Do you lie awake for hours, trying to get to sleep? It could be that you’re sabotaging your ability to doze off without even realising it.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy waistline, for cognitive ability and a host of other health concerns. Recent research has even showed that losing sleep can impair the way our bodies fight illness and disease.
Here are 12 common ways we unwittingly prevent ourselves from dropping off in a timely manner – which of these can you change?
1. Consuming caffeine
It’s not just coffee that keeps us awake, the Sleep Health Foundation says all forms of caffeine should be avoided for at least four hours before bed. Sources include tea, coffee, cola drinks and (sorry!) chocolate. Why not eat your squares of healthy dark chocolate before dinner? Just saying.
2. Using your phone, iPad or eReader
Several studies have suggested that electronic devices and even television can discrupt sleep when used immediately prior to bedtime. It’s believed the blue light prevents the production of melatonin that helps the body become sleepy. Experts recommend you switch off screens for one hour before bedtime… but if you can’t imaging yourself doing this, the Mayo clinic says keep the device at least 30 centimetres from your face and turn down the screen brightness.
3. Starting (or finishing) something
Ten minutes before going to bed is never the time to check emails or embark on projects. A stimulated brain is the last thing you want before bedtime and any new, concerning or intriguing information could get it firing. Similarly, pushing yourself to read those last few pages and finish your book can have the same effect.
4. Eating too much
The Sleep Health Foundation says while it’s important that you’re not hungry at bedtime, having a full stomach makes it difficult to sleep. Your evening meal should be at least two hours before bedtime, if you find you’re hungry, a small, sugar-free snack (nuts or popcorn, for example) might help you sleep better.
5. Picking a fight (or not picking a fight)
There’s a reason the old wives’ tale perseveres – going to bed angry or with things unsaid will ruin your chances of falling asleep.
6. Dozing off on the couch
The average adult needs seven to nine hours sleep per day. If you’re a napper and can still sleep at night, there’s no need to worry about dozing off on the couch. But if you’re in the habit of nodding off while watching TV in the hours before bed time, you could be making it harder to fall asleep at night.
7. Drinking alcohol
Although it may make you sleepy, a glass or two of wine before bedtime will most likely make you wake up a few hours later. The Sleep Health Foundation says alcohol also makes sleep problems like snoring and sleep apnoea worse as well.
8. Taking some forms of medication
Some asthma and blood pressure medication can keep you awake if taken too close to bedtime. Cold and flu drugs could also have the same effect. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the best time to take any medications.
9. Not going outdoors during the day
Our bodies are designed to respond to the natural cycles of day and night. If you’re cooped up indoors all day and don’t get any sunlight on your skin, you may find it harder to fall asleep at night.
Nicotine is a stimulant that prevents you from entering the normal sleep cycle. Research has shown that a cigarette before bed will keep you awake, so butt it out!
Have you had experience with insomnia? What tips and advice do you have for getting to sleep?