Our sleep habits and quality can just be as fragile as our lifestyle. But, there are some daytime habits and sleep time habits that we need to fix to fix our sleep schedule. Starting with your just before sleep habits, and just after waking up habits can bring about a massive change in your life and general health. The first approach most of us tend to take to is to rely on meds rather than take the first step towards changing our lifestyle. But, changing our lifestyle can not only bring about major motivation and health boosts but even revert or minimize any health conditions.
So, let’s have a look at some of the most impactful habits that destroy our sleep and just before bed habits to avoid:
1. Sleeping when you feel tired throughout the day: While that is the most important thing to do when you’re overworked and just need to relax, it is not a good habit to go to sleep whenever in the day. You may be feeling less energetic and lethargic after sitting in front of your desk or just because of the meals you have, but it is best to avoid acting on it. This is because when you sleep in the day, or any time before night not only does it lower your melatonin production for your night’s sleep but also makes it difficult to sleep later as you’ve already had your rest. This means an odd body clock that not only disrupts your metabolic activities but also your sleep schedule (even if you try to stick to one), as well as your mental health.
To fix it, you can start with small steps like walking about when you’re just beginning yawning during the day, specifically afternoon. This leads to drowsy and sleep eyes and would make you fall asleep at an odd time, probably for multiple hours. This is mostly because our body feels the need for more energy and oxygen, instead of the go-to solution of sleep. So, to sleep on time at night, the first and most important solution is to avoid sleep by any means necessary in the day time.
2. Bedtime screen use: Using your phones, or watching shows and movies right before sleep seems to be the perfect ending to a day. While it is true to some extent, doing that right up to the minute you fall asleep due to exhaustion is a big no for good sleep. You may feel the impact and stress of using your phone as it tends to disrupt your sleep cycles. This is because of the blue light in the visible light spectrum that electronic screens emit, which makes the brain think of early daytime. And yes, if you have an e-reader, ideally dark mode can help limit exposure to blue light from the screen, and none in e-ink readers.
There is no trick to this other than keeping away your gadgets away at least 1 hour before you want to go to sleep. Set a sleep schedule and keep all devices away 1 hour before you plan to go to sleep. Moreover, another good idea would be to use physical books or some relaxing habit like talking to your partner or being busy with non-gadget hobbies.
3. Going to bed with a full stomach: Opening up the refrigerator or something to snack on just before bed seems to be the most common thing that people do. This is actually very bad for your metabolism as it keeps your digestive and excretive system active during your sleep needing the energy to digest, metabolize, and pass it out. This is why most people tend to feel thirsty and wake up in the middle of the night for bathroom breaks, which breaks the continuity of your sleep. Additionally, snacking on heavy foods or anything oily is especially bad for your sleep, and health in general. However, if you tend to feel hungry or thirsty right before sleep, you can have some milk, nuts, or fruits as per your diet.
The best thing would be to have something heavy in the evening and the last light meal just before bed, preferably a shake or something that isn’t too high on calories. Moreover, the main motive of munching or sleeping just before sleep is not to let your stomach feel too stuffy or full. If you have major hunger pangs or cravings, drink or eat enough light foods to not have to eat again. Even excessive water right before sleep isn’t a good idea as it will wake you up for bathroom breaks.
4. Working before sleep: Most of the people who work from home or have a hectic schedule right up to their bedtime can feel they need to unwind before sleep. But we’re just too tired, anxious and stressed from work to go to sleep with a relaxed mind. Sometimes this can be a result of procrastination, or sometimes there’s just too much to do even if you have been on calls or dealing with clients all day. If you’re your own boss, be it freelancing, entrepreneurship, or a high networking job, you can relate to this well, and there is a fix for this too.
Most of us tend to take our work to the bed, and that means our screens, papers, and books in the case of students. But establishing a regular sleep schedule is important because it directly affects your work and overworking affects your sleep. In a way, if you overwork, not only does it destroy your physical and mental well-being, but also has a huge impact on your sleep. So, the best way to prevent this is to stick to only enough work that you can handle and be free of at least 2-4 hours before sleep. You need time to unwind, and more importantly, you need time to relax and put your work in perspective. Keeping your phone/laptop and anything work-related away on do-not-disturb mode(not for doctors, unfortunately), is a great way to be sure of some quality sleep. Moreover, planning your work a day before, right before you go to sleep can not only help you stay focused but also improve your sleep and alleviate any “need-to-work” stress.
