Have you ever been so tired that you didn’t have any doubt about the fact that, as soon as your head hits the pillow, you’ll be in dreamland? But then, once you get in bed, you just can’t seem to fall asleep? Do you ever wonder why this kind of thing happens? I used to be like that. For some reason, whenever I got in bed I just couldn’t fall asleep. So I tossed and I turned and some nights I barely managed to get in more than two hours’ sleep before I had to go to work again. And then I realised that there are some things that I need to avoid before bedtime. If you also struggle to fall asleep sometimes, read on to find out what to avoid before hitting the hay.
Unfortunately, this is one substance that you really should avoid before going to bed. So for those coffee or soft-drink lovers out there, it’s time to find a replacement drink. And when we say you should not take in caffeine before bed, you should try to avoid it for as much as six hours before going to bed. Now we know that six hours is a long time! But we have the research to back up this statement. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that taking in the amount of caffeine that is in a regular cup of coffee up to six hours before bedtime can have adverse effects on your sleep. What’s more! Caffeine will not only stop you from falling asleep, it can also wake you up during the night.
Instead of having a caffeinated drink, you can try to switch to something like Rooibos tea. Rooibos is a herbal tea that contains minute traces of caffeine and it tastes great too! Moreover, if you are lactose intolerant, Rooibos tastes great without milk. Rooibos tea also contains quite a bit of anti-oxidants. So it better for the body than caffeine and it will help you to avoid late night tossing and turning.
Avoid heated arguments before going to bed
With the current way of living, where everyone is constantly working, it can be difficult to see your partner throughout the week. Sometimes the only time you get to see your spouse is just before bed. Often times both partners come home with a certain level of expectancy, you want to watch your favourite television show while your partner wants to sit down and chat about the day. When two tired people that are expecting different things from each other come into contact… Well, we all know what that is like, don’t we? Sparks fly and arguments arise.
So why do you want to avoid arguments before turning in for the night? Because when you argue, your heart rate goes up and your temperature rises. Both of these effects are detrimental to the onset of sleep. You see, when our bodies are preparing for sleep, our heart rate starts slowing down and our temperature decreases. So when we argue we force our bodies to stay awake for longer. And many times, after sorting out an argument, you’d still ly awake and mull it over in your head. Thus we advise that you steer clear of discussing contentious issues before bed.
Avoiding alcohol before going to bed sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? I mean, most of us get sleepy after a glass of wine or two, don’t we? So then why should we avoid drinking alcohol before hitting the sack? It just doesn’t seem to be making any sense!
Here’s the thing. When we drink alcohol, we get sleepy, sure. But once we fall asleep, the alcohol inhibits our bodies to enter Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. Why is that a bad thing? Well, we dream during REM sleep. Moreover, our brains sort out and store the information we took in throughout the day when we are in the REM sleep phase. So when you drink alcohol before you go to sleep, your brain can’t processes what you learned during the day. This can rob you of some precious memories or it can hinder the quality of your work.
What’s more, when alcohol finally leaves your system the brain goes into overdrive and you start having vivid dreams. More often than not, these dreams will wake you up, which will decrease the quality of your sleep even more. So what it boils down to is that alcohol is a double no-no! It decreases the quantity as well as the quality of your sleep. So start avoiding those alcoholic nightcaps and opt for a more natural kind of drink like almond milk with a touch of honey.
Avoid digital screens
That’s a tough one, isn’t it? How do you avoid looking at your smartphone or you tablet before drifting off to Dreamland? I mean, how are you supposed to read the news or check out the latest Donald Trump tweet? Unfortunately, the simple truth is that you shouldn’t. At least not before you switch off the light (even worse, after you’ve switched off the light).
The blue light emitted from most electronic device screens tells our brains to hold off on producing the sleep hormone, melatonin. It’s a funny trick that nature pranked us with. When we see blue light our brains tell us that we should be awake. Maybe because the sky is blue and humans tend to be awake during the day when we see blue skies? So when we see blue light at 10 p.m, our brains still think we need to be alert. That is why you should put away your phone, laptop or tablet when you start getting ready for bed. Try reading a paperback by candlelight or if you absolutely must use your mobile device, install a blue screen protector like f.lux.
In our consumer and work driven society, avoiding food before going to bed is often quite challenging. We wake up early to go to work, then after work we rush to the gym to get in some exercise. When we eventually get home, it is basically bedtime. So instead of cooking a proper meal, we end up getting fatty takeaways on our way home. Once we get home we gulp down the food as fast as possible, hit the shower and jump in bed.
But unfortunately eating straight before going to sleep is not such a great idea. Especially not when you are eating junk food! Another study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests that the intake of fatty food before bedtime retards the onset of sleep and decreases the amount of rest we get while asleep. Not only does eating before bed hamper you from falling asleep it also has a negative effect on your REM sleep. So try to avoid the junk food before hitting the hay!
If you are starving by the time you want to go to sleep, you can always eat a banana. Bananas are rich in calcium and magnesium, which will help your muscles to relax and promote the onset of sleep.
Working out is essential, don’t get me wrong. It keeps you happy, because when you exercise you produce endorphins. It helps you to focus and it gives you more energy throughout the day. But doing strenuous exercises straight before bedtime can be a bad idea.
Why would that be a bad idea? Isn’t it good to tire out your body before going to bed? Here’s the thing. If you push your heart rate up before trying to doze off, you might find that sleep is a bit elusive. Remember we said earlier that your heart rate slows down when your body gets ready for sleep? Also, when you exercise you get warm and sweaty, which is the opposite of what your body needs to be if you want to fall asleep. Thus try to avoid cardio or aerobic exercise late at night.
If you absolutely have no other time in your hectic schedule to hit the gym apart from 9 p.m, try to do light exercises like stretching or yoga.
And there you have it! Now you know exactly what to avoid before going to bed. So no more excuses for lying awake at night, okay? Stop drinking coffee and stop drinking booze before bed. Put away the mobile phone and don’t fight. All of these things are easy to accomplish, right?
Sleep well guys!