If you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest, it might be time to make some changes to your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a concept that describes the routines and habits that support sleep. These habits include going to bed and waking up at the same time each day and creating a cozy sleep-inducing bedroom environment. But not all of our daily habits are sleep-friendly. Check this list of bad sleeping habits to see if you can make some changes to get better sleep.
1. Consuming Caffeine Too Close to Bedtime
Most of us understand that caffeine, a stimulant found in coffee, black and green tea, chocolate, and some energy drinks, can interfere with sleep. A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine compared the effects of 400 milligrams of caffeine zero, three, and six hours before sleep. The researchers found that even six hours before bedtime, caffeine significantly disrupted the subjects’ sleep.
Caffeine can affect people differently, so pay attention to your pick-me-up cutoff time to see if it has an impact on your sleep.
2. Drinking Alcohol Before Bed
While it might seem like a good way to wind down, alcohol can sabotage your sleep. According to NBC News, drinking before bed can help you fall asleep quickly. However, where you might start out the night in a deep, heavy sleep state, as your body metabolizes the alcohol, your brain will stay in lighter sleep stages as the night goes on. This is the inverse of how the sleep cycle usually works and can leave you feeling groggy in the morning.
Try having a cocktail earlier in the evening or switch out the booze for sparkling water or chamomile tea.
If you’ve been looking for a reason to quit smoking, here’s a good one. The stimulant nicotine found in cigarettes can negatively impact your sleep in various ways. Smoking can also increase your risk of obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder where breathing stops throughout the night. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, smokers wake more often at night and don’t sleep as well as non-smokers.
4. Leading a Sedentary Lifestyle
Regular exercise can help you sleep better, though researchers aren’t exactly sure how. Moderate aerobic exercise boosts the amount of deep sleep we get, according to Johns Hopkins. However, some people find that exercising close to bedtime keeps them awake. If this is the case for you, try adjusting your workout to earlier in the day to see if your sleep improves.
5. Eating a Big Meal Before Bed
An NBC News article on how diet affects sleep states that a healthy diet gives the body and brain the nutrients that support good sleep. Eating more fiber, healthy fats like olive oil, and cutting back on sugar benefit both our overall health and our ability to sleep well. Eating spicy or fatty fried foods close to bedtime can cause your digestive system to work overtime during a time of rest, which can negatively affect your sleep. Eating your last meal of the day well before bedtime is a simple fix that can help you sleep better. If you do want a snack closer to bedtime, read about three foods that can help you get a good night’s sleep.
6. Experiencing Chronic Stress
WebMD defines stress as “a response to adverse and challenging circumstances and a response to daily life.” This definition illustrates how difficult it can be to quantify stress, but most of us can tell when we are in a calm period of life versus a stressful phase. Stress can cause sleep problems, which in turn can cause us to feel more stressed. To break this cycle, it’s important to explore the roots of what’s causing stress in our lives to effectively address them and get the healing rest we need. Whether finding a therapist to work through trauma or adopting a calming bedtime routine – or both – finding ways to understand and then mitigate everyday stress can help you sleep better.
7. Napping Too Close to Bedtime
Napping can help you catch up on missed sleep. The key is to be strategic, so you don’t struggle to fall asleep at bedtime. A Mayo Clinic guide to napping recommends keeping naps short (no more than 20 minutes), in a dark, quiet setting, and timed at least six hours before your regular bedtime. If it’s later in the day, try powering through (without caffeine) to avoid disrupting your sleep.