Many of us want more sleep at night. We know that the lack of sleep can cause irritability, stress, poor judgment, negative work performance and even affect relationships. Conversely, a good night’s sleep does wonders for our mental and physical health.
We can try to go to bed early, but face the difficulty of falling asleep. We spend a long time tossing and turning in bed. Before we know it, we have lost an hour trying to sleep and now, are more awake than ever. If this sounds familiar to you, you may want to evaluate your lifestyle for habits that are making falling asleep a difficult endeavour.
Here are the 3 common habits that may be causing you poor sleep, and what you can do instead.
Eating too close to bedtime
Lying down too soon after a meal can cause reflux symptoms characterized by a burning sensation in the chest or a bitter taste in the mouth. This can cause enough discomfort for anyone trying to fall asleep. Just the constant need to sit up and burp so that you can go back to lie down is disruptive to your sleep.
Do this instead: Finish your dinner 3 hours before bedtime.
This will give sufficient time for your meal to get digested, move out of your stomach, and into the small intestines. If your schedule does not allow for it, keep your dinner light. Skip the greasy, spicy, or acidic foods. And definitely stay away from the caffeine.
High brain stimulation before bedtime
As we approach bedtime, our brain activity should be slowing down. However, with the advent of mobile phones and unlimited programmes to choose from on Netflix, electronic devices are often the last thing we look at before turning in. The result? An overly stimulated brain resulting from mobile phone games, excitement from an episode’s cliff-hanger ending, a worrying email from a colleague about work and more.
Do this instead: Establish a 30 minute pre-bedtime routine.
This routine should be free from electronic devices, work or anything that can cause too much worry. If you use your mobile phone as an alarm clock, set the alarm for the next day BEFORE you start on the routine to avoid getting sucked into the trap of “one-last check on Instagram”.
The routine can include a shower, meditation, stretching (no workouts please) or a hobby that does not have consequences whether you finish or not. It should be done in the house with the lights turned down.
Irregular Sleep Time
Your body’s internal clock plays a key role in regulating the time you fall asleep and wake up. An inconsistent sleep schedule will throw off your internal clock. So if you go to bed at 10pm on some nights, and 2am on others, your body will have difficulty knowing when is it time to release the hormones to start the process of falling asleep.
Do this instead: Fix a time for going to bed every day.
When trying to establish a regular sleep time, be realistic. Know what time you have to wake up and count backwards when you should go to sleep. Once you have the bedtime set, make it an appointment. Put this into your calendar so that you are constantly reminded on the act of establishing a regular sleep time.
This sleep time also applies to weekends and you should sleep and wake up at the same time as you do on weekdays. “Catching up on sleep” is ineffective and would disrupt the cycle that you have established during the weekdays.
It may be hard to eliminate all 3 bad habits at one go. Choose one first, and once you have it pat down, choose another habit to eliminate. For better sleep, try some of our tips in this article as well.
When to see a doctor?
Insomnia or interrupted sleep may also be a sign of more serious chronic health issues. If you have tried various self-help remedies without success, and the difficulty of falling asleep is taking a heavy toll on your mood and health, it may be a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor to for a more thorough examination.