I'm a terrible sleeper. I always go to bed too late and wake up too early. Even when I get in bed at 9 p.m., I find a way to stay awake until after midnight, killing braincells with my phone or computer. Besides the obvious fact that I'm always tired and low energy because of this, I'm perpetually bummed because I love sleeping. But I'm a light sleeper, which means that literally anything that happens in the outside world, be it a heater banging or wind blowing, will wake me up. There are only so many things I can do to control the way the outside world affects my sleep, short of putting myself in a hyperbaric chamber. I can make sure my curtains are properly fitted and with optimal opacity. I can make sure my door is closed and whatever audio sleep aids/noise cancelers are in use. I can find the perfect mattress and the softest sheets.
But even with all that outside work done, I still suffered from interrupted sleep cycles, and an inability to find restorative sleep. And so I hit the Internets. As it turns out, there are lots of things that can affect your sleep that are not obvious at all. Like for example, did you know that reading a really great book before bed can actually mess with your sleep cycles? And that eating an early bird special dinner can keep you from steady sleep too? Here are 7 other unexpected things I learned can come between you and a solid relationship with the ZZZzzzzs.
Stress is like the ghost in the attic in a horror film. Even when you ignore it, it's still there, making its presence known in the strangest ways. When it's particularly heavy, it can switch on the body's adrenaline, increasing heart-rate, blood flow and alertness. But even when it's not creating obvious disturbances in your waking life, it's affecting your dreams and in return, your sleep quality. There is absolutely nothing fun about anxiety dreams — you always wake up from them feeling more tired that you were before you went to bed.
There are a bazillion health benefits to be had from eating regularly. The more consistent your eating habits are, the more consistent your blood sugar levels are. Do your absolute best to eat the same distance from your bed time each night. Whether that means 6 p.m. or 9 p.m., what's important is that your body has the same time to digest and regulate each night. Good luck trying to go to bed hungry, the increased heart rate and cravings will drag you out of bed, zombie-style, straight to the fridge.
You've heard this a million times, yet you can't control yourself. You think there's nothing better than cradling your phone in your hands before bed. But guess what, whether you choose to believe it or not, that screen time is lowering your sleep quality. If you have to spend an hour on your phone before bed, make sure that you leave an extra twenty minutes for yourself to lay in bed without any gadgets on. Use this time to meditate, focus on your breathing, count sheep, or reflect on your day.
Sometimes going to bed in your ex's sweatsuit seems like the greatest idea — you're comfy as all hell. And sometimes going to bed totally naked feels really sexy and freeing. Typically speaking, both types of bed fashion are bound to disrupt your sleep cycle. If you go to bed wearing too many layers, you're going to wake up when your body starts to over-heat. If you go to bed naked, you're going to wake up when your temperature drops in your deepest sleep, because you're freezing. Just pick thin, breathable fabrics that feel best on your skin.
That episode of GoT that's got you all wiled up is totally going to mess with your sleep cycles. Unfortunately, in order to get optimal sleep, you've gotta keep your mind away from things that are too exciting before bed. Swap that out for a snooze-fest book or episode of The Bedford Stop.
I know, I know, booze can even make an elephant pass out. But passing out isn't the goal — getting good, uninterrupted, restorative sleep is the goal. Anything consumed an hour before sleep can crimp your sleep style. A glass of wine an hour before bed is fine, but a hot toddy or tumbler full of whatever night cap you've convinced yourself you need is actually just putting sugar in your veins and lowering the quality of the night ahead. Try swapping the booze for a cup of caffeine-free tea.