It’s not always easy to fall asleep. And, while there are some things that clearly lead you to a poor night’s rest — staying up and bingeing on Netflix never helped anyone catch Z’s. If that’s your MO, you might be falling into bad habits that surprisingly affect your sleep.
Evaluate your own nighttime routine and see if any of the following six sleep-reducing activities are on the list. If so, reconfigure your ritual into something that’s more likely to lull you into a deep, restful slumber — and improve your days ahead, too.
An Inconsistent Sleep Routine
The idea of sleep training is something that’s typically associated with babies and parents who dream of sleeping through the night again one day. But, as an adult, you should have some sort of a routine that helps you prepare for shut-eye, too.
The lack of a routine can mean you’re not getting the deepest, most restful sleep possible. Going to bed too late could have you waking up too early, as your body is programmed to awaken once daylight floods through a window: your brain will stop producing melatonin, the sleep hormone, when it senses that the day has begun.
To fix this, start getting ready for bed around the same time each night, following a restful pre-bed regimen and laying down to sleep with plenty of time ahead to slip into a deep slumber. That way, when the sun does come up, you won’t be mad your body has stopped producing melanin. Instead, you’ll be ready to face the day.
Super-Fresh Dental Hygiene Products
There’s nothing wrong with brushing your teeth before bed — in fact, it’s a great time to wash away a day’s worth of food residue. It turns out that some of the products you use to maintain your pearly whites could be interrupting deep sleep, though.
Studies have shown spicy, fresh flavors like peppermint and cinnamon have stimulating effects. While that’s great news for test-takers who snack on mints or chew gum during exams, it’s not so great if you want to sleep immediately after brushing or mouth-washing — both flavors can also contribute to alertness.
To rest better, try a neutral toothpaste flavor or try brushing as soon as dinner is over so the flavor will disappear before bedtime.
The Wrong Temperature on the Thermostat
A little change in temperature can go a long way in terms of your quality of sleep. Your body should only be a half-degree cooler while you’re sleeping than while you’re awake. Therefore, a room that’s too cold will leave you tossing and turning as you try to heat up.
The same goes for a comforter that’s too heavy or a heater that’s a bit too high — you’ll be too hot and sweaty to sleep. Fix it by swapping bedding when temperatures rise and fall or by adjusting your thermostat slightly each night until you find your perfect sleep temperature.
Late-Night Snacks With Hidden Stimulants
Obviously, you might be having a hard time falling asleep if you’re having late-night cups of coffee or tea that’s full of caffeine. But you might be self-sabotaging without realizing the snack you’re having is going to interrupt your regularly scheduled shut-eye.
Take dark chocolate, for example. It might seem like the perfect late-night indulgence, as it tastes delicious and has some noted health benefits to boot. But some bars of dark chocolate contain the same amount of caffeine as your mug of tea, which means it’ll keep you up.
Switch your late-night menu to include milk chocolate instead, or try something a bit healthier that won’t interrupt your sleep.
High Levels of Stress or Anxiety
This one might be a bit less surprising than the above, but stress has a very long track record of interrupting people who are trying to sleep. If you have trouble sleeping and you think it may be from anxiety – you can take a self-test to confirm your suspicion. That’s because laying down to go to sleep likely means you’re in a dark room without anything in front of your eyes but closed eyelids. Your mind is sure to wander, and it might be enough to keep you from fully resting.
To calm yourself down, keep a pen and paper next to your bed so you can jot down the upcoming to-dos that have you stressed. That way, you can rest knowing you’ll remember to revisit them in the morning. You could also try doing a puzzle or another mind-bending activity before bed so you’re thinking about something besides what might be stressing you out.
A Poor Sleeping Environment
Finally, make sure your bedroom is a sleep-inducing environment. We touched on temperature, but so much more goes into a good night’s sleep.
Avoid noise and distraction — this goes for you, people who sleep with the TV on all night. Even if you’ve trained yourself to sleep with that background noise, the light could be affecting your sleep, just as looking at your phone before bed can keep you awake. Make sure your phone is silenced, too, so lights and beeps won’t wake you up.
To that end, if your bedroom is too light, too early in the morning, your body will start to wake up. If that’s ahead of schedule — and interrupting your full night’s sleep — you’ll have to invest in high-quality blinds or curtains that can cut out the extraneous light.
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With these fixes in mind, reconsider your own routine. What’s keeping you up? What’s interrupting your deep sleep cycles? A few slight tweaks may be all it takes to have you sleeping through the night, waking up refreshed and looking forward to falling asleep easily night, after night, after night…