Getting a good night’s sleep is beneficial to your mood, energy level, and overall health. It also depends on what you do during the day, such as how much physical activity you get, what you eat and drink, and how cognitively occupied you are, particularly in the hours leading up to bedtime.
“While patients have insomnia or other sleep problems, it’s generally due to something they’re doing accidentally when they should be resting,” Michael Grandner, PhD, a psychiatry instructor and member of the University of Pennsylvania’s Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, tells Health.
Make use of a smartphone or other electronic gadget.
Using electronic gadgets such as e-readers and smartphones, as well as viewing television in or before bed, has been linked to sleep disruption in several studies. For at least one hour before bedtime, Robert Rosenberg, DO, author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, suggests avoiding any light-emitting technology.
“Blue light from computers, smartphones, tablets, and televisions inhibits the generation of melatonin, which helps the body sleep,” he explains to Health.
Use specific drugs
If you use medications or supplements on a regular basis and are having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about if the time of day you take your dose is keeping you awake. “The effects may be modest, but some medicines might keep you awake for several hours after you take them,” Grandner explains. Antidepressants, for example, can disrupt sleep, and some pain relievers might upset your stomach and make sleeping more difficult. (However, some drugs, such as some types of blood pressure pills, have been demonstrated to work best when taken at night; discuss this with your doctor.)
Taking a sleeping tablet isn’t always the best option: They’re only meant to be used for a brief time (over-the-counter meds, especially). So, if you’re taking them on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about alternate possibilities. For more than a few weeks at a time, a prescription pill will be safer and more successful, but a longer-term solution that does not rely on medication is your best chance.
Message a friend
You may believe that a text is less disruptive than a late-night phone call, but think again before messaging a friend or family member or engaging in a group text conversation just before bed. If you sleep with your phone in or near your bed, you may be awakened by messages that arrive after you’ve retired or fallen asleep.
In reality, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll, nearly 10% of youngsters aged 13 to 18 are awakened after going to bed by a phone call, text message, or email every night or virtually every night, and around one in five 13- to 29-year-olds say this happens at least a few evenings a week. Put your phone in another room or turn it off if you’re anxious about getting texts late at night.
Coffee is consumed (maybe even decaf)
Caffeine levels in coffee range from 80 to 120 mg per cup, and you presumably already know not to drink it soon before bed. But, according to Grandner, some people still enjoy a hot drink after dinner, and they may not understand that, even if they’re still a few hours away from bedtime, their habit may be disrupting their sleep. Caffeine, on the other hand, can linger in the body for up to 12 hours. “For some people, even caffeine at lunch can be too close to bedtime,” Grandner explains.
Take some tea.
Even if you avoid coffee, you may not be as cautious when it comes to another main caffeine source: tea. According to Grandner, drinks branded as “herbal tea”—such as peppermint or chamomile varieties—are likely caffeine-free, but those with black, green, or white tea leaves do include the stimulant.
You might be able to drink your caffeinated tea late at night. Dip your teabag quickly into a cup of hot water, then empty it out and use the same teabag to make a second cup. According to Grandner, the majority of the caffeine in tea is released early in the steeping process, so you can enjoy the flavour and warmth without as much caffeine.
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate with high cocoa content, is another stealthy source of caffeine. “People might not think of chocolate or coffee ice cream as something that could keep them awake,” says Grandner, “but if they’re caffeine sensitive, that could definitely do the work.”
Caffeine content in milk chocolate bars is typically less than 10 mg per serving, but a Hershey’s Special Dark Bar, for example, contains 31 milligrams—roughly the same as a can of Coke. Theobromine, a stimulant found in chocolate, has been demonstrated to raise heart rate and cause insomnia.
Spend less time winding down.
According to Grandner, when individuals say they can’t shut their minds off before bed, it’s usually because they haven’t allowed themselves enough time to relax in the hour or so before bed. “It’s no surprise that your mind is racing when you finally slip into bed when you’re jumping from one distracting activity to another and not giving yourself time to sit back and think on your thoughts,” he says. He suggests devoting at least 30 minutes before going to bed to putting away everything that is overly stimulating, thought-provoking, or absorbing—from action-packed TV shows to work you’ve taken home.
Examine your work email
Aside from the fact that a blue-light emitting device might disrupt your body’s natural sleep rhythms, checking your email too close to bedtime can cause other issues. “I would advise against it unless you’re hoping for a specific email that will put you at ease and help you sleep better,” Grandner says. Checking in with the workplace late at night is more likely to make you apprehensive or irritated, or to fill your thoughts with tasks you’ll have to perform the next day.
Consume hot or greasy foods.