5. Exercise regime: Fitness is a sure shot way to be better physically, mentally, and perform and focus on everything in life. But too much, too little or ill-timed fitness can be just as damaging. Exercising intensively (weight-training, cardio, HIIT, among other types), right before sleep or 2-3 hours before sleep time keeps the mind activated. Sure, your body logically takes a hit when it comes to the energy reserve, but your brain lights up like a bulb and this means less quality sleep and maybe even lesser sleep time.
The best time to exercise would be anytime before the afternoon, or before evening. Not only are you less likely to put it off or procrastinate, but also get into the habit easily. Exercising before bedtime is a huge negative for your sleep quality. Even more so, not exercising at all or exercising less not only makes all your body functions slow and not performing optimally but impacts your sleep just as much. Working out at least 3-5 times for 45 minutes intensively has been proven to improve sleep quality.
6. Coffee: While this comes under the food category, it has its own section here because of the number of people who tend to drink coffee and see it affect their sleep. Caffeine intake through coffee, cold drinks, and other sources before sleep or late in the evening makes it difficult to sleep. This is mainly because caffeine affects our body for up to 6-10 hours depending on person to person.
So, if you tend to drink coffee in the evening after work, consider replacing it with another hot or cold beverage that is free of caffeine. Green tea, protein shakes as a meal replacement, or other light non-caffeine, or decaf coffee are great replacements for a cup of coffee. Although decaf coffee would increase your alertness for some time, it would not keep you activated for a long time like regular coffee.
7. Using a proper pillow and mattress: Perhaps one of the most ignored and just as essential factors that destroy our sleeping routine is an uncomfortable environment, especially the pillow and mattresses that you use. Hard pillows and mattresses unwilling to bend or sinking too low for comfort can make your sleep uncomfortable. This is because not only does your body need rest at the end of the day, and relieve your muscles and joints of any pressure, but also be comfortable moving. A major number of people tend to turn and toss in their sleep, partly due to the discomfort of a mattress that doesn’t suit them and partly because of the subconscious mind. A bad quality pillow or mattress combination or one that doesn’t suit you would make sleep uncomfortable and lead to issues with your joints, back, shoulders, among other parts.
Analyze your body weight, sleeping orientation among other factors and it will help you decide on a good quality mattress and pillow. This helps in letting you sleep comfortably, and without any issues in your body. A high-quality mattress and pillow that allows your body room to move uniformly as well as enjoy the softness is best for your sleep.
8. Going to bed thoughts and alcohol: When you go to bed with your personal and professional stresses, it leads to the production of the cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone that stays in your body if you do not spend time relaxing, doing the things you enjoy or other calming activities. It leads to pent up stress that affects your sleep quality and even makes you get up more often in your sleep. You tend to have more nightmares, as well as other neuro-sleep issues. To tackle this, people tend to take their mind off things with alcohol or heavy drinks in one way or another. This is a bad habit since it numbs your nervous system instead, and can make it difficult to sleep in the long term. Alcohol or heavy drinks before bed make it difficult to get into REM sleep as well.
An alternative to alcohol right before bed would be to have a drink maybe 2-4 hours before bed if unavoidable. Moreover, the basic intention is to unwind and take off the weight from your mind. You should leave your work and personal problems away from where you sleep and focus on the things you like. Meditation, gratitude, and a general sense of forced or relaxed calmness can do wonders for your sleep. This helps in not only letting you go to bed without any worries but also wake up fresh and happy to start the new day.
There are too many habits consciously and unconsciously we tend to pick up on as they bring immediate relief. Sure, they’re great once in a while or more, but making a habit out of them can destroy your health. When anything affects your health, your sleep and mental well-being take the biggest beating in addition to the rest of your physical body. The modern world helps us pick up high-dopamine activities too quickly to even notice we’re taking them on for long term disadvantage.
But it is never too late to change and avoid these habits once you’re aware. Focusing on improving your sleep can do wonders to improve your work, lifestyle, personal relations, and even health. Sleep is the best way to ensure you’re well-rested and in the best mindset to take on any challenge. And a short term habit or the most comfortable getaway can instead do more damage than good. For best results, keep a habit tracker with you to make streaks and feel motivated, and eventually sleep soundly knowing you’re doing everything you can in your power.