If you find yourself waking up groggy in the morning, slogging through your day in a haze, and still spend hours tossing and turning at night, you’re not alone. In fact, research suggests that only 40 percent of Americans are logging more than seven hours of sleep every night, with a shocking 14 percent sleeping under five hours at a stretch. In fact, our sleep schedules look worse than they did just a generation or two ago. Back in 1942, 59 percent of American adults were clocking eight or more hours per night, while today, that number hovers at just 34 percent.
While, for some of us, increasing demands from work and family are cutting into the time we spend snoozing, for many others, it’s the choices we’re making at bedtime that are keeping us awake well into the wee morning hours. Before you spend another night tossing and turning, make sure you realize and remedy these things you should never do before bed. And when you’re ready to make every night a more restful one, check out these 17 Sleep Products People Swear By.
Think wrapping up some last-minute work will help you clear your mind before you get into bed? Think again. The blue light emitted from your computer is bad enough as it is, but the stress that almost always accompanies work communications can keep your brain overly alert, even when you’re eager to shut off. And for tips on turning off when you’re off the clock, check out the 25 Genius Ways to Conquer Office Burnout.
While it may seem like a good workout would sufficiently tire you out, exercising right before you hit the hay can actually have the opposite effect. Since exercise can increase our heart rate and circulation, it often puts our bodies in a hyper-alert state. When paired with the rush of endorphins you get from a rigorous workout, that late night trip to the gym might just keep you from nodding off. However, that’s no reason to skip the gym altogether: a well-timed workout can still make you sleepier than if you’d eschewed exercise all day. And to find out what’s really going on when you hit the gym, discover these 7 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Exercise.
Television can feel like a relaxing way to wind down after a long day, but tuning in before bed can keep you awake longer than you’d like. Not only is the blue light emitted from devices like televisions linked to suppressed melatonin production, meaning you’re likely to feel less sleepy after watching a show, researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have also linked screen time and insomnia among adolescents. So, by all means, enjoy your favorite show—just not right before you hit the hay.
Text your friends.
Spending time with your friends may relax you, but communicating with them right before bed could be keeping you awake long after your bedtime. Conversations—especially those worth continuing into the wee hours—can keep your mind engaged well beyond when you’ve actually stopped typing, and the blue light from your phone is definitely enough on its own to keep you from sleeping.
Drink a caffeinated beverage.
While it’s unlikely that you’re chugging espresso right before bed, keep in mind that any caffeinated beverage can cause you to spend time tossing and turning. If you find yourself having a hard time falling asleep, make sure you’re done drinking anything caffeinated—that means energy drinks, tea, and particularly soda—around lunchtime if you want to be able to get some good shuteye.
Eat spicy foods.
Dousing your food in hot sauce may be pleasing to your palate, but it’s not exactly conducive to sleep. Spicy foods (as well as greasy ones) have a reputation for contributing to acid reflux, a condition thought to afflict up to 20 percent of the population, which can make it harder to sleep comfortably and may even wake you up in the middle night. To effectively combat that, by the way, just learn the 10 Genius Tricks For Falling Back Asleep in the Middle of the Night.
We all have our vices, but for those who crave nicotine, their habit might just be interfering with their sleep. Even if you find that having a smoke relaxes you, the nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant, meaning it’s actually keeping your body and brain alert, making it more difficult to get some rest. And when you want to get healthier in a hurry, ditch the 40 Worst Habits for People Over 40.
“Don’t worry, be happy” is certainly more easily said than done, but if you’re battling insomnia, it’s definitely worth your while to try to stop fretting before bed. In fact, according to one study, worrying—particularly if you’re worrying about how much or how little sleep you’re going to get—can make you significantly more likely to log another sleepless night.
Eat a big meal.
Just because you tend to feel sleepy after a big meal doesn’t actually mean it’s wise to chow down before bed. When your stomach is full, your digestive process is engaged, meaning your body’s actually hard at work breaking down those foods, which can not only yield pressure and noise, but may also trigger heartburn among those susceptible. Your best bet is to give your body a break from eating for at least a few hours before bed. Oh, and don’t stuff yourself at supper.
Cuddle with your pet.
There are few things better than curling up with your pet in bed—except when it comes to your sleep, that is. Between those running dreams that turn into kicks, that extra puddle of drool on your pillow, and the those kisses that wake you up well before the alarm clock, having pets in the bed is often a recipe for a sleepless night. However, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily banish them to another room entirely: research from the Mayo Clinic suggests that having pets nearby—as long as you’re not actually sharing the same sleeping space—can actually help you get a more restful night’s sleep.
Drink a lot of water.
Keeping a glass of water on your nightstand may help you avoid a parched throat in the middle of the night, but that doesn’t mean you should be chugging glass after glass before you get into bed. Drinking more than a few sips of water before bed often leads to bathroom breaks in the middle of the night and difficulty getting back to sleep afterward.
If you’re like most people, fights with your spouse never seem to come at a convenient time—and in many cases, they in fact become an issue right before you’re about to climb into bed. Unfortunately, that also means you’re probably getting less sleep than you’d like. When you argue, your heart beats faster, your blood pressure spikes, and your mind is generally in a hyper-alert state, none of which are conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Take certain medications.
Those pills you pop before bed might just be the reason you’re not getting the rest you want. Everything from antidepressants to ADHD medication to certain headache medicines can interfere with sleep, so make sure to have a chat with your doctor about when you should take your pills for optimal results with minimal sleep-preventing side effects.
Have a nightcap
That last drink of the evening may have made you feel all warm and fuzzy and ready to curl up, and yet, you’re still tossing and turning hours later—what gives? Unfortunately, despite the depressant effects of alcohol, imbibing can actually interfere with REM sleep, meaning you’re more likely to wake up in the night and less likely to rise well-rested. If you want to have a drink in the evening, make sure you give yourself plenty of time (at least two hours) between it and your usual bedtime, and have a few glasses of water with it, too.
Dial up the thermostat
It may seem like common sense to make your room all warm and cozy before you head off to bed, but doing so may actually interfere with your rest. Humans tend to sleep best in rooms that are between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s best to play it cool if you want to wake up feeling refreshed.
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