Sometimes we just do things that unwittingly sabotage our sleep.
Here are some of the worst personal habits that can mess with the quality and quantity of our sleep:
5 examples of poor sleep hygiene
Screen time at bedtime. Taking our smartphones to bed with us is becoming one of the key causes of disrupted sleep.
But these aren't the only screens that foil our sleep drive. Backlit devices like ebook readers, handheld gaming devices, portable DVD players, laptops, even close-range TV all ruin our sleep. They engage our minds with content that keeps us awake, and they emit blue spectrum light, which has been shown conclusively to shut down the melatonin production in the brain.
That late afternoon rise in our self-made melatonin is absolutely critical in assisting the brain and body in the transition between wakefulness and sleep. One flash of blue light and the pineal gland stops producing it. At bedtime, that means delays in sleep onset that may be encountered as insomnia.
Cocktails before bed. The days of the evening nightcap died with the Mad Men era. Alcohol may seem to encourage sleep onset, but when its effects wear off a few hours later, the body goes into mini-withdrawal, which causes arousals in sleep and messes with the most critical periods of sleep architecture throughout the night (such as REM sleep).
Alcohol is not a sleep aid; it actually makes you sleep worse. It doesn't matter if it's brandy in a snifter, a glass of wine, or a shot of vodka: it's going to wreck your sleep.
Random bedtimes and wake times. Our brains and bodies are engineered to be at their most efficient and healthy by following the built-in rhythms of the circadian system.
If you go to bed every night at a distinctly different time (9pm one night, 130am the next, 10pm the next, and so forth), you are seriously messing with your circadian rhythms. This spells disaster to your overall health over the long term.
Waking up in the morning yields a similar problem if you sometimes get up at 6am, sometimes sleep in until 9, etc.
Unless you absolutely cannot stick to a regular sleep schedule because of life's circumstances (your job requires it or you are caregiving for a family member in your household, as two legitimate examples), you really need to go to bed at roughly the same time and rise in the morning at roughly the same time (with no sleeping in for longer than 1 hour past your normal time).
Remember, both quantity and quality of sleep matter.
Large dinners and late-night snacks. Added calories too close to bedtime can wreak havoc on your digestive system, which has its own circadian rhythms which rely on sleep as part of its functionality.
Too much sugar or fat or calories within 2 hours of bedtime will create problems with digestion, including constipation, indigestion, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux. These problems go on to interrupt sleep.
Always allow at least 2 hours to pass after eating dinner to ensure your systems are in balance at bedtime.
If you have to eat late, try eating a very light carbohydrate snack or a small, lean meal, and avoid irritants like carbonated beverages or spicy foods, which could be disruptive to digestion as well.
Sorry to say it, but java is keeping us sleepless in Seattle. Caffeine affects all of us differently, and many of use think we are more adapted to using it as a wakefulness promoting "supplement" than we actually are.
But please consider switching to decaf after 3pm, so you can still enjoy your hot or cold brew without it coming back to haunt you later.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, caffeine can stay in the system for several hours. "It has a half-life of 3 to 5 hours. The half-life is the time it takes for your body to eliminate half of the drug. The remaining caffeine can stay in your body for a long time. Effects can last from 8 to 14 hours."
Please contact us with your concerns about sleep hygiene. We know how to spot poor habits and can give you solid advice for turning around your behavior so you can achieve better sleep, night after night. Check out our FREE offer for a sleep assessment below.