fat. It also harms your sleep cycle and makes it more difficult to get into deep sleep mode. I recommend to my clients that they read before bedtime instead of watching TV. I'm sure most of them don't do this, but it can help with deeper, better quality sleep.
Can you identify with some of these sleep mistakes? I know our modern lifestyle makes it too easy to make a lot of these mistakes. That's why it's so important to put effort into getting better quality sleep. Make sleep a priority and you'll be having sweeter dreams in no time.