4 Things to Avoid If You Want to Sleep Better
Over the last decades, many of us have begun to show a keen interest in ways to sleep better and achieve that well-deserved rest. And with the rise of the Internet, everything we need to know about sleep is one click away.
Sleep is a physiological state of complete rest in which the whole body heals itself and restores its energy levels so that you can function at your best the next day. Nothing compares to a good night’s sleep after a long and busy day at the office.
Although experts and mental health professionals haven’t fully understood this phenomenon, we have enough information to figure out what happens in our bodies (and minds) when we sleep and why this phenomenon is crucial to our overall health and wellbeing.
During sleep, the body releases important hormones for the cells and the brain to regenerate, and the whole body to eliminate toxins accumulated during the daytime.
We spend almost a third of our lives sleeping, and sleeplessness can have a profoundly negative impact on our health, both physical and mental. Not only that poor-quality sleep and/or a lasting episode of insomnia can destroy our body and mind, but can also ruin our relationships, family, and career.
Since the quality of sleep depends significantly on our lifestyle, experts believe interventions that aim to improve the quality of our sleep should address everyday habits. From eating healthy and exercising to meditating and keeping a tight sleep schedule, what we do during the day has a direct impact on how well we rest at night.
But aside from adopting a series of healthy habits, we must also be mindful of the things that can have a detrimental effect on the quality of our sleep.
Here’s what you should avoid if you want to sleep better and wake up refreshed the next day:
#1 Screen Time
Since mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops have become accessible, many of us fall asleep watching sitcoms or scrolling through social media.
But according to current research, the adverse effects of screen time before sleep may be much worse than we thought.
A 2013 study revealed that “two hours of iPad use at maximum brightness was enough to suppress people’s normal nighttime release of melatonin, a key hormone in the body’s clock, or circadian system.”
It seems that using mobile devices before bed can interfere with the very hormone that helps us fall asleep.
But aside from the biological and neurochemical changes that occur in the brain as a result of using smartphones and tablets before bed, there is another explanation for why screen time can affect your sleep.
When watching a movie or scrolling through social media, your brain is bombarded with information; information that requires processing and storing. In other words, instead of letting your brain enter a state of calm that ‘sets the stage’ for sleep, you are feeding it information that will keep you awake and active.
As a rule, avoid using mobile devices two hours before you go to bed.
There’s no doubt that drinking coffee after 10 PM can affect the quality of your sleep.
However, experts believe that even a cup of coffee in the afternoon is enough to prevent you from enjoying a deep, restful sleep.
Caffeine can stay in the body for hours, keeping you in a state of restlessness that makes it almost impossible to fall asleep.
Furthermore, a study published in Sleep Medicine concluded that “coffee consumption interferes with sleep quantity and quality.” Also, the authors highlight that “the consumption of caffeine decreases 6-SMT excretion.”
It appears that screen time isn’t the only habit that can affect sleep on a neurochemical level.
If you feel the need to have a hot beverage in the afternoon or before you go to bed, tea is an excellent alternative. Perhaps chamomile tea, since it a natural sleep inducer.
Just as coffee or energy drinks, alcohol is a psychoactive substance that can make it difficult for you to fall asleep and get that much-needed rest.
Unfortunately, many of us use it as an “over the counter” sleep aid. How many times have you grabbed a drink to relax and unwind after a hard day’s work?
Although you might be feeling sleepy after a couple of drinks, experts suggest that alcohol might have the exact opposite effect.
According to Chris Idzikowski, Director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, “Sleep may be deeper to start with, but then becomes disrupted.”
In other words, although drinking alcohol before bed makes you feel a bit sleepy, it will eventually cause fragmented sleep.
If you want to grab a drink after work without having to sacrifice the quality of your sleep, Dr. Irshaad Ebrahim, medical director at the London Sleep Centre, suggests you do it “an hour and a half to two hours before going to bed so the alcohol is already wearing off.“
#4 A Big Dinner
We know for a fact that most nutritionists and health experts advise against eating after 6 PM. And this is not just for those of us who want to stay in shape or lose a couple of pounds.
Aside from weight-related issues, a big copious dinner can lead to digestive and cardiovascular problems. But a much more direct effect – and one which all us of can observe – occurs when we go to bed.
After eating a heavy meal, the body needs time to process all that food. During sleep, the stomach can not work at full capacity, which means digestion takes longer than normal.
As a result, we experience an agitated, restless sleep which is often interrupted by nightmares.
Just as in the case of alcohol, energy drinks, coffee, and screen time, make sure to avoid having a heavy meal right before you go to bed.
Bonus: A Simple Practice That Will Help You Sleep Better
Since there are so many things to avoid before bed (if we want to sleep better), one might ask, what exactly can we do to get those much-needed Zzz’s.
A great way to prepare your body and mind for restful sleep is yoga.
Yoga is a practice through which we learn to control our body, mind, and emotions. It is a technique that helps us cultivate the faculties of clear thinking and feeling. Many seasoned practitioners believe that yoga brings the body and spirit in such a profound state of union and equilibrium that they become one element.
One of the practical ways in which this technique improves the quality of your life is by helping you achieve deep and restful sleep.
Aside from keeping you stay physically active – which is known to have a positive effect on sleep – yoga also clears your mind of all the stress and worries that you accumulate throughout the day.
According to a recent study on the relationship between yoga and sleep, it seems that “Yoga Nidra can be used as an important adjunct in the management of chronic insomnia patients.”
Furthermore, a study which investigated the long-term effects of yoga revealed that “yoga exercises in the daily routine of elderly people can help to achieve good sleep quality as well as improve the QOL.”
In other words, using this practice on a daily basis will help you sleep better and also improve the quality of your life.
Overall, both researchers and seasoned practitioners agree that yoga has a profoundly positive effect on the quality of our sleep and the quality of our life. By bringing peace and clarity into your life, yoga clears away all the negative thoughts and annoying worries that keep you up at night.
Forget about having a drink or watching a movie before bed!
A quick session of yoga meditation and you will sleep better than ever.