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7 things you’re doing to ruin your sleep

Image: Jacob Stewart
Image: Jacob Stewart

You’re laying in bed, you know you’re tired, you need to get up early, but your brain just won’t shut down. Or you eventually drop off, but you’re restless. You toss and turn, wake up repeatedly, or have to use the bathroom several times. Before you know it, the alarm is blaring, but instead of feeling refreshed and ready to face the day, your eyes feel gritty, your brain is foggy, and you’re exhausted. And, however many energy drinks you chug or coffees you guzzle, your performance still suffers. Rinse. Repeat.

This is compounded by the high pressure, information-driven lives we lead in the modern age. We’re constantly pushing ourselves. More. Harder. Faster. Better. It puts a huge strain on our minds and bodies, and quality sleep – particularly REM sleep – is vitally important. It’s the time when our bodies and minds “reset”, rejuvenate, process information, and transfer data from short term to long term storage. If our sleep patterns are messed up, so are we. Poor sleep dramatically increases the stress we place on ourselves and our health and performance suffers. To be at your best, take a look at the seven things you’re doing that ruin your sleep.

1 – Your Device Addiction

We’re all addicted to our smartphones and tablets (and laptops) – many of us rely on them for a whole bunch of stuff – alarms, calendars, email, messaging – not to mention gaming. But using them within an hour of trying to sleep can cause chaos. They emit a blue light that inhibits melatonin production (the stuff that lets you relax into sleep). These electronics also give off electromagnetic radiation that disrupts normal brainwave functions and sleep cycles. How many of us sleep with our phones right next to our heads for an alarm clock? A lot – and that means we’re sleeping in a field of EMR. So either switch to a regular alarm clock or at least disconnect the Wi-Fi before you go to sleep.

2 – Engaging in Vigorous Exercise

Up to two hours before bed, vigorous exercise is a bad idea – it produces a rush of chemicals like adrenalin and noradrenalin that keep you wide awake and stimulated. No, we’re not talking about getting it on with your lover – that kind of exercise is actually brilliant for better sleep. Men and women (as long as they’re satisfied), feel sleepy after sex, and science tells us that’s because cortisol (which induces stress) decreases, and while hormones like oxytocin, estrogen, and prolactin surge through the body, and these chemicals help you achieve better sleep quality. So while we’d not recommend vigorous calisthenics, if you (and your mate) want to sleep soundly, have a little fun before bedtime.

3 – Guzzling Coffee

Sure, you know a double espresso is packed with caffeine, so not the best idea right before bed. But you assume that decaf is safe because the caffeine’s been removed, right? Nope. Sure, decaf has less caffeine, but still up to 20 milligrams per cup – and that’s more than enough to keep you awake. Go for herbal or fruit teas – or, if you just prefer the taste of coffee – try decaf coffee that contains valerian, which helps you fall asleep naturally.

4 – Chugging Water

Yes, drinking lots of water is good for your body – but it’s not the best plan right before bed. The key factor to remember here is that what goes in must come out. If you chug a couple of pints of water at bedtime, you’re going to need to get up and pee – probably more than once. Plus, pouring all that water into your body stimulates it and is guaranteed to disrupt your sleep patterns. So, be sensible, and drink lots of water throughout the day. Start your day with a big ol’ glass of iced water – it’ll immediately wake you up and refresh you.

5 – Scoffing Snacks

Lots of us do it – we start feeling peckish late in the evening, we can’t be bothered to prepare anything, so we grab the first things we find. Avoid anything fatty, high in protein, or heavily processed and unhealthy. Filling your stomach with snacks of this nature stimulates your body as it works to process them. We know it’s hard to sleep when you’re hungry – so grab a healthier, lighter option, and try not to eat within an hour of going to bed.

6 – Showers

Lots of us make this mistake – a quick shower before we collapse into bed. Unfortunately, showering before bed actually wakes you up. So, a better choice is a hot bath before bed, and an invigorating shower in the morning.

7 – Avoid Lazy Lie-Ins

Surely, sleeping late at the weekend is a good way to repay your “sleep debt”, right? Wrong. A study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre shows that it’s disastrous. You’ve had a tough week, you decide to let loose Friday and Saturday, and then “catch up” with all the sleep you’ve missed during the week. But by Sunday, you feel awful, and Monday morning you want to curl up and die. By sleeping in, you’re messing up your internal clock. And, if it’s something you try every weekend, you’re screwing up your circadian cycles every single week. It’s a vicious circle.


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