How many people do you know who get plenty of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep at night? Probably not a lot. Sleep is one of those things that’s crucially important for our health, yet most of us struggle with it. There are many factors that affect your sleep, so we spoke with Terry Cralle, RN, a representative for Better Sleep Council, to identify some common habits that are probably hindering your ability to sleep well at night.
Electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops emit blue light, which can disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle. It is best to avoid using electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
Cralle recommends finding something else to do in bed, such as reading, knitting, or doing word puzzles. If you have to check your phone, be sure to turn on the night mode feature to reduce your blue light exposure.
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Although alcohol can make you feel drowsy initially, it also disrupts your sleep cycle and causes you to wake up frequently throughout the night if you drink it in the evening.
Some people may be able to handle the occasional glass of wine with dinner, but you will sleep better if you skip the alcohol and stick to water instead.
Many people are afraid to drink too much water before bed for fear of waking up throughout the night to go to the bathroom. But did you know that not drinking enough water can negatively affect your sleep as well?
While there is limited research available, a 2019 study found that people who slept less than six hours each night were more likely to be dehydrated than those who slept more than eight hours each night. Dehydration has many negative side effects, so it makes sense that staying hydrated will help you be more comfortable overall, including while sleeping.
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Most people can’t jump into bed and expect to fall asleep in five minutes. Your body needs some time to wind down from the day and recognize that it will be bedtime soon.
Kids need wind-down routines and so do grownups, Cralle said. Try listening to soft music, reading, or doing other calm activities at least 20 minutes before you start officially getting ready for bed.
Bedtime Stories for Stressed Out Adults
Chill reads to help you wind down.
Research has shown that being moderately active can help you get more deep sleep every night.
“Even a 10-minute walk during the day can contribute to enhanced sleep quality at night,” Cralle said.
However, you should avoid working out in the evening, as this signals to your body that it’s time to be awake and can make it difficult to doze off. See if you can fit in physical activity during other parts of the day. That all being said, it’s still better to work out at night than not at all.
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A walking pad can help you get your steps in during the day.
It is so tempting to press the snooze button once or twice (or five times) in the morning, but this habit is not doing you any good.
“This is a terrible habit that robs you of sleep!” Cralle said. “You will get more sleep and feel better upon awakening if you stop doing this.”
It’s best to set your alarm for the time you need to wake up and get up right away. If you don’t have enough self-control in the morning, try setting your phone or alarm clock out of reach so that you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
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This alarm clock will make it easier to get up without pressing the snooze.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake and disrupt your sleep. It’s best to avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
Cralle recommends avoiding coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages after lunch. If you need an energy booster, try having a snack, drinking some water, or going for a walk.
Your ‘sleep environment’ refers to everything in your sleeping space, including your mattress, pillows, lamps, and other aspects of your bedroom. Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet every night.
You should be sleeping on a high-quality mattress that leaves you feeling refreshed and awake in the morning. If you’re waking up with aches and pains, it’s probably time to invest in a new one.
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Although being tired is sometimes worn as a badge of honor, Cralle believes that getting enough sleep should be a top priority.
“Needing and getting sleep is not a weakness, character flaw, or lack of work ethic or ambition—it is a biological requirement that we need for optimal health and functioning,” Cralle said. “We need to prioritize sleep, schedule sufficient sleep on a daily basis, and be completely unapologetic for our need for sleep.”
Getting enough sleep is essential for your health and well-being. By ditching these eight sleep-disrupting habits, you can improve the quality of your sleep and feel more refreshed and energized each day.