Did you know that your brain “washes” itself as you sleep? Yes, the brain has a waste management system that removes all waste buildup that occurred during the day. And this “cleansing” job by the brain prevents any buildup of trash, in turn reducing brain fog and other similar memory problems.
Without enough healthy sleep, the brain won’t have enough time to clean up all the trash that builds up. Rather, your brain will be like a dirty house that has not been cleaned for more than a month. And when your brain does not do its job effectively, this could even pose great health risks to you, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and chronic anxiety.
This is why it is crucial for all people to get enough, quality sleep every night. By getting enough sleep, you not only ensure the good health of your brain but also improve the quality of your life. After all, quality sleep helps to improve your mood, enables you to think more clearly, and manage stress levels, just to mention a few of the benefits.
However, in the hectic 24-7 society that we live in, most of us rarely get enough sleep. Yet, most of the things that cause us to miss out on a good night’s sleep are the simple, daily lifestyle habits that we do.
In this article, we have rounded up 9 Habits That Can Ruin Your Sleep. Read on to find out how these unhealthy habits gradually deprive you of good sleep, as well as how you can avoid lapsing into these habits.
Table Of Contents
The 9 Habits That Can Ruin Your Sleep
1. Eating or Drinking Before Bed
There are a few things that make sleep more uncomfortable than sleeping with a full stomach. When you eat a full or heavy meal, you increase your chances of getting acid reflux. More so, eating large meals right before bed may bring about heartburn symptoms, especially when you lie down.
Think about this: After eating, you climb into your bed immediately. Obviously, you will rest your body at a horizontal angle when you sleep. This angle makes it easy for stomach acid to enter the esophagus; a condition known as acid reflux. In turn, the acid reflexes, heartburn, or indigestion could lead to insomnia or snoring; conditions that negatively affect sleep.
Similarly, drinking too much water before bed disrupts your sleep, even making it uncomfortable. You will be forced to get up to urinate, sometimes even making multiple trips to the bathroom throughout the night. Such multiple trips will undoubtedly interrupt your sleep schedule, causing you to develop sleep deprivation symptoms.
Therefore, if you are to ensure quality sleep for yourself, you need to avoid eating or drinking too much before bed. Here are three tips that can help you achieve this:
- Eat your dinner 2-3 hours before your bedtime – This allows your stomach to carry out proper digestion, such that it focuses on preparing for a good sleep when your bedtime comes.
- Ensure that your dinner meal consists of small amounts of carbs and protein – Carbs and proteins are complex foods. Therefore, eating only small amounts not only satiates your hunger pains but also helps to improve your sleep quality.
- Have a structured bedtime snack if you feel too hungry after dinner – For those with a sweet tooth, try having a handful of nuts, a few squares of chocolate (preferably dark chocolate), or some berries. However, avoid loading up on junk foods or desserts that are dense in calories, such as chips, pies, and ice creams.
2. Lying Awake in Bed
Do you struggle to sleep when you go to bed? How long does it take you to fall asleep? If you find it hard to fall or stay asleep, you might be tempted to extend your opportunity to sleep. Some people do this by either sleeping in to catch up or going to bed early.
However, despite going to bed early, you may find yourself spending hours lying awake. And in addition to diminishing your desire for sleep, spending more time awake at night can also disrupt your circadian rhythm.
Also, the more you lie awake in bed, the more likely you are to extend your sleeping time in the morning. In turn, the longer you stay in bed in the morning, the harder it will be to fall asleep the next night.
Simply put, lying awake can be described as the opposite of sleep consolidation. While sleep consolidation helps to improve your ability to sleep, spending more time lying awake in bed only works to undermine your ability to sleep.
So, if you regularly toss and turn when you go to bed, it is time for you to take action to curb this unhealthy habit. And the good news is, that the cure to lying awake in bed is entirely within your reach. The following are a few suggestions on how you can avoid turning and tossing in bed at night:
- Do not spend more than 20 minutes lying awake in bed – If you struggle to fall asleep for more than 20 minutes, get up and engage in a relaxing activity. Most experts suggest trying to read when you can’t fall asleep.
- Avoid taking naps during the day.
- Set at least one alarm clock every day, including on the weekends – This will train your body to sleep and wake up at the same time daily.
- Use a weighted blanket. Did you know that weighted blankets can help adults, children, and teenagers to fall asleep more quickly? … and you will also stop tossing and turning at night! These magic weighted blankets can benefit also people with stress, anxiety, autism, OCD, ADHD, restless leg syndrome, fibromyalgia, and more.
3. Taking Long Naps
This is one of the most controversial topics when it comes to improving the quality of sleep. Some people recommend taking naps during the day. Other cultures, however, discourage people from taking naps since they believe doing so affects your sleep at night. The question is: Are naps as bad or as good as people claim?
Well, taking short naps is not bad at all. In fact, for those people who have no problems sleeping at night, napping for short periods can even offer numerous health benefits. For example, short naps help to improve their moods, increase alertness and reduce fatigue.
