5 things you think are helping you sleep — but actually aren’t
There's nothing quite like a good night's sleep. You know the feeling of resting your weary head on your soft pillow and snuggling up under the blankets after a long day at the office. As you close your eyes and begin to drift off into dreamland, your mind won't stop racing. Your peaceful impending slumber has been interrupted by what could be a number of things.
The US National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults, ages 24 to 64, get between seven to nine hours of rest each night. For some of us, that's easier said than done. Before you throw in the towel and give up on your midnight dreams, take a look at your pre-bedtime habits. Could your nighttime rituals be hurting your slumber more than helping? You may be sabotaging your slumber without realising it.
Here are five things you think are helping you get a good night's sleep but could actually be hurting it in the long run.
Late night texting convos could be keeping you up.
At the end of a long day, it can feel good to decompress. If you get home late and need a mental dump, it's natural to pick up the phone and start texting with a friend. While you may think it's good to pick up the phone before bed, the experts caution against doing so because it can interrupt your sleeping patterns.
The blue light that is emitted by mobile devices, laptops, and tablets can restrict the amount of melatonin your body produces, according to research from Harvard University. Melatonin is a chemical in your body that is responsible for regulating your sleeping patterns. It tells your body when to wake up and when to go to bed. When the blue light from cell phones interferes with this chemical, it can cause problems in the sheets and a study found that you may have a more difficult time falling asleep because of it.
Go ahead and phone a friend to them in about your day, just do it before you hit the hay. Experts recommend putting your phone up at least an hour ahead of your regularly scheduled bedtime.
Bingeing your favourite show could be messing with your sleep cycle.
There's a lot of TV out there to watch and not enough time to watch it all. If you're binging on the latest episodes of "Queer Eye" or trying to immerse yourself in all of "The Bachelorette" news, you're probably doing so at night. Between a busy work day and afternoon plans on the weekend, it's not always easy to find free time to catch up on your favourite shows. Whether you realise it or not, TV may be interrupting your sleep cycle.
Some people find it soothing to fall asleep with the TV on. If you fall into that category and are still able to sleep soundly with the tube on, there's nothing wrong with that. But if you are having trouble closing your eyes at your usual bedtime, too much TV before bed could be to blame.
Working out might boost your adrenaline too much before bed.
There's no question that exercising and a good night's sleep are related. In fact, studies have found that working out can actually help you sleep better. So, what's the big deal? The key to a successful and sound night's sleep may hinge on when you decide to hit the gym. If you workout in the morning or throughout the day, you are in the clear. Your body and mind will both have time to relax and chill out prior to bedtime. When you vigorously workout late at night, your brain may have trouble coming back down and that can cause sleep problems.
"Their adrenaline is high, their brain is active, and it's difficult to wind down," Stuart Quan, MD, the Gerald E. McGinnis professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School and editor-in-chief of UnderstandingSleep.org, told WebMD.
For a better night's sleep, studies recommend avoiding intense workouts at least three hours before bed. This one will impact everyone differently. If you workout before bed and notice that you are having trouble falling asleep, try shifting your exercise routine to earlier in the day and see if that makes a difference.
Drinking alcohol messes with your sleep cycle.
If you are joining in on the after work happy hour or come home and enjoy a drink with dinner, you may think that alcohol can help you sleep better. After all, alcohol is a depressant and can make you tired. While alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it makes it hard to stay asleep.
Studies show that alcohol can impede on your REM - rapid eye movement - sleep cycle. REM, which occurs within 90 minutes of falling asleep, is a crucial step in your sleep cycle. This type of deep slumber allows your body to properly recharge and is key to getting a quality night's sleep.
"Alcohol messes with your sleep cycles, resulting in more arousals, and causing you to spend less time in the important deep sleep stages," Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, told HuffPost.
To get a restful night's sleep and still partake in a cocktail, avoid drinking alcohol within four to six hours of bedtime.
Taking a nap might make it tougher to fall asleep later.
OK, it's a fair assumption to think that if you nap throughout the day that you will sleep better at night. Not so fast. According to the Mayo Clinic, napping can interfere with your regular sleeping pattern. It all boils down to how long you nap for. A short daytime nap, defined as 15 to 90 minutes, can be beneficial to your overall sleep health, according to TIME Magazine. In fact, a midday nap can even lower your blood pressure.
Longer naps, though, are what can interrupt your quality of sleep at night. If you notice that you are napping for long periods of time during the day and are having trouble falling asleep, the two are probably related. Aim to take shorter naps during the morning and afternoon hours so that your body still feels well-rested, but is ready to go to sleep at night.
It might be hard to keep your eyes open, but the experts agree: Don't take a long snooze during the day if you want to resume your usual sleeping hours that night.
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