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5 Habits Ruining Your Sleep (+ 5 Healthy Swaps)

As this (intense) year finally comes to an end, now is a great time to plant the seeds for implementing better habits in the new year. One of the best places to start is with our sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is described as the habits and behaviours we as individuals practice in relation to our sleep. Having good sleep hygiene can greatly contribute to our overall health and productivity during the day. As it turns out, your guilty-pleasure habits could be contributing to your lack of sleep. While we’re all for indulging and treating yourself on a regular basis, taking a step back to reassess your daily habits may help you find a more rejuvenating sleep. On that note, here are five habits that could be ruining your sleep, and the healthy swaps pros recommend.

1/ Eating a lot before bed

Listen, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with enjoying a little snack pre-bed. In fact, some foods like almonds, chocolate and tart cherries can actually help you stay asleep when eaten before bed. The problem, however, arises when we turn in for the night with a very full tummy. Some of us may experience indigestion, heartburn/acid reflux, or gas when trying to fall asleep on a full stomach. This is because the body requires some digestion time before we lie down horizontally, which can allow acid to travel up the esophagus causing discomfort and inhibiting relaxing sleep. Click here for more information on sleep and digestion.

 

What to try instead:

Experts recommend finishing eating 2-3 hours before bed to optimize digestion pre-sleep. If you do get a hankering later on in the evening, stick to smaller snacks that promote sleep and are easy on digestion such as: a banana, kiwis, almonds or pistachios or something light and protein-rich like greek yogurt.

Image: Unsplash/@maddibazzocco


2/ Drinking and smoking

We’re not going to sit here and lecture about the health impacts of alcohol and nicotine. We all know them well. The effects they have on our ability to sleep, however, may be less well-known. While alcohol can make you feel tired or drowsy, studies show that hitting the bottle before hitting the hay can prevent us from staying asleep as well as prevent quality sleep making you feel even worse the morning after. Likewise, nicotine, which stimulates the body, disrupts sleep and causes numerous sleep difficulties, making it the perfect ingredient for a terrible sleep.

 

What to try instead:

Obviously, try not to drink or smoke before bed. If you find yourself in somewhat of a pattern or even dependence, here's a list of resources for quitting alcohol and nicotine addiction. If you find yourself reaching for the vape at bedtime, try a grounding guided meditation aimed at kicking bad habits to redirect your focus and promote relaxation instead of stimulation.


3/ Working out before bed

This one is somewhat surprising. Having a regular exercise routine is undoubtedly important for maintaining overall health and quality sleep. Intense exercise too close to bedtime, however, has been shown to increase body temperature, release endorphins, and potentially raise cortisol which, at any other time of day would be fine, but make falling asleep that much more difficult unnecessarily.

 

What to try instead:

Try keeping your workouts to morning, mid afternoon, or early evening. If you do get antsy before bed, try a calming yoga or stretching sequence to set the tone for relaxation and help to prep your mind and body for sleep. We love this video from Yoga with Adriene for pre-sleep yoga. Bonus tip: take a lukewarm shower right after which can help bring down your body temperature even more.


4/ Screen time

Bringing your phone or laptop into the bedroom may seem practical, but its probably doing more harm than good. Due to the fact that we associate the notifications on our phones with interaction, our brains get stimulated by any sort of activity on our screens especially at night. Late night scrolling may seem harmless, but studies show the overstimulation and excessively bright light from our screens can prevent our brains from recognizing that it’s time for sleep.

 

What to try instead:

Leave your phone and computer out of the bedroom. If you must bring your phone to bed for whatever reason, keep it on airplane mode at night to avoid any distractions when it’s time for bed. Reading or listening to an audiobook can help to relax you better than scrolling through today’s funniest TikToks.


5/ Working at night

While you may feel a sense of accomplishment when you cram extra work into the wee hours of the night, burning the midnight oil can also take a toll on your sleep hygiene. Our minds need buffer time between work mode and sleep mode to fully relax and unwind. We’re mega passionate about promoting the importance and significance of this necessary relaxation time.

 

What to try instead:

If you find yourself leaning into your workaholic tendencies late at night, reassess if what you’re doing can be put on hold until the next day when you’re more refreshed and awake. This article from Harvard Business Review shares some healthy tips for helping to get work off your mind at night. Put the laptop down, and give yourself the mental rest you need before drifting off to sleep.

Image: Unsplash/@martafilipczyk

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