9 Things You Should Never Do When You Can’t Sleep
We've all had those nights where falling asleep seems impossible, no matter how hard we try. Some people try counting sheep while others just toss and turn until the sheer exhaustion kicks in. But to be able to doze off as quickly as possible, there are a number of things you should never do when you can't sleep, as they could end up making you feel more awake. It might seem like playing on your phone is a good way to pass the time, but it could actually leave you staring at the ceiling longer than you would like.
"Quality of sleep can be affected by many different things and is unique to each individual," says Annmarie Belmonte, PsyD, a member of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, over email. "If in general you are more restless at bed time due to worry, too much caffeine, or too heavy of a meal, these could all compromise the quality of sleep. Bedroom environment is also important, as it needs to be quiet enough, cool enough, and dark enough to sleep."
Keeping things in mind, you'll want to make the right choices when you find that you are unable to relax into an easy slumber. Here are nine things you should never do when you can't sleep at night.
1. Stay In Bed More Than 20 Minutes
"If you are unable to fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, get out of bed and go to another room," says sleep expert Teofilo L. Lee-Chiong Jr, MD, Chief Medical Liaison, Philips, over email. "Engage in a restful activity, and return to bed only when sleepy." This will help prevent you from associating your bed with restlessness and unwanted thoughts.
2. Worry About Not Sleeping
"Do not worry about not sleeping," says Belmonte. "Worry keeps people awake." Practice acceptance, as everyone has a bad night sleep from time to time. Instead of focusing on the fact that you can't sleep, try to distract yourself with some other relaxing activity.
3. Turn On The Lights
"Do not turn on the lights to read, as light reduces the amount of melatonin your produce," says Dr. Robert Oexman, Director of The Sleep to Live Institute, over email. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep/wake cycle, and turning on a light indicates to your body that it's time to wake up rather than drift off to sleep.
4. Play On Your Phone Or Computer
"Do not turn on phone, laptop, computer or any other device that produces light," says Oexman. The blue light emitted from these devices are actually stronger than a night light or table lamp and can have a drastic effect on melatonin production and your circadian rhythm, according to Harvard Health. This can not only make it harder for you to fall asleep, but it can worsen your sleep quality once you've finally dozed off.
5. Have A Drink
A glass of wine sounds tempting when you're having trouble going to bed. Although it may make you feel a little sleepier, alcohol decreases the quality and quantity of your sleep. "It may help you fall asleep, but it has a rebound effect two to three hour after falling asleep," says Oexman. Alcohol causes disruptions to Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which can cause daytime drowsiness and poor concentration, according to WebMD.
6. Sleep In The Next Day
It sounds ideal to sleep in the next day to make up for lost hours at night, but this can mess up your sleep cycle even more, and you might find yourself tossing and turning again the following night. "Irregular bed times — and especially wake times — interrupt your circadian rhythms, which can lead to insomnia," says Oexman. "If you stay up a little bit late on the weekends, go ahead and wake up at your normal time the next day, but get back on your normal bed time the next night."
7. Stare At The Fridge
It's tempting to hit the refrigerator for a midnight snack, but you don't want to contemplate with the doors open for too long. "Again, the light from the refrigerator will reduce the amount of melatonin you produce," says Oexman. Stick to a snack from the cabinet or quickly grab something without spending too much time exposing yourself to light.
8. Eat Something Heavy
When you find yourself staring at the ceiling, you might be tempted to order a pizza or heat up those leftovers, but avoid eating anything too heavy right before you go back to sleep. "The body needs sufficient time to digest food," says Belmonte. Stick to foods that are okay to eat night and won't disrupt your sleep, such as nuts, seeds, and cheese.
9. Fall Asleep On The Couch
Part of creating the association between your bed and sleep is not allowing yourself to drift off somewhere else. "Do not fall asleep on the couch," says Belmonte. "You can get out of bed go into another room for 30-60 minutes but if you are sleepy go back to your bed to sleep. This reinforces that your bed is for sleep."