However, the opposite is true about long naps. Too much napping can lead to sleep inertia. This is a condition where the body “believes” you have called it a day and are ready to have a full night’s sleep. Then, it enters into the deep sleep stages, only to be woken up abruptly.
Most of us know that feeling when you wake up from a nap forgetting what day it is: this is sleep inertia. Sleep inertia negatively affects the quality of sleep at night. It is one of the major causes for regular turning and tossing in bed at night.
Longer naps are even worse for those who already have trouble sleeping in. Taking naps during the day will be like adding fuel to the fire; it will only worsen your sleep deprivation. It is no wonder, then, that people with chronic insomnia are recommended to avoid taking any naps during the day.
So if you are looking to improve your ability to sleep at night, you need to watch out for your daytime napping. When you feel like napping, take a 10-20 minutes’ power nap during the early afternoon. However, avoid having naps that go for more than 20 minutes. Also, do not take your naps late in the evening, as doing so will also affect your sleep cycle negatively.
4. Using the Bedroom as a Multipurpose Room
The modern world praises homes whose bedrooms are filled with electronic gadgets. We see celebrities flaunting large-screen televisions in their bedrooms, computers, the newest gaming systems and other modern gadgets. And it is no secret that having all these gadgets can make your bedroom look classier and elegant.
But, which is better: Class or quality sleep? While class might give you the popularity that you desire from others, it cannot offer you all the health benefits that enough, quality sleep provides. In fact, having gadgets in your bedroom only works to diminish your sleep quality.
Computers, televisions, even cellphones emit a blue light which may be harmful to sleep. The blue light interferes with your body’s natural circadian rhythm; the 24-hour cycle that guides you on when to sleep and when to get up. Therefore, using either of these gadgets just before bed encourages the brain to be active. And the last thing you want when intending to sleep is an active brain.
To ensure a good night’s sleep, avoid using your bedroom as a multipurpose room. Just like the National Sleep Foundation advises, pretend that you live during the early life era where there was little, even no technology. Also, try out the following additional tips to avoid using your gadgets too much at night:
- Avoid using the television, tablets, computer or phone at least 60 minutes before your bedtime.
- Substitute watching TV, using the cellphone and computer with activities such as writing a journal, talking with your partner one-on-one or reading a book.
- Practice charging your phone in another room, such as the kitchen or living room.
- If you have any favorite late-night shows, consider recording them instead of watching them love at night – After recording, you can then watch these the next day. This way, you will ensure a healthy quality sleep throughout the night.
Did you know that also the colours used in your bedroom can affect your mood and as a result your sleep? Definitively you should not underestimate the effect that your bedroom environment can have on your ability to easily fall asleep.
5. Smoking, Drinking Alcohol, and Caffeinated Drinks
Alcohol makes you feel drowsy. So it is a perfect “remedy” for sleep, right? Wrong! While alcohol promotes drowsiness, it fragments and disrupts the different stages of sleep. Proven studies show that alcoholic beverages shorten REM sleep, leading to less-restorative sleep.
Also, having several glasses of alcohol can have a negative effect on your hormones. Alcohol not only causes snoring but also disrupts sleep patterns and leads to sleep apnea. More so, alcoholic beverages alter the production of melatonin during the night. And since melatonin works to ensure a proper circadian rhythm, its disruption leads to sleep-related disorders.
Other studies show that consuming alcohol at night leads to a decrease in HGH (Human Growth Hormone). HGH plays a key role in regulating the body’s circadian rhythm. Hence, by decreasing its productivity, alcohol interferes with natural sleep patterns.
On the other hand, caffeinated drinks act as stimulants, keeping you awake for longer periods during the night. These drinks include coffee, soda pop, tea, as well as junk foods such as chocolates. Similarly, smoking releases nicotine into the lungs; a chemical known to ruin a person’s ability to sleep.
Therefore, while smoking and consuming alcohol or caffeinated drinks might seem like an ideal way to ease into Z’s, you should avoid taking these before your bedtime. Here are simple tips that can help you do this:
- Avoid taking any caffeinated drinks 4-6 hours before your bedtime.
- Whenever you crave coffee in the evening (or even late afternoon), go for decaffeinated coffee types.
- Never use alcohol or alcoholic “nightcaps” as a sleeping aid.
6. Having a Busy Schedule
Sometimes, our lives become too hectic and busy that we rarely find time for ourselves, leave alone other people. And controlling busy schedules is not as easy. I mean, you have to work hard to pay rent, buy clothes, put food on the table and sort all the other basic needs.
Having so much to do, some people opt to cut back on their sleep. By so doing, they are able to create extra time in the day and get more work done. Like most people say, ‘Why would you waste 7-8 hours sleeping while you could be getting “more important” things done?’
However, the truth is that there is nothing more important than getting enough sleep every night. When you prioritize your busy schedule and oversleep, you do more than just sacrifice enough rest: you also affect your health and reduce your productivity throughout the day. Imagine sleeping too late and waking up too early, only to achieve very little during the day.
