You might have bad sleeping patterns & habits, and not even realize it. After all, most people don’t think much about how the things they do at night can affect how well they rest.
You’ve probably got good intentions when it comes to your sleeping habits, also referred to as sleep hygiene.
However, the things you do on a daily basis could be doing more harm to your sleep than good. If you’ve developed poor nighttime habits over the years, here are some of the best practices so that you can adjust your lifestyle with minimal disruption to your routine.
Poor Sleeping Habits to Avoid
Exercising Too Close to Bedtime
When you exercise you get a rush of endorphins, and you increase adrenaline and cortisol levels in your bloodstream. The effects are stimulating and can last for hours. For many people, falling asleep directly after a workout is nearly impossible; however, for others, it’s not a challenge. If you’re someone who can’t seem to snooze after a session at the gym, then plan your workouts for earlier in the day.
Using Gadgets in Your Bed
Most people like to wind down at night by watching television, using their smartphones to check social media or play games, reading on an e-reader or playing video games. The truth is that the lights from these screens will likely serve to keep you awake. Try to avoid screen time within an hour or two of bedtime. Shut off all of these devices when they’re in your bedroom. In the case of your smartphone, put it across the room or in an adjoining room to avoid being distracted by it.
Eating dinner immediately before bed is a big no-no. The act of digestion could prevent you from falling asleep easily, and you’re prone to heartburn if you lie down immediately after eating.
Working Right Up Until Bedtime
You might have to put those workaholic tendencies to rest before bedtime. If you’re working right up until you hit the hay, the chances of you being able to drift off to sleep easily are close to zero. Your brain needs time to wind down and relax before letting sleep overtake it.
Staying Up Late
Even an occasional late night can adversely affect your sleep schedule. The reason is that it could be more difficult to wake up at your regular time the next morning. You’ll probably drag yourself through the day. If you succumb to a nap, then it could encourage a bout of insomnia later that night. It’s best to have a set bedtime each night, and then stick to it.
Sleeping in on the Weekends
Who doesn’t love a lazy lie-in on a Saturday or Sunday? The problem with sleeping in on the weekends is that it sets up for having trouble falling asleep on Sunday night. You’re more likely to be sleep-deprived on Monday morning, and the sleep deficit is likely to build during the week.
As a result, you could be even more tempted to lie in later on the weekends. Instead, you should maintain a consistent sleeping schedule every day, weekends included.
Here are some easy tricks to fix your bedtime schedule today.
Drinking Alcohol Before Bed
A glass of wine or a cocktail might seem like the perfect way to relax at the end of the day. And yes, alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but there could be a couple of problems with this approach:
- The alcohol might make you too drowsy, causing you to fall asleep earlier than you normally would.
- As the alcohol metabolizes in your system and the effects wear off, you might wake up and have trouble going back to sleep.
How It Affects Your Life
In addition to leading to more serious health problems in the long run like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and mood disorders, not getting regular amounts of sleep on a consistent basis can also wreak havoc on your daily life.
Being more irritable, using poor judgment and having slower than average reaction times are direct effects of not getting proper rest. When you’re not at your best, you could inadvertently harm your career and relationships, not to mention that if you drive or operate heavy machinery while drowsy, you also greatly increase your risk of hurting yourself and others.
Building Good Sleep Habits
Avoid Eating Too Close to Bedtime
Going to bed hungry is seldom the solution, but neither is a late-night feast. If you’re feeling peckish before bed, grab a light snack. A handful of almonds or a banana dipped in nut butter should provide enough protein and tryptophan to help you sleep.
If you’re a coffee, tea, or soda drinker, avoid these beverages in the afternoon and evenings. Also, watch out for chocolate, which also contains caffeine. The same goes for foods that include coffee and chocolate flavorings or ingredients. They can all end up keeping you awake.
Avoid Screen Time
You already know that the LED lights given off by electronic devices disrupt your melatonin production and make falling asleep more difficult. You don’t need to avoid screen time altogether, but it’s best to eliminate it with an hour or two of going to bed.
