Like nutrition and exercise, sleep is critical to your overall health and well-being. A good night’s sleep gives your body time to recharge so you can face the day refreshed and alert. Yet studies show that millions of Americans don’t get enough sleep.
Consistently not getting enough sleep can lead to serious health consequences, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
Robert Miller, the Apria Healthcare Vice President of Sleep Business, adds, “Not getting enough sleep also interferes with memory and increases moodiness and depression.”
Lack of sleep may be due to such sleep disorders as sleep apnea or insomnia. Or it can occur because, over time, you develop any of the following bad sleeping habits, which negatively affect the quantity and quality of your sleep.
1. Overeating Before Turning In
Having a large, rich meal—complete with dessert—is a surefire way to ruin a good night’s sleep. It’s important to eat 2 to 3 hours before you go to bed so your body has time to digest your meal. Otherwise, you can develop heartburn or indigestion that can keep you up all night.
2. Having One-Too-Many Nightcaps
Drinking alcohol may make you drowsy, but numerous studies show that having one too many can interrupt your ability to sleep. It can also worsen snoring and sleep apnea.
Apria’s Robert Miller cautions, “Consuming lots of any liquid before bed also results in multiple trips to the bathroom, further interfering with sleep.”
3. Lying Wide Awake in Bed
Do you find yourself tossing and turning when you climb into bed? Anxiety or sleep disorders such as insomnia may be making it hard for you to fall asleep. If so, it’s important to relax when you get in bed. Read, do breathing exercises, or meditate. If the problem persists, contact your doctor.
4. Staying Active Until You Climb into Bed
It’s hard to transition from a strenuous physical or mental activity to a quiet state to help you drift off to sleep. Your body needs time to adjust.
To prepare yourself physically and mentally for sleep, take a warm bath, listen to music, read—anything that helps calm you.
5. Exercising Before Bed
Yes, 30 minutes of exercise is great for you. You’ll look better, feel better, and sleep better.
But exercising right before going to bed can make sleeping difficult. Exercise causes your body to raise your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Your body also releases endorphins, which rev up your brain and make it harder to fall asleep.
So, keep exercising – just not immediately before bedtime.
6. Keeping a Different Sleep Schedule Every Day
Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles—our internal “clock”—that controls various functions of our body. One of the most important is the sleep-wake cycle. Going to bed and waking up at different times negatively affects your circadian rhythms. That’s why it’s important to keep a consistent sleep-wake schedule day in, day out. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
7. Working More, Sleeping Less
It's natural: you get busy. You need extra hours to get things done. Where do you find them? By sleeping less. But cutting into your sleep time may make you less productive (not to mention fatigued and bleary-eyed). The fact is, the better you sleep, the better you’ll be able to work!
8. Using Your Bedroom as a Game Room
There’s always a temptation to lie in bed and use your devices to play video games, scroll through social media, read email, and other stimulating activities. But the last thing you want before you go to bed is to be stimulated. Plus, the light from screens can interfere with sleep. So before you go to bed, turn off all your screens, turn off the lights, and settle in for a quiet, restful sleep.
9. Keeping Your Bedroom Too Bright, Noisy, Cold, or Warm
Any issues with light, sound, or temperature can interfere with your sleep. Keep lights low or off, adjust your thermostat so the temperature is cool, and use noise-canceling devices to reduce troublesome sounds.
10. Taking Afternoon Naps
Midday naps are nice. But if you are having trouble sleeping at night, try going without a daytime nap. Plus, if you nap due to daytime sleepiness, you may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. If so, speak with your doctor.
Understanding Sleep Hygiene Will Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep
To improve your sleep quantity and quality, overcome any or all of the bad habits above.
Then, learn about the importance of sleep hygiene. Robert Miller explains: “Sleep hygiene involves developing a daily and nightly routine that helps you get consistent, uninterrupted, restful sleep—night after night after night. You can also tailor sleep hygiene practices to meet your specific needs.”
At Apria, we consider sleep hygiene so important that we’ve devoted an entire post to it. Read it here.
If you continue to have trouble sleeping, be sure to speak with your doctor, who will help put you on the path to a restful night.