Therefore, you should never allow your tight schedules to impact your sleeping schedule. Getting less sleep is not the solution to getting more things done. Rather, the lesser sleep you get, the less productive and more tired you will be. The best way to deal with a busy schedule would be to create an action plan that can help you manage your time.
Here are some practical tips on how you can get quality sleep despite having a busy schedule:
- Stop working one or two hours right before your bedtime.
- Be more consistent with your sleeping pattern; try sleeping and waking up at the same time.
- Schedule yourself at least fifteen minutes to unwind – For example, do some light reading or meditate before bedtime.
7. Exercising Vigorously Before Bed
For a healthier body and happier lifestyle, you are recommended to work out for 30 minutes daily. Such regular not only makes you much healthier but also helps to boost your ability to sleep. However, while regular exercise contributes to a good night’s sleep, it is not as effective when performed late in the night.
Exercising vigorously right before bed makes it harder to fall asleep. When you exercise, your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature are increased to higher rates. In turn, this causes your body to rev up, rather than unwind and prepare itself for sleep.
The stimulatory effect that vigorous exercise causes also increases the production of adrenaline and epinephrine hormones. Persistent surges of adrenaline and epinephrine hormones lead to anxiety, in turn causing insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Therefore, to ensure better sleep quality, avoid any vigorous exercises 1-2 hours before bedtime. Better yet, incorporate your workout schedule during the day, such as in the early morning. However, if due to certain circumstances you can only work out during the evening, follow these suggestions to ensure you do not impact your sleep:
- After your evening workout, perform a light jog or some stretching to ensure that you cool down properly.
- Practice some meditation exercises and deep breathing to help you relax and lower adrenaline levels in the body.
- Take a cold shower after a workout to bring your body temperatures back to normal.
- Make use of calming supplements that can promote your sleep, such as magnesium powder, passionflower, and some of the best essential oils.
8. Having an Irregular Sleeping Schedule
Humans are defined as creatures of habit. And these habitual routines are what help us get things done efficiently. However, when it comes to sleep, most of us take this for granted. Rather than making regular sleep a habit, we find ourselves varying our sleeping schedules from day to day.
Your body has a natural clock that guides you on when to sleep and wake up; the circadian rhythm. However, when you have an irregular sleeping pattern, the circadian rhythm is affected. This natural clock gradually loses its ability to determine when you are supposed to feel tired, drowsy, and sleepy. By the way, did you know that intermittent fasting can help reset your circadian rhythm?
Also, irregular sleep patterns can result in changes in the levels of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is a crucial hormone that signals the brain to sleep. Therefore, altering the levels of melatonin, sleeping and waking at different times each day ruins your sleep.
To sleep better every night, try keeping a consistent sleeping schedule. The following tips can help you start an effective sleeping schedule and stick to it:
- Set an alarm each day to fix your waking time.
- Go to bed immediately you feel drowsy or sleepy – However, make sure that you go to bed early enough so that you get enough hours of sleep.
- Sometimes, try making up naturally – With time, your circadian rhythm should adapt to waking up at the same time every day.
9. Staying Indoors
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, most of us now work from home. In addition to going to the office rarely, we also do our shopping online, having most things delivered right at our door. This new lifestyle has made staying indoors the new norm.
However, spending too much indoors can have a negative impact on your sleeping pattern. The circadian rhythm uses natural sunlight during the day to help you stay awake, and also tell your body when to feel sleepy. In other words, the bright light that occurs during the day keeps the circadian rhythm healthy and well-functional.
When you spend too much of your time indoors, you minimize your exposure to natural light. Lack of sunlight exposure, in turn, prevents your circadian rhythm from functioning optimally. You might find yourself feeling all heavy-eyed during the day and fully awake during the night.
Therefore, even if your work or circumstances force you to spend much time indoors, it is crucial that you make time each day to go outside. Exposing your body to natural light will not only help to improve your overall sleep quality but also reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep.
In research conducted on people with insomnia, it was found that exposure to daytime light increased sleep efficiency by 80%. Also, such natural bright light increased a person’s amount of sleep by up to two hours.
These findings prove that daily exposure to light is vital if you are to experience healthy, relaxing sleep. However, if getting exposure to natural light is hard or impossible, you can consider investing in artificial bright bulbs or light devices. These special light devices offer almost the same advantages as natural sunlight and bright light.
If you find yourself struggling to sleep after the lockdown, you may be suffering from post-lockdown burnout, an unfortunate unintended psychological consequence of the pandemic.
They say sleep is the key foundation for good life and health. Lack of sleep is attributed to numerous health conditions, such as obesity, higher risks of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and reduced immune function. More so, less sleep even affects your moods and productivity levels at work.
Indeed, getting enough sleep is just as important as having a healthy diet and regular exercise. So if you are not already getting quality sleep at night, it is high time you sat and examined what the causes might be.
The above-discussed “9 Habits That Can Ruin Your Sleep” are the major causes of sleep deprivation in many individuals. Do you relate to any of those habits? Well, start acting now; put into practice those practical suggestions provided on how to improve your sleep and you will soon get to enjoy the relaxing sleep that you have been missing out on!