Sleep issues most often stem from poor sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene generally refers to habits related to your sleep schedule or routine. Let’s take a look at the top five habits that disrupt your sleep. Lucky for you, they’re all easy to fix with a little awareness and better choices.
1. Sleeping In or Staying Up Late
Your body relies on consistency to start and stop its cyclical, or repeating, processes from one day to the next. Timing is key, so when you stay up later than usual, this choice delays the release of sleep hormones. These hormones help you fall asleep and take you through the sleep stages that sort out memories and repair tissue damage to heal and recover from the day.
All of your sleep processes happen later than normal at this point, including the release of hormones that naturally bring you out of sleep and make you feel alert. In other words, you’ll be more inclined to wake up later. The whole cycle repeats, which wouldn’t disrupt sleep if you stuck to the new schedule…
Unfortunately, many people change their sleep-wake routine when they have time off from work and then again when they go back to work. Losing just one hour of sleep when you switch back to your work schedule causes brain fog and insomnia for up to four days.
2. Going to Bed Stressed
Stress elevates levels of cortisol in your system, which reduces your body’s ability to produce the sleep hormones mentioned previously. When lacking the adequate chemical signals to fall asleep, you experience insomnia.
The effects of stress on your sleep don’t end with one night of insomnia, either. Poor sleep makes you more prone to stress and anxiety the next day. Unless you release yourself from this stressed out state before bedtime, you’re bound to repeat the previous night’s escapade with insomnia. Sadly, the pattern continues until interrupted. An unchecked stress level over a long period of time inevitably leads to serious health issues, as 75-90% of all doctor visits can attest to.
Relaxation does not come easily if worries or repetitive thoughts keep your brain running in high gear. Treat the ability to relax as a skill you must practice to improve. Hit the button below to take a quiz that gives you a slate of customized relaxation techniques based on your personality under stress and activities you enjoy. From music to games to creative hobbies, find fun ways to reduce stress sleep better at night.
3. Skipping Breakfast
Not eating breakfast a time or two will not cause chronic sleep problems. Habitually going without food after waking, though, puts your sleep (and other aspects of your health) in jeopardy.
When you skip breakfast, you tend to eat a bigger lunch in response to a stronger hunger sensation. It’s hard to avoid overeating in this situation. Because you stay full longer, you’ll likely delay your evening meal. It takes hours to break down a meal, and sleep hormones won’t kick in until your body finishes digesting the food.
After a night of restless sleep, you probably won’t feel hungry for a while after waking up. Once again, a timing delay means a late release of hunger hormones the next morning. Several studies have implicated hunger hormone cycles in diabetes onset and severity.
4. Taking Sleep Aids
Regularly relying on sleep aids chains you a host of nasty side effects. While many over-the-counter medications and supplements promise better sleep, their function is actually quite limited. They help you fall asleep but not much else beyond that. In fact, many sleep aids, including prescriptions, work because of a sedating effect.
What’s wrong with a pill relaxing you to sleep? Sedation deprives you of deep sleep later on in the night. So you’ll wake up in a haze that lasts all day. To combat the grogginess, you might turn to stimulants like caffeine to wake you up. Coffee’s great if you need a pick-me-up but not if you struggle with stress or anxiety. Caffeine amplifies the symptoms of these conditions and, in turn, opens the door for insomnia.
The habit of repeatedly turning to a sleep aid makes perfect sense, given the pattern laid out here. But be aware that insufficient deep sleep increases your risk of cardiovascular events including heart attacks and strokes. Some sedatives also exacerbate sleep apnea, a condition marked by brief moments when you stop breathing. The condition goes undiagnosed in about 24 million Americans.
5. Consuming Caffeine too Close to Bedtime
Despite the commonplace status of caffeinated drinks in most modern societies, few people understand what it does inside the body. And why it’s the enemy of quality sleep.
Caffeine reverses the hard work of adenosine, a hormone that slowly builds up throughout the day to make you feel sleepier as it increases. Then sleep onset gets pushed back by a couple of hours (or more). Consequently, you cut short the amount of deep sleep you’d normally get in the first part of the night. Deficits in the first deep sleep stage in particular leave you with lingering sluggishness well into the next day.
You might be tempted to reach for extra caffeine to clear the haze, but it only reignites the process. Six hours after drinking that cup of coffee, half of it still courses through your body. If you metabolize caffeine more slowly than the average person, the coffee’s half-life might drag out by as much as 50%. Caffeine puts these sensitive folks at an incredibly high risk of heart-related health complications.
More Reasons to Prioritize Good Sleep
By eliminating the five habits outlined here, you set yourself up for night after night of consistently great sleep. If preventing the aforementioned health problems doesn’t motivate you to make your sleep hygiene a priority, consider the inherent benefits of sleep’s natural processes. While you sleep your body repairs physical damage to muscle tissues while releasing tension, rids the brain of toxic build-up, sorts and stores the day’s memories to allow for clear thinking the next day, reinforces your immune system, and boosts your skin’s strength while restoring clarity and texture. Worth it!
I’m a music therapist, dog mom, nature enthusiast, business owner, introvert, sleep and stress management coach, and research lover. My mission is to help you remove stress as a barrier to better health, greater happiness, and more meaningful connections with the people and passions that make life exciting.