Back in 2008, approximately 29% of US adults reported sleeping less than seven hours per night. More than 50 million suffered from chronic sleep disorders. Now, more than a decade later, things aren’t looking up. In 2018 researchers found that as many as one-quarter of Americans experienced acute insomnia each year.
But while inadequate sleep quality can stem from circumstances such as shift work, jet lag, stress, depression, or sleep apnea, in most cases, it’s caused by poor sleep hygiene.
It turns out that adjusting your daily routine can be the key to getting sufficient rest each night. Even more, you can reap benefits such as higher productivity, better mood, better metabolism, and even improved cardiovascular health.
So, if you’re looking to improve any of these aspects of your life, the following are the worst daily habits that are ruining your good night’s sleep.
Hitting the snooze button
We all love those extra 5 or 10 minutes of sleep when we get to enjoy our warm beds and pretend there’s nothing we have to do during the day. But, it turns out, hitting the snooze button isn’t exactly good for us.
According to an article from the Cleveland Clinic, there are two main downsides to using the snooze function on your alarm clock. Firstly, the added 5 or 10 minutes of sleep isn’t going to be the restorative rest you’re likely to need. Secondly, every time the alarm goes off, your body reacts by releasing cortisol, the stress hormone. Simply put, this increases blood pressure and heartbeat.
So, instead of setting up a daily alarm on your iPhone, you might want to go with more gentle methods of waking up. If you have a set of smart lights, you can set them up to simulate sunrise every morning at a given time. Or, you can program your smartwatch to wake you up by vibrating.
Too much screen time
Blue light blocking glasses have been all the craze for the past couple of years and with good reason.
It turns out that modern screens and lightbulbs, though highly efficient, also emit a certain shade of light. It disrupts the natural sleep-wake cycle, over stimulates the eyes and brain and, consequently, hinders the production of melatonin.
Nowadays, experts suggest stopping all screen use at least two hours before bed. Moreover, it’s not a bad idea to use sunlight-blocking shades and warmer-coloured lightbulbs in your bedroom.
Finally, consider cutting down on social media use during the day. Social media might be a great way to stay connected with friends, but it’s also linked to nightly sleep disturbances, as well as high stress and anxiety levels. If it’s proper rest that you’re after, you can very well do without any of these.
The idea of a glass of warm milk with some cookies before bed might sound comforting. But, it turns out that it may not be as helpful at making you fall asleep as previously believed.
Nowadays, the consensus is that people should limit meals to a maximum of 3 hours before bedtime. For the most part, this is to prevent heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux. But it can also help prevent chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart problems.
Of course, if you prefer to have a late dinner, you can still enjoy it and get a good night’s sleep, as long as you choose the right foods and have moderate portions. On the whole, if eating in the evening, stay clear of anything sugary. Instead, aim to include tryptophan-rich foods like turkey, walnuts, milk, oats, eggs, and peanuts.
Answering emails in bed
If your sleep problems happened to start around the same time you switched to a work-from-home model at your job, you might have picked up a couple of bad habits.
One of the surefire ways to have your bedroom go from an oasis of rest to a corporate battlefield is to work from bed.
Yes, the idea of answering emails in your PJs or putting together reports as you sip on your morning coffee and listen to your favourite podcast might seem great. But in truth, what it does is that it encourages your brain to associate the space with work (which often means stress) instead of relaxation.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery to boost your productivity or performance, consider making smaller types of changes. For example, switch up your music, set smart goals, or limit the time you have for each task by time blocking.
Lacking a bedtime routine
Finally, a reason you may not be getting the amount or quality of sleep you’re after may come down to your bedtime routine.
If you don’t have one, it’s high time you start introducing relaxing, sleep-inducing activities in the last part of your day. If you do, but you’re still not managing to rest properly, go through your habits, and see whether any of them are getting you worked up before bed.
On the whole, the skeleton of a beneficial bedtime routine should include:
As you can see, there’s plenty you can do to get better quality rest during the night. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that our sleep is closely connected both to physical and mental health.
If you’ve tried everything and still can’t fall or stay asleep, consider consulting a specialist. They will surely be able to help you, whether by diagnosing any underlying conditions, helping you address the stressful circumstances of your daily life, or prescribing the right supplement for your particular needs.