Sleep is a wonderful thing. It is one of the key ingredients a healthy lifestyle needs, and it is incredibly important in keeping your heart, mind, mood and weight healthy.
If you’re struggling with poor memory and forgetfulness, sleeping a bit more will help that to go away. During sleep your mind consolidates, strengthening memories and mentally practicing the skills you learnt during the day. While neurologists are not quite sure what makes the time we sleep so special, several studies have shown that we are only able to learn a new skill up to a certain point with practice. Once we sleep, however, something almost miraculous happens to solidify that new skill and help us to master it more successfully.
Another great benefit of enough sleep is that it boosts your creativity. Especially near the end of the year, when your feeling drained, a little extra creative mojo might be just what you need. In addition to consolidating your memories, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, your brain also reorganizes and restructure them. This might result in more creativity.
If the two points I mentioned in the previous paragraphs aren’t enough to drive you to bed early tonight, here are another great benefit of getting enough sleep. In a study done of women aged 50-79, it was found that more deaths occurred in women who regularly got less than five hours of sleep every night. Doctor Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine at Saint Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Centre in New York City, has said that sleep is often taken for granted. He continues and says that sleeping clean might be the ultimate key to a truly better life.
These are only a few of the great benefits of sleeping enough every night. Keeping these points in mind, you might look at your own life and despair of the fact that you manage to get so little sleep. While you might not even be working terribly long hours, your sleep schedule might be leaving much to be desired.
To help you get more sleep, let’s look at some ways that you might be sabotaging your own sleep.
Let’s dive right in!
Cut out the tech
If you want to give your health a boost by going to bed early, try to switch off your electronics. Your cell phone, tablet and computer should be switched off an hour before bedtime. Not only will this help you go to bed earlier, it will also help you to sleep better.
Over the past several years, a growing number of studies and research projects have shown that using an electronic device close to bedtime might not be a good idea. Robert Rosenberg, author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, points out that the blue light given off by computers, smartphones, tablets and TV screens prevents the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone released in the brain, which helps your body to shut down and become sleepy.
While banning all electronics from your bed might seem like the safest route, for some people it just isn’t realistic. If you are reluctant to give up your night-time ritual of reading on your Kindle, or checking your social media, Mayo Clinic suggests that you keep your device at least 14 inches away from your face. You should also turn your screen’s brightness down to the lowest possible setting, protecting yourself as far as possible from any light-related sleeping problems.
Don’t drink coffee (or tea!)
It’s common knowledge that coffee contains caffeine, but not many people are aware of just how much it affects your sleep.
A cup of coffee on average contains between 80-120 milligrams of caffeine. This amount of caffeine is enough to cut an hour off of your sleep. Even when drunk as early as six hours before going to bed, caffeine can still keep you awake.
As revealed in a new study, even decaf might not be a safe bet anymore. In a 2007 Consumer Reports, it was found that ‘decaf’ coffee contained as much as 20 milligrams of caffeine. Even that amount of caffeine is able to keep you awake.
If you are looking for a hot beverage to drink before bedtime, steer clear of tea as well. Normal English, black, green and white teas all contain caffeine.
The safest bet would be a nice herbal blend. Herbs such as chamomile and valerian are especially nice, as they contain some agents that help you sleep.
Keep a firm eye on your medication
Some prescription medications have been shown to keep you awake. If you take daily medicines of supplements, and you are also experiencing sleep problems, you should consult with your doctor immediately. Some medicines are especially designed to keep you alert, so checking the time of day you should take them with your doctor might be a good idea. Antidepressants, for example, has been known to have side effects that greatly affect your sleep. It can either cause you to sleep much more than you do normally, or rob you of some precious hours of sleep.
Drinking sleeping pills might also be sabotaging your sleep. Harvard sleep scientist Patrick Fuller has stated that taking sleeping pills when you don’t have diagnosed insomnia, even though you do have some trouble sleeping, might just not be effective. He says that a large amount of people who regularly take sleeping medication does not, in fact, need it and are building a dangerous habit. Hypnotic medication is highly addictive, so you should be very careful before starting to take sleep medication.
Don’t take your work to bed
While taking your bed to work for a nice mid-day nap sounds like a brilliant idea, you should avoid working right before you go to sleep at all costs.
Sleep experts agree that your bedroom should be reserved for sleeping, otherwise you will stop associating the bedroom with rest. This might cause you to have a harder time falling asleep. Working in bed might bring workplace stress into your bedroom, and cause your brain to have a hard time relaxing. Studies have found that even just checking your work email at night might make you more nervous and agitated. In an interesting study done at Michigan State University, it was found that people who use their smartphones after 9 p.m. report being more tired and unfocused the next day.
