Do you toss and turn all night, unable to sleep?
Does your racing mind have you staring at the ceiling for hours when you should be far away in the land of nod?
Or do you constantly tell yourself you’ll get an early night but somehow end up still watching Netflix at 2 am?
Although it is one of the most vital things we need to survive and thrive, many of us struggle to get consistent good quality sleep – According to the Sleep Foundation, between 50 million to 70 million Americans have ongoing sleep disorders.
While there are many reasons why you may not feel refreshed and vitalized in the mornings, one common cause of poor sleep is bad habits.
So before you reach for the sleeping pills, read through this list to determine if your behaviors and actions could be the culprit.
1) Scrolling on your devices at night
I’m kicking off the list with one of the most prevalent poor sleep habits in our modern world – excessive smartphone usage.
Most of us are so attached to our phones and other electronic devices that checking for notifications is the last thing we do at night and the first thing we do in the morning.
In 2019, Common Sense Media researched the nighttime phone use among Americans.
They found that 40% of teenagers and 26% of adults look at their phone within five minutes of going to bed – And the percentage of those who check it within one hour of bed is much higher!
However, numerous research studies have found a connection between nighttime technology use and poor sleep quality. They have also found that the longer you use your devices at night, the harder it is to fall asleep.
So, if you’re guilty of scrolling through social media, checking emails, or playing games on your phone in bed, this could be the reason you struggle to sleep well.
I recommend avoiding any technology use for one hour before bed.
Now, I know it can be hard to leave your phone alone when you’re so used to unconsciously grabbing it and checking for notifications.
So, I suggest setting “off time” on your phone, which automatically blocks access to your apps after a specific time. You can do this on your iPhone settings, or there are several apps for this purpose, such as OffScreen.
2) Sleeping with your phone next to the bed
Along with not using your phone before bed, leave it outside the bedroom.
There are two reasons:
- Smartphones emit harmful rays that can disrupt our self-regulatory processes, including our biological clock.
- Having your phone within reaching distance increases the number of times you wake up during the night.
Research has found that smartphones emit electromagnetic radiation and blue light that can mess up your circadian rhythm and sleep cycles.
Other studies found that having your phone on your bedside table can make you more likely to wake up at night. For example, Common Sense Media found that 36% of teenagers wake up to check their phone at least once a night (for any reason other than checking the time).
So, along with setting “off time” on your phone one hour before bed, invest in a traditional alarm clock and leave your devices in a different room.
3) Using your bedroom for things other than sleep
Does your bedroom double up as your office, study space, workout room, or something else?
According to some sleep experts, using your bedroom as a multipurpose room can affect your sleep quality.
This is because we unconsciously associate each room with certain activities. For example, the kitchen is for cooking, the dining room is for eating, and the living room is for socializing.
The bedroom should only be associated with rest.
But if we do many other activities there, we start associating it with other things. For example, if you set up your home office in your bedroom, you might associate it with productivity, making it harder to sleep at night.
What’s more, one concept of Feng Shui is that each room carries a specific energy.
The bedroom typically has calming yin energy. But if you start working, studying, or exercising where you sleep, it transforms into yang energy, making it harder for your brain to switch off.
4) Going to sleep at different times each night
Do you find it particularly difficult to fall asleep on Sunday night?
Do you feel exceptionally tired on Monday?
If so, the culprit of your insufficient sleep could be this…
An inconsistent sleep schedule.
Many people go to bed and wake up early for work during the week. They then switch their schedule on the weekend, going to bed late and enjoying a much-needed lay-in.
While this may seem like a harmless thing to do, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm.
The bigger the inconsistency, the more significant the disruption. Going to sleep and waking up one hour later won’t disrupt things much, but more excessive changes might.
So, even if you don’t follow the exact same sleep schedule every day, try to keep it as consistent as possible.
5) Drinking coffee late in the day
If you’re a coffee addict like me, you’ll know you cannot get through the day without your morning cup of joe.
There is a difference between drinking coffee in the morning and drinking it late afternoon.
Due to the research on this subject, most medical professionals agree that we should avoid caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bed.
However, this is a very general recommendation, as some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others.
For example, drinking coffee past 2 pm can affect my ability to fall asleep at night. However, my partner, who has a higher tolerance for caffeine, could have an espresso after dinner and still sleep just fine.
So, if you currently drink coffee (or any highly caffeinated drink) in the afternoon, try cutting it out for a few days and see if you get more sleep.
6) Eating too close to bedtime
You should also pay attention to what you eat in the evenings.
In particular, consuming a large or heavy meal too close to bedtime could mean you go to bed without properly digesting your food. This can cause issues like heartburn and prevent you from falling asleep promptly.
So, if you have the habit of eating dinner later, ensure a gap of approximately three hours between the meal and bedtime – this will allow ample time for the digestive process.
Moreover, if you usually eat large dinners, consider having larger lunches and lighter dinners to avoid potential digestion and sleep issues.
7) Being too active in the evenings
Are your days so hectic that you spend every waking minute running around doing things, only to finally stop at bedtime?
While you may think being busy should make you tired at night, sometimes it can do the opposite.
Because you go to bed when your mind is active and stimulated, making it difficult to switch off.
Both excessive physical and mental activity in the evening can prevent you from falling asleep promptly. So take a look at your lifestyle:
- Do you go to the gym in the evening?
- Do you work late or check your emails after dinner?
- Do you study until late in the evenings?
- Do you watch thrilling action or crime TV shows late at night?
If you do any of these things (or keep your body and mind active at night in any other way), I suggest cultivating an evening wind-down routine.
What do I mean by this?
Well, a 2009 study on young children found that those who follow bedtime routines are more likely to:
- Go to sleep at a consistent time
- Fall asleep quicker
- Sleep longer
- Wake up less during the night
A separate study compared the sleep quality of older adults who followed a pre-bedtime ritual and those who didn’t. Like with the children, they found the adults who had a bedtime routine reported far fewer sleep problems than those who didn’t have one.
So, regardless of age, it is scientifically proven that spending the last hour or two before bed doing relaxing, calming activities can improve sleep quality.
If you struggle to get enough sleep and are guilty of these seven habits, you’ll surely benefit by changing them.
Of course, breaking old habits is never easy.
So, take small steps rather than cutting the habit altogether.
For example, if you want to stop scrolling through your phone before bed, start by blocking your apps just 15 minutes before bedtime. After a week, increase it to 30 minutes and then one hour.
Finally, always replace a bad habit with a healthy one – an activity that promotes sleep, not hinders it, such as a bubble bath, chamomile tea, or a short meditation session.