You’ve heard it all before: “Don’t drink coffee too late in the day”, “don’t nap”, and “don’t watch TV in bed”. Yet, even after putting these into practice, sleep evades you. Maybe there are other seemingly “common” habits that are interfering with your sleep as well. Check out the list below and see if you do any of these common habits which may be preventing you from getting enough sleep.
You drink too much caffeine during the day. Coffee in the morning is usually not the culprit. But, if you tend to drink caffeinated beverages in the afternoon, it may be interfering with your sleep at night. The results of one research study showed that people who drank coffee 6 hours before bedtime experienced less total sleep than those who did not drink coffee. Those who drank coffee 3 hours and 1 hour before bedtime, experienced an even greater amount of sleep loss. Although soda doesn’t have as much caffeine as coffee, it can still have an effect on your sleep too. It is important to consider all sources of caffeine.
What to do about it: Try not to consume any source of caffeine at least 6 hours prior to bedtime. Many people like to set the limit at not drinking caffeine after 3 pm, but that may vary depending on your own personal bedtime.
You didn’t exercise today. In addition to being good for overall health, exercise can also help you sleep better. Our bodies were made to move and in today’s world of high-tech, computer-based jobs, it is important that we give our body the activity it needs. A research study published in 2010 looked at the relationship between sleep and exercise. The researchers randomly assigned people who had been diagnosed with insomnia to one of two groups: remain inactive or begin a moderate endurance exercise program. The results of the study showed that the exercise group slept about one hour longer than the inactive group. The exercise group also woke up less during the night and felt lower levels of sleepiness.
What to do about it: Ideally, you want to get the recommended amount of both cardiovascular exercise and strength training exercise each week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-vigorous intensity exercise in addition to muscle-strength training exercises on at least 2 days of the week. Remember, something is better than nothing. If you aren’t able to meet the CDC recommendations, start by taking an after-dinner walk and increase your physical activity from there. Your sleep will thank you.
You didn’t choose the best nighttime snack. Eating a heavy meal or snack right before bed can interfere with your body’s ability to rest. This can also lead to heartburn and indigestion, which will likely keep you awake and feeling miserable. Registered Dietitians suggest having a light snack consisting of protein and a whole grain at least 2 hours before bed. This combination will help blood sugars remain stable through the night, and the small portions can be easily digested. The amino acid found in foods like turkey, milk, soybeans, nuts, and oats called tryptophan activates your body’s natural ability to relax. (That’s why you may feel overly tired after a large turkey dinner on Thanksgiving!). So try having one of these foods before bed to put the odds of sleep in your favor.
What to do about it: Have your final snack at least 2 hours prior to bedtime, and keep portions moderate. This snack should be a lean protein and complex carbohydrate to allow your blood sugar levels to remain stable through the night so you wake up feeling refreshed. Make sure that your meals throughout the day are well balanced with lean protein, whole grains, and plenty of vegetables and fruit.