Hey there. I’m Sarah. I’m a freelance writer who spends most of her working hours writing about sleep. It’s a subject that fascinates me because even though I live a very active lifestyle, I often have difficulty in drifting off when I need to. But since researching and writing about sleep at the Sleep Advisor, I’ve taken every effort to follow my own advice, and that of my peers. Now all the yoga and the hiking and the swimming I do in my free time wear me out in the right way… and I find myself sleeping like a baby at night! My aim is to help other people sleep as well as I do, which is what the following piece is all about… Enjoy!
When it comes to our sleep, most of us are guilty of some pretty unhealthy habits. And why is this? Well, a lot of the time we fail to realize just how important sleep is. We listen to people who boast they can function on 4 hours a night. We see our need for rest as a sign of weakness; proud if we get up at dawn for a run before work, even if we’ve only gotten to sleep a few hours before. We mock those people who go to bed at 10 pm, calling them “boring”. As if staying up late to watch movies or catch up on emails is an impressive thing!
If you’re not sleeping well, sometimes it isn’t your fault. And sometimes you have no idea how you can improve what can seem like a vicious cycle of sleeplessness leading to stress leading to more sleeplessness.
But sometimes your ability to sleep is something you definitely can control. By getting into healthier sleeping habits and kicking those bad habits to the curb.
Here’s a rundown of the habits that can disrupt our sleep. They’re the ones you should start getting out of, ASAP.
1) Drinking caffeine too late in the day
If your typical day contains 4 coffees, well it’s no wonder why you’re having trouble sleeping! But don’t worry, I won’t be so cruel as to suggest you give up caffeine altogether. Just monitor your timings a little better. Because even if your last coffee is at 4 pm, that can impact your sleep in a big way. After all, caffeine can take up to 6 hours to wear off. So if you’re hitting the hay at 9.30pm, expecting to be asleep by 10… well, it might be harder than you think. Take my advice and have that last cup ‘o’ joe by midday. Your sleep will thank you for it.
2) Having sugar… at any time of day!
Another major influencer on our sleep is sugar. It doesn’t matter what time of day you have it, if your blood sugar levels are too high, you ain’t getting that sound slumber you’re after! You may rely on sugar to give you energy during the day but there are healthier ways to boost your energy levels; for instance, like getting a good ol’ dose of exercise and fresh air in.
If the thought of cutting out all sugar from your life sends you into panic mode, don’t worry. That’s not the aim here. Instead, create an achievable and realistic plan that minimizes your sugar intake, and see the difference it makes to your sleep. Once you start sleeping better, you’ll have more energy in the days that follow… and you mightn’t even need that sugar hit after all!
3) Watching stuff in bed
Once upon a time, I was definitely guilty of this one. I got hooked on Netflix and felt like I couldn’t sleep at night unless I watched at least one episode of whatever drama series had my attention. The thing is, this habit meant that I was actually getting worse sleep. My mind would become stimulated instead of relaxed, I’d find it hard to drift off and when I did my dreams would be of the scary, violent variety. Not exactly the makings of a sweet slumber!
Since making an agreement with myself to stop watching stuff in bed, my sleep has improved dramatically. Now I read a book instead for half an hour before lights out… and I’m usually half-asleep after just a few pages!
4) Sleeping with your phone
Again, another bad habit that I used to be guilty of. I’d check WhatsApp and my Insta account before turning out the light, which seemed harmless enough. But then I’d find myself checking my phone throughout the night, too. Turning off notifications didn’t help; I’d wind up with my phone in my hand anyway, the harsh light waking me up further as I needlessly scrolled down through its contents.
I didn’t even realize how much my phone was disrupting my sleep until I read this article on the harmful effects of blue light. Then I bought an alarm clock and started switching my phone off at night (even leaving it in the other room so I wouldn’t be tempted!) The result? A deeper, undisturbed sleep. Bliss!
5) Sleeping with your pet
Pet-lovers out there might disagree with me on this one. But much as I adore my dog, I don’t let her sleep in the room with me. The fact is, she’s a very loud snorer! And physically, she’d take up so much space in my bed that I know I couldn’t sleep properly with her beside me.
Obviously, this is your call. But if you allow your pet in your bed and you have trouble sleeping because of it… well, maybe it’s time to put yourself first. Sorry, Peaches!
There you have it, folks: 5 habits to kick if you have trouble sleeping! Here’s to sweeter dreams every night, and to a more rested you in the days that follow.
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