Five Bad Sleep Habits That Will Keep You Tossing and Turning
If you’ve been struggling to get enough sleep, it might be due to one or more bad sleep habits. Fortunately, it’s possible to change these habits and replace them with some simple solutions that encourage better rest. Here’s an overview of five of the worst sleep offenders with alternatives that can shift you from tossing and turning to peacefully slumbering.
Bad Sleep Habit #1: Keeping an Irregular Sleep Schedule
When it comes to bad sleep habits, this one fortunately has a relatively simple fix. If you don’t follow a regular sleep schedule, meaning going to bed and waking at relatively the same times each day, it can impact your ability to get adequate rest. A study in the journal Diabetes Care found that irregular sleep schedules can carry serious health risks, including high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and increased blood sugar levels.
New sleep solution: If possible, try to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, including on weekends. Establishing this new habit can signal to your mind and body that sleep occurs during your established hours.
Bad Sleep Habit #2: Drinking Caffeine or Alcohol Before Bedtime
It might be tempting to have a comforting drink to help you wind down at night. However, the contents of that drink might have the opposite effect on your ultimate goal of getting to sleep and staying asleep.
Everyone’s sensitivity to caffeine is a bit different. As a rule, cutting out caffeinated drinks a few hours before bedtime can prevent this stimulant from keeping you awake past your bedtime.
As for alcohol, even though it’s a depressant that can help some people fall asleep faster, alcohol can interfere with your ability to sleep deeply and to stay asleep, according to WebMD.
New sleep solution: If having a calming beverage before bed is part of a soothing routine, try a small serving of decaffeinated herbal tea or a glass of warm milk.
Bad Sleep Habit #3: Overeating Too Close to Bedtime
Eating a heavy meal or even a fatty snack before bedtime puts your digestive system to work, which can impact how deeply you sleep.
New sleep solution: Give your digestive system a rest so you can get some, too. Avoid heavy meals or fatty or sugary “empty calorie” snacks right before bedtime. Sometimes a light bedtime snack or (noncaffeinated and nonalcoholic) beverage can help you fall asleep, but the trick is to not overdo it. If you’re looking for something lighter to support your sleep routine, read our guide to three foods that encourage sleep.
Bad Sleep Habit #4: Allowing Too Much Light in Your Bedroom During Sleeping Hours
Our brains need sufficient darkness to achieve optimal levels of deep sleep. In fact, according to research cited by the Cleveland Clinic, people who live in densely populated areas or near bright streetlights are more likely to report difficulty sleeping.
Relatedly, before-bed screen time can also disrupt your ability to fall asleep by keeping your mind from relaxing enough to drift off.
New sleep solution: To keep any outside light from entering your bedroom windows, room darkening curtains and window shades are available in a variety of styles and sizes. Rather than scrolling on your phone or leaving the TV on, try reading a (physical) book or listening to a guided meditation app before bedtime.
Bad Sleep Habit #5: Sleeping in a Bedroom That’s Too Warm
The National Sleep Foundation notes that cooler ambient temperatures encourage better sleep. This is because a too-warm environment can lead to tossing and turning, which can affect how deeply you sleep.
New sleep solution: While one study suggests setting your thermostat between 67 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, everyone’s needs and preferences are different. At bedtime, try setting your thermostat to a cooler temperature than your usual settings and see if it improves your rest.
Adopting these sleep solutions to counter bad sleep habits is known collectively as good sleep hygiene. If you try these habit corrections and are still struggling to fall or stay asleep, see your healthcare provider to rule out any medical conditions that may be impacting the quality or duration of your sleep.