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Avoid These Bad Sleep Habits for a Better Night’s Rest

Lara Vargas

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Many people strive to get a good night’s sleep when they have a jam-packed day ahead of them. Despite efforts to improve overall sleeping habits or get great sleep before a big day, you may still struggle to fall asleep and spend the night tossing and turning.

Bad sleeping habits find their way into our routines unknowingly. In our post, we talk more about bad habits that may be contributing to sleep loss and offer tips for practicing better sleep hygiene.

1. Following an Inconsistent Sleep Schedule and Sleeping In on Weekends

Researchers have found that an irregular sleep schedule contributes to inadequate sleep. Most people don’t follow a strict sleep schedule or adhere to the same bedtime and wake time every single morning. It’s not uncommon for people to get up early on workdays and make up for lost sleep on weekends. However, following an inconsistent sleep schedule and trying to make up for lost sleep can actually make your overall sleeping habits and quality worse.

Your body prefers routine, your circadian rhythm works best when it’s reinforced with consistency. Sure, you may wake up feeling well-rested on your day off after sleeping in late, but you’ll pay for it the next time you have to wake up early.

To wake up feeling rested all seven days of the week, we suggest setting a bedtime and wake-up time and sticking to it even on days you have a chance to sleep in. Fighting the urge to sleep in on the weekends can be difficult, but finding morning activities that bring you joy will make sleeping in less desirable. Going on a hike or grabbing breakfast with friends are just two ways you can kick-off your weekends with some excitement.

Routine will bolster your internal body clock and soon enough, you’ll begin to grow drowsy at the same time each night and wake in the mornings without an alarm.

2. Drinking Caffeine and Snacking Before Bed

Sugary and fatty snacks are associated with lighter and less revitalizing sleep because. Large meals, greasy foods, and caffeine make it harder to unwind and relax before bed, as they put you at risk of acid reflux and indigestion, and they provide your body with extra energy—the opposite of what you need when trying to drift off.

When it comes to bedtime snacking, keep late-night snacks light and healthy. You shouldn’t go to bed hungry, but eating junk before bed can cause bellyaches and hinder deep sleep.

3. Hitting the Snooze Button

Repeatedly hitting the snooze button may be an indicator of poor sleep at night. The sleep that we get in between alarms is not restorative, refreshing sleep for the body and mind.

Studies show your body begins the waking process before you even open your eyes. You may not realize it but the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm knows when it’s time to start the day.

Your circadian rhythm is regulated by PER, a protein our cells use to tell our body when to sleep or be awake. Your body learns to increase your PER levels at your normal rising time. About two hours are supposed to wake up, PER levels rise, along with your body temperature and blood pressure. Your brain also starts to release cortisol, a hormone that promotes wakefulness.

Hitting snooze throws off your body’s natural “wake up” routine. Drifting off back to sleep after the body has woken up can cause sleep inertia. Sleep inertia is the transitional state between sleep and wakefulness. This condition is known to impair the performance, reduce vigilance, and also bring on a feeling of drowsiness that can last for hours.

4. Keeping Electronics Near Your Bed

Technology usage while lying in bed is another reason your brain may associate your bed with wakefulness, and blue light from your devices hurts the sleep process.

Regular light exposure from lamps or sunlight can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that your brain produces that helps with the timing of your circadian rhythms. However, blue light at night can suppress melatonin for about twice as long.

The light from our devices is “short-wavelength-enriched,” meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light. When these wavelengths are emitted, your alertness increases and your mood becomes elevated. Overall, this delays the release of sleep-inducing melatonin and alerts your circadian rhythm to fall asleep later.

At least 30 minutes before bed, you should stop using electronic devices like laptops, e-readers, and cellphones. Put time limits on your favorite apps or set your phone on do not disturb to avoid disruptive notifications.

5. Maintaining a Poor Sleep Environment

Frequent disturbances while sleeping, such as loud noises outside and intrusive lights, all contribute to a poor sleep environment. To ensure you are providing yourself with the best sleeping conditions, use blackout blinds and sleep in a dark space.

It is not a good idea to complete work or study in your bedroom. Your sleeping space should be used for relaxation only. If you choose to do work, make sure it’s at a desk or outside of your bedroom.

6. Sleeping On a Crowded Bed

Comfort is an essential part of sleep—without it, you find yourself tossing and turning all night. If you are sharing your mattress with your significant other, communicate preferred sleeping conditions. Once you and your partner discuss what contributes to your poor sleeping, you can work together to find a fitting solution for both of you.

Also, try to keep your pets off of your mattress. If you find your pets are hogging the bed, move them into a bed onto the floor of your room. Make a distinct difference between your bed and your pet’s sleeping area each night. Eventually, they will learn that your bed is not for sleeping.