Avoid Hitting the Snooze Button
Hitting snooze is a seemingly unavoidable temptation, but once you know that it has zero benefit and does more harm than good, you may be able to resist the force. Even though it’s hard to wake up first thing in the morning, hitting snooze won’t provide you with restful sleep. You’ll probably doze for a few minutes in light sleep and then be jarred awake moments later.
By the time you do finally get up, you’re more likely to be groggy and irritable than if you had just gotten out of bed when your alarm first buzzed.
Avoid a Warm Room Temperature
As humanity has evolved, the human genome has designed the body to drop its core body temperature while resting. Therefore, an ideal sleeping environment should range between 60 and 67 degrees. If you can’t control the room temperature with a thermostat, opt for bedding and bedclothes that allow you to keep cool.
Read more: What's the Best Temperature for Sleep?
Avoid Odd Sleeping Hours
Consistency is key when it comes to a bedtime routine. Avoid all-nighters that tend to be followed by a crash or early bedtime the next night. The best thing you can do is plan to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
It can be a challenge to maintain this schedule on weekends, so give yourself an extra hour to sleep in, if you must, but no more than that.
Create a Regular Exercise Schedule
Getting regular exercise is an effective way to also regulate your sleep routine. If you work out first thing in the morning or at lunchtime, you can get a burst of energy to see you through the day, and you should naturally feel more tired at night. If the only time you can work out is after work, make sure you get to the gym (or any other place you exercise) straight away to give yourself plenty of time to recover and tire afterward.
Improve Your Sleep Environment
A bright and noisy room with an uncomfortable mattress can all affect your ability to get a good night’s rest. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet and that your bed has a supportive mattress (you can see our top 12 mattress picks that are perfect for anyone).
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some bad sleep habits of babies?
It’s hard to imagine that a baby could develop a bad habit, but it is indeed possible. Here are the top five bad habits that babies can develop when it comes to sleep:
- Needing to be holding on to mom to fall asleep.
- Needing to be breastfed right before bed.
- Requiring a bottle to be on hand.
- Not being able to fall asleep unless mom or dad is driving the car.
- Needing to be rocked to sleep.
All of these habits are perfectly reasonable, and in fact may be a necessity, to get your baby to fall asleep. But, this is only up to a point. During the first three months, your baby isn’t trying to manipulate you and hasn’t formed any habits. They’re responding only to their internal and external stimuli.
However, by six months of age, if your baby is relying on any of these crutches, it’s time to work on gently breaking the bad habits.
Is it difficult to break bad sleeping habits in adults?
Yes, it can be. As an adult, you might be holding on to bad bedtime habits that were developed when you were a child. The key is to know what good habits are, know what bad habits you may have, and then take the necessary steps to correct them.
Can it cause sleep deprivation?
Yes, absolutely! Not sleeping on a routine schedule and engaging in sleep-disrupting habits before bed can result in an endless cycle of sleep debt and deprivation. It makes sense that if you’re not able to fall asleep easily at night, yet you still have to get up for work or school in the morning, you won’t get enough rest, and that might lead to a deprived state.
Can you fix your sleep schedule for one night?
Yes, you can fix your sleep schedule in a single night. Scientists know that the body’s sleep-wake cycles are determined by a number of factors. Most people focus on the role that lightness and darkness play in their sleeping habits, but food is also a driver of when the body falls asleep and wake up.
If you stop eating for 12 to 16 hours (consider it a mini fast), you should be able to reset your internal clock. Plan to break the fast at your preferred wake-up time. The effect is that you’ve started your day in this new time zone, and you should be on track from here on out, as long as you continue to maintain the healthy habits outlined earlier in this article.
Most people have several poor sleeping & pre-bedtime habits, not just one! You may dismiss them as “normal,” or part of your busy lifestyle, but if it’s affecting the amount of shuteye you get each night, or you’re noticing a couple of extra stubborn pounds creeping up around your midsection, it might be time to consider ditching these bad habits and adopting newer, healthier ones.