If you’re bloated or painfully full, eating a large meal too close to bedtime can make falling asleep difficult. Spicy or fatty foods are especially dangerous since they are linked to acid reflux, which frequently occurs when a person sleeps. According to Grandner, you should eat dinner at least two hours before bedtime to allow your body to begin digesting it. Stick to sleep-promoting items like simple carbs or a glass of milk if you’re used to eating something just before bed.
Consume alcoholic beverages
“Alcohol deceives you into thinking you’ll sleep better since it makes you drowsy and easier to fall asleep,” Dr. Rosenberg explains. “However, as your body begins to digest the alcohol, REM sleep, the most restorative part of sleep, is reduced.” He says that waking up exhausted and unable to concentrate is common when REM sleep is disrupted. Furthermore, according to a University of Missouri study, alcohol is a diuretic and may cause you to need to go to the bathroom during the night. Dr. Rosenberg’s advice: It’s fine to have a drink or two with dinner for most individuals, but forego the nightcap or glass of wine on the sofa before bed.
We could go on and on about how bad smoking is for you, especially how it disrupts your sleep. Many people smoke to unwind, but nicotine is a stimulant that can exacerbate sleeplessness, especially if you smoke right before night. Smokers who are suffering from nicotine withdrawal may find themselves waking up sooner than usual.
“If you’re a smoker who’s having difficulties sleeping, that could be another reason to speak with your doctor about stopping,” Grandner says. E-cigarettes, smoking cessation patches, pipes, cigars, and chewing tobacco are all things to avoid late at night.
Drink a lot of water.
“While staying hydrated is vital, drinking a large glass of water before night or sleeping with a water bottle next to your bed may not be the ideal option,” Grandner explains. Instead, he recommends drinking plenty of water throughout the day—and always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always
Exercising too hard
You may have heard that exercising before bed helps you sleep better. This belief has largely been debunked. Regular exercise has been demonstrated to aid in the treatment of insomnia and the promotion of excellent sleeping patterns. However, there is some evidence that late-night activity that is protracted or very high-intensity may make it difficult for certain people to fall asleep. If you’re staying up late to get in a workout or feel your 9 p.m. kickboxing lessons are keeping you up, try sleeping better after an earlier workout.
Play computer games
Some research demonstrate that watching TV before bed can interrupt sleep (due to its melatonin-impairing blue light, mental stimulation, or both), while others show that it has minimal effect. However, most experts believe that electronic media that demands a lot of engagement, such as video games, can undoubtedly disrupt your sleep.
“If you’re not particularly sensitive to light, browsing the web or turning through TV channels before bed may not be too awful,” Grandner adds, “but anything that’s highly engrossing will almost surely keep you awake.” “Stimulation from these devices can engage and excite the brain, which provides a hurdle when trying to go asleep,” says Dr. Rosenberg.
Increase the temperature.
Everyone has various sleeping preferences, however most people prefer temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. “When it’s cooler, people sleep better—sometimes a bit better than they expect,” adds Grandner. This is because the body’s temperature reduces at night, and a lower temperature allows people to wrap themselves in blankets without becoming too hot.
Allow your pet into your bed.
“Everyone with a pet understands that bringing that creature into your bed means a lot more nighttime awakenings,” Grandner explains. According to a University of Kansas research, 63 percent of persons who shared a bed with a pet had trouble sleeping. “If you’re okay with that, go ahead,” Grandner adds, “but it’s absolutely something to think about if it starts to influence your sleep quality.”
And those sleep disturbances can be caused by more than simply your dog or cat’s nighttime motions. Pet hair and dander in your bed can cause allergies and breathing problems, which can interfere with your sleep.
Take a bath.
There’s nothing wrong with showering after a nighttime workout or bathing before bed; a hot bath may even help relax you and prepare your body for sleep. Bathing at night, on the other hand, may send the wrong message to your brain if you routinely rinse off in the morning and just switch it up on occasion.
“Showers tend to stir people up,” Grandner explains, “so it might not be the ideal thing to do before bed.” People with long hair should avoid going to bed with wet hair; not only will it be uncomfortable and produce knots and tangles, but it will also leave the sheets and pillows damp, perhaps allowing mildew to form.
Choose a fight.
There’s a reason why it’s advised that couples never go to bed angry. “A major cause of sleeplessness is stress,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “If a talk is upsetting, cortisol and other stress chemicals may rise, making it difficult to fall asleep.” Furthermore, he adds, angry people have a tendency to ruminate, or replay thoughts in their minds, which can make falling asleep harder.
Going to bed with unsolved difficulties isn’t a good idea, however, according to Dr. Rosenberg, who advises debating topics early in the evening and storing critical decisions or serious conversations for days when you have more time to ponder and relax. He continues, “A serious chat before bed is not a good idea.”