Sleeping with your children in your bed is another reason you may not be receiving the best sleep. Toddlers tend to move all through the night, and they will find a way to disrupt your sleep. Try your best to enforce that they sleep in their bed, so you both get a better night’s sleep.

Other Causes of Sleep Loss

Losing even one night of rest can result in extreme drowsiness the following day. Making it difficult to manage the day normally. There is no doubt a good night of sleep can’t be taken for granted, but sometimes our busy lives can get the best of us, and it’s not unusual to miss one or two nights of rest.

Lifestyle Stressors

Daily activities, such as trying to reach a deadline or working in a fast-paced environment, can make life stressful. Struggling to decompress after a long day of work can bring stress into your bedroom. This behavior can affect the quality and the duration of sleep each night. In turn, a bad night of sleep can cause you stress throughout the day, making it harder to complete your daily routine.

When faced with anxieties and worries, your nervous system causes your body to release stress hormones, such as adrenaline and noradrenaline. These are known as the “fight or flight” responses of the body that gets you ready to conquer a challenge or flee a dangerous situation. Elevated stress levels aggravate the nervous system, and over time, can have a devastating effect on your overall health. Insomnia, sleep apnea, and Restless Legs Syndrome are just a couple of sleep disorders that can stem from stress and sleep deprivation.

Changes in Sleep Schedules and Shift Work

Life doesn’t give everybody the option to set a strict bedtime schedule and follow it. Those in careers requiring shift work (e.g., police officers, nurses, bus drivers) have irregular work schedules and often sleep at different times.

Night shift workers may struggle with sleep the most since melatonin, the sleep hormone, is influenced by sunlight, meaning those who are regularly scheduled night shift have to work against their body’s natural clock to achieve good sleep. On average, a shift worker sleeps 2 to 4 hours less than a typical nine to five worker does each day.

To dampen the impact of sleep deprivation on shift workers, experts recommend shift workers to limit the number of irregular hours they take on, if possible. On that same note, employers should give their employees adequate time to recover from their changing schedules.

Even if you aren’t a shift worker, your normal sleep routine can be disrupted by occasional all-nighters and traveling, our day-to-day activities are always changing, so you may find yourself turning in earlier or later based on the day. When life throws a wrench in your routine, we suggest sticking to your normal schedule as closely as possible to minimize the impact of the inconsistency..

Medications and Medical Conditions

Certain medications are known to interfere with your sleep schedule—some cold medicines and decongestants cause drowsiness, while allergy and pain medications often contain caffeine and make you feel alert.

Restless Legs Syndrome, a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, causes unpleasant sensations in your legs. Even mild cases of RLS can impact sleep, as the desire to move your legs for relief from the “crawling” or “itchy” feel of this condition keeps you awake. If you experience symptoms of RLS, talk with your doctor about your sleep troubles to determine a plan to improve sleep.

Consequences of Poor Sleep

A night of poor rest can be costly, resulting in drowsiness and fatigue. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Take a look at some of the ways sleep loss can impact your everyday life.

Impacts Health and Wellness

Researchers say quality sleep helps in the healing of your heart and blood vessels, and ongoing sleep deprivation has been linked to several chronic diseases and conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.

Studies show sleep deprivation alters the functions  amygdala—the emotional rapid-response center of the brain. This part of the brain plays an important role in our behavior and emotional reactions. Losing a night of sleep increases activity in the amygdala, causing us to react more intensely to situations.

Sleep loss heightens emotions like anger, and can contribute to mood depletion. It’s common for people who frequently lose sleep to also suffer from anxiety and depression. If you’re feeling burnt out from a lack of sleep, contact a health professional to figure out a plan to get you feeling better.

Impairs Your Judgement

It’s not uncommon for one night of sleep loss to affect you for the next couple of days. Many people may catch themselves zoning out at their desk or during a meeting. Sleep deprivation can lead a person to have an episode of microsleeping, periods of sleep that last from a few to several seconds. This phenomenon occurs when a person who is already sleep-deprived tries fighting sleep to remain awake even longer.

Common signs of these episodes include head nodding, yawning, and wondering thoughts.

Many people do not realize these instances occur because they can occur when your eyes are open, resembling a daydream. When we are daydreaming our alertness decreases blank stares and wandering thoughts. This is the same with microsleep. While we are in this dazed state are brains are not processing information correctly, causing a lapse in judgment. This can lead to dangerous situations, often putting you at risk of a potential accident while driving.

How to Improve Sleep Habits?