Of course, your work is most likely done on a computer, and as we saw in the first point it is best to keep your electronics clear of the bedroom. The light emanating from the screen causes your brain to take a longer time to shut down.
Don’t exercise too hard
While a bit of stretching or some relaxing yoga might be a good idea before bed, exercising too hard will sabotage your sleep. Steer clear of doing any strenuous cardio type workouts, as these will prevent you from falling asleep easily.
There has been some debate concerning this topic. Some studies seem to have indicated that any amount of cardio exercise before bed will keep you awake. Other studies seem to indicate that the amount of exercise needed to actually have an effect on how you sleep is so large that it is actually inconsequential.
However, if you find yourself struggling to fall asleep after exercising, you might be sensitive to the adrenaline rush gained from exercising. You should consider switching around your schedule so that your exercise can rather be done early in the morning. Yoga or easy stretching is an excellent alternative, if you do want to get in some movement before bed.
Stay clear of alcohol
Wait, doesn’t alcohol actually make you sleepy? Anyone who has ever nodded off after a few glasses of red wine will probably know that alcohol often causes you to doze off. Unfortunately, as some recent studies have shown, the problem comes in during the second part of the night. While alcohol might make it easy to fall asleep, it makes it much more difficult to actually stay asleep.
During the night, especially the second part, your body starts to metabolize the alcohol. As your intestines set to work on breaking down the alcohol compounds, it might cause you to become restless. Recent studies have shown that this especially occurs during the second part of the night.
According to a report by Julia Calderone from Tech Insider, some other studies have shown that consuming alcohol before bed suppresses your REM sleep. Rapid eye movement sleep is important for memory and concentration, and if you don’t get the correct amount of REM sleep your overall health might suffer. Loosing memory and concentration abilities will also have an adverse effect on your work.
Don’t start an argument
Have you ever heard the advice that you should never go to bed angry? Especially when in a relationship, people often say that. Stress is one of the major causes of insomnia, and it stands to reason that a heated and stressful argument is not the way to relax before bed. If a conversation is stressful, it will the stress hormones like cortisol in your blood stream. This will adversely affect your ability to fall asleep.
And, as you might know, when you’re angry you tend to ruminate. Running over stressful thoughts and arguments in your head over and over again can make falling asleep even more difficult.
Try to resolve any stressful issues earlier in the night, as going to bed with unresolved problems hanging in the air can also make you anxious. If you are able to, save important decision-making and serious conversations for days on which you have a little more time. That way you can have more time to calmly run through the argument. If things do turn heated, you will have more time afterwards to regroup and calm down before you have to go to sleep.
You shouldn’t smoke at all, but doing it before bed is apparently even more harmful to your health. In addition to all the other nasty things smoking does to your body, it also disturbs your sleep. Psychiatry instructor Michael Grandner form the University of Pennsylvania says that many people claim that they find smoking relaxing. Cigarettes contain nicotine, however, which is a stimulant. This could cause your insomnia to become worse, especially if you smoke close to bedtime. Consuming nicotine causes you to have withdrawal symptoms, which will wake you up earlier to smoke again.
Grandner continues to say that people both smoke and have difficulty sleeping should definitely talk to their doctors about quitting smoking. And if you vape, remember that it’s not only traditional cigarettes that can disturb your sleep. E-cigarettes, nicotine patches, pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco can all have the same effect.
Don’t let your pet sleep with you
Snuggling with your dog might be super comfortable and a great stress relief. Unfortunately, it can also keep you awake. In a recent study done at the University of Kansas in the United States, it was found that 63% of people who sleep with their pet experienced sleep disturbance. This might be due to the fact that dogs are restless sleepers. They naturally move around a lot during the night. If you sleep with you cat, you should also remember that cats are nocturnal animals. They like to be awake during the night, and can cause you to lose sleep because of their movement.
Don’t alter your routine
Getting into a good night time routine might be the single most important thing to do for yourself. Doing the same thing before bed every night, according to sleep experts, is a sign of good sleep hygiene. When you do a specific set of tasks of movements, such as brushing your teeth, laying out your clothes and washing your face, can over time become a habit that helps your brain to shut down. If you do your tasks every night at the same time and in the same order, it can go a long way towards helping you get a better night’s sleep.
If you alter that routine however, or simply don’t have one, you might have difficulty falling asleep.