No matter what I do, I'm always tired. This is the case even though I go to bed embarrassingly early, and stay there for a full eight hours. So it occurred to me recently that I must be accidentally messing up my sleep, and therefore not getting as much quality rest as I thought.
And, as it turns out, I was totally right. When I really think about my sleep hygiene, I suddenly remember sipping coffee before bed, or waking up at 2 a.m. to play with my phone. It seems like pretty innocent stuff, but it definitely doesn't lead to quality sleep.
As Eric J. Olson, M.D., said on MayoClinic.org, "If your sleep is frequently interrupted, you're not getting quality sleep. The quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity." This means snoring away until morning, and going through multiple REM cycles. That's obviously not the case for me, so no wonder I always feel sleepy and sluggish.
If you feel the same way, then you're probably accidentally messing up your sleep with same bad habits. Read on to find out some mores ways you're accidentally messing with your sleep, and what you can do about it.
1. You Ate Before Bed
It's a good idea to have a light snack before bed so you don't wake up feeling hungry. Just make sure it's not something heavy or spicy, as it can make your body work too hard. As Niki McGloster said on EliteDaily.com, "Your body needs to begin shutting down before bed, not work to digest all that food you just ate. Avoid big meals within three hours of going to bed."
2. Your Room Is Too Warm
It may feel comfy, but turning your room into a furnace isn't a good idea. As Shelby Harris, Ph.D., noted on Psychology Today, "... a room that is too warm (or cold, for that matter) can cause multiple awakenings at night, leading to more disrupted and less refreshing sleep." The best temp is between 55 and 74 degrees, so turn off your heat, or crack a window, to keep it at the right spot.
3. You Worked Too Much
Here's another reason to hate on your busy work schedule — it can keep you from sleeping well at night. "According to a 2014 study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, work was the primary culprit that kept people from getting enough sleep. Unsurprisingly, this was often tied to early start times and long commutes," said Maghan McDowell on Livestrong.com.
4. You Took A Shower
It's a good idea to shower before bed, especially if you want to speed up your morning routine. Just make sure you rinse off well before bed, so the heat doesn't mess up your sleep. As Harris said, "Good sleepers tend to have a slight drop in their body temperature just as sleep starts to come on each night ... So while taking a hot shower or bath just before bedtime sounds like a good idea, it can actually warm up your body even more." Thus messing up the cool-down cycle, and making it difficult for you to drift off.
5. You Had A Night Cap
If you've been having trouble sleeping, you might think that a glass of wine, or a nice little nighttime cocktail, could do the trick. And yes, it might knock you out for a moment. But alcohol actually makes staying asleep more difficult. As McDowell said, "... alcohol initially acts as a sedative, [then] it ... diminishes your quality of sleep." Instead, try to chill out with a cup of tea, or equally relaxing warm beverage.
6. You Slept In
If you are feeling sleep deprived, don't try to catch up by sleeping in late, or taking random naps during the day. "Late nights followed by extra sack time the next morning throw off your internal clock, which is controlled by a cluster of nerve cells in the brain that also regulate appetite and body temperature ... When Sunday rolls around, you're reprogrammed to stay up past your bedtime, and you feel like a zombie on Monday morning," according to the editors of Prevention.
7. You Watched A Movie
It's totally normal to try to fall asleep to a movie, or your favorite Netflix show. But doing so can actually keep you up, and ruin your sleep. As Harris said, "Watching the news or a gripping show can be psychologically stimulating, but the blue light most screens give off make your brain think that it is still daytime. As a result, melatonin — a hormone in our brain that comes out in darkness and makes us sleepy — doesn't come on as strongly and we aren't able to get sleepy." It's best to keep all that TV watching for earlier in the evening, and try to fall asleep with a book instead.
8. You Forgot To Clean
If you need some more motivation to clean, perhaps a good night's sleep will be it. As it turns out, a messy room can keep your mind preoccupied as you try to sleep, according to Prevention. So straighten up your room before bed, or at least keep the mess out of sight (i.e., away from night stands).
9. You Let Your Dog In The Room
Nothing says "sleep" quite like your cat standing on your face at 4 a.m. and that's why you need to band your pet to another room while you sleep. "Even if your pet doesn’t fully wake you up, sleeping with an animal can interrupt your sleep cycle," McGloster said. It may be cute, but it's just not worth it.
10. You Didn't Relax
If you don't have cats or TV screens keeping you up, it could be stress that's to blame for your lack of REM cycles. As Harris noted, "Stress is the number one cause of short-term sleep difficulty ... If you can’t sleep, get up and out of bed, sit in dim light in another room, and do something quiet, calm, and relaxing that helps take your mind off your worries." Harris suggested writing a to-do list to get everything off your mind. Hopefully doing so will allow you to get back to sleep, worry-free.
11. You Let Light Creep In
Your room may seem dark, but if you can't sleep, look around for any light that's creeping its way in. The ambient light from street lamps, alarm clocks, and DVD players can mess with your internal clock, according to Prevention, and make you feel more awake. Cover up LED lights, or get a sleep mask, to trick your brain into feeling super relaxed.
It's so frustratingly easy to mess up your sleep. Thankfully, it's also really easy to fix it. I don't know about you, but I'm going to fix my ways, and finally get some sleep.
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