To overcome poor sleep habits, the easiest first step is to adopt a bedtime routine. Below, we discuss a few ways to practice better sleep hygiene and achieve more rejuvenating rest.

Set a Routine

A consistent sleep schedule can increase sleep duration, helping you get the proper 7 to 9 hours of rest every night. To prevent your internal clock from being thrown off its routine, make sure to get up and go to sleep at the same time each day. Incorporate some pre-bedtime activities into your evening to help you wind down and feel refreshed before bed, such as brushing your teeth, washing your face, and reading a book. These activities allow you to decompress and can make it easier to fall asleep once you lay down in bed.

Use Your Bedroom Only for Sleep

Avoid mind-stimulating activities while lying in bed, including working or playing games on your phone. Associating your bedroom with rest cultivates a peaceful environment.

Swapping out your pillows or switching your blankets are some ways you can make your bedroom more comfortable. Pillows provide additional support and make it easier to fall asleep. Putting a pillow under or between your knees while you sleep will alleviate pressure on your spine and provide you with a better resting position.

Cut Back on Late Night Work

If you are working up until it’s time to go to bed, it’s highly unlikely that you will fall asleep within a couple of minutes. Preserve your nights for rest and try turning in at an earlier time. You may find yourself waking up sooner, and you will be able to utilize that time to get a head start on any work you have.

Be Mindful Of Caffeine Consumption

A caffeinated pick-me-up in the morning is harmless. However, when consumed late in the day, caffeine stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night.

Caffeine can stay in your bloodstream for 6 to 8 hours, so you should avoid drinking caffeine at least seven hours before bed. Sticking with decaf coffee is a great way to curve your cravings late into the day.

Eat Sleep-Inducing Foods At Dinner

To promote better sleep at night, eat your dinner at least three hours before bed and try incorporating sleep-inducing foods into your evening meals to facilitate drowsiness. Whole grains, white rice, leafy greens, salmon and cod, and lean white meats like turkey all contain vitamins and minerals to enhance your rest and prevent sleep disturbances.

That said, if you do want to indulge in the occasional greasy burger or fast food dinner, eat as early as possible and use a wedge pillow or adjustable base come bedtime to keep your head elevated and prevent symptoms of acid reflux.

When it comes to bedtime snacking, keep late-night snacks light and healthy. You shouldn’t go to bed hungry, but eating junk before bed can cause bellyaches and impede deeper sleep stages.

Schedule Your Workout During the Morning Hours

Overall, exercise also contributes to healthier sleep. Exercise not only keeps your body rejuvenated, but it also increases the amount of slow-wave or deep sleep your body receives. Working out early in the day makes your body release melatonin sooner in the evening, and it makes it easier for you to fall asleep come nighttime.

If you chose to engage in physical activity, try your best to limit it to the morning and afternoon times. When you exercise our body releases chemicals called endorphins. These feel-good” chemicals boost your mood and help you feel energized—one reason why many love early workouts to wake themselves up in the morning.

While the release of endorphins is healthy for your mind and body, you will have a hard time winding down if you work out too close to bedtime.

FAQS

Is snoring considered a bad sleep habit?

Snoring once in a while is not considered to be unhealthy. However, frequent snoring can contribute to interrupted sleep. It can also lead to other discomforts such as daytime sleepiness and concentration problems.

Can bad sleep habits cause weight gain

Yes, poor sleep habits can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Researchers have found that those suffering from poor sleep are more likely to eat foods high in calories, fats, and carbs. Losing sleep decreases activity in the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that is responsible for reasonable decision-making. This could make it harder to resist unhealthy foods during the day.

Can a bad sleep habit make eyes heavy or droopy?

When you aren’t sleeping enough, it can cause your eyes to look more droopy and saggy. The upper eyelids are supported by muscle, bone, and fat. When the muscle that opens the eyelid weakens from sleep loss it causes the eyelid to sag or droop. Those who experience insomnia or have an underlying sleep disorder are also likely to have heavy eyes as a side effect.

Are naps considered a bad sleep habit?

Napping is not considered an unhealthy sleep habit. Taking a short nap 1 or 2 days a week can be good for you since naps (when timed right) reduce fatigue, increase alertness, and improve mood. However, frequent napping may be a sign of inadequate nighttime sleep or an underlying health problem. If naps are impeding your daily schedule, we suggest talking with your doctor about your need for sleep.

Conclusion

Staying aware of your poor sleep habits is an important part of achieving optimal health and well-being. Make bedtime about relaxing and utilize a routine that will ease your mind at night.   Reading a book or taking a hot bath are ways you can decompress before bed. Once you identify a way to wind down each night, you’ll be well on your way to breaking your bad habits.

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