Feeling exhausted after an extensive jam session? Worn out after you’ve been working from home all day and spent the whole evening fine-tuning your latest track in social isolation? If you had a long day and feel super tired but still sleep like crap, something might be up. This could happen due to various reasons. You might just be sabotaging yourself with small things without even noticing it. That’s why we’ve collected 11 common mistakes that you can easily avoid before bedtime.
There’s nothing worse than lying in bed in the middle of the night, feeling beyond knackered yet unable to fall asleep. Tossing and turning is not only frustrating but could also have long-term negative effects on your mental health. It’s not enough to be tired before bedtime, you need to be sleepy in order to fall asleep. But a lot of things can stop you from getting sleepy when you’d need it the most. Here are a few things you can stop doing right now for a better night’s sleep. Try to be mindful of your actions before bedtime, and see if you notice any difference.
To get better chances for a good night’s sleep:
Recent studies suggest that you can exercise in the evening. But it’s recommended to avoid intense activities for at least one hour before bedtime. A strenuous workout will make you dehydrated and it releases adrenaline in your body. This will make you more alert and stimulated, which is the total opposite of what you’re aiming for before sleep. Steer clear of too much sweating. If you desperately feel the need for working out before heading to slumberland, choose a light activity such as walking or stretching.
This is probably the most obvious one we’re all aware of, yet we still keep doing it. It’s so easy to watch some show on your laptop under the warm comfort of the blanket, text with your friends or just catch up with your social feeds, mindlessly scrolling when you should be asleep. However, the blue light emitted by these screens suppresses melatonin and tricks your brain into thinking that it’s not bedtime yet. Ban all your electronic devices from the bed, and try reading a paper book instead. You’ll feel the difference in just a few days.
While having a nightcap to wind down after a busy day might sound like a good idea, it’s actually not doing you any favors in the sleep department. Booze might help you fall asleep quicker but it interferes with the quality of your sleep, it disrupts your rapid eye movement (REM) phase. Alcohol has a direct effect on circadian rhythms, and research indicates that it can reduce melatonin production by nearly 20 percent. Also, alcohol is a diuretic, a substance that increases the production of urine, so between two dreams you might end up having to visit the toilet.
Unfortunately, it’s not just alcohol that should be avoided before bedtime. Drinking too much water also has its drawbacks. Even if you forgot to slurp up your daily dose of H2O during the day. If you need to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom (maybe even several times), you might be having a condition called ‘nocturia’. The more interruptions you experience during the night, the more disrupted your sleep cycle will be and you will feel less rested in the morning. To avoid this, drink your last glass of water a few hours before going to bed.
If you depend on a cup o’ joe to wake you up in the morning, we don’t blame you. But don’t count on your magic brew to lull you to sleep in the evening. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine’s effects than others. But it’s common knowledge that high doses can make it quite difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Caffeine is a stimulant and it increases alertness. So try to avoid coffee, tea and artificially caffeinated beverages such as cola drinks and energy drinks when it’s time to hit the sack.
Do you like to smoke before bedtime in order to wind down and relax after a long day? Well, your sleep cycle doesn’t! Nicotine is a stimulant and instead of relaxing your body, it will make you more alert and restless while it changes your natural circadian rhythm. Depending on how much you usually smoke, your cravings might kick in while you sleep, causing you to sleep less or have less quality sleep. Smoking also increases the risk of developing sleep apnea, insomnia, and snoring. Put this info in your pipe and smoke it!
Sweet dreams are definitely not made of sugar. You’re probably aware of the fact that eating too much sugar throughout the day can have many negative health effects. But you might not know that consuming too much sugar can also lead to some seriously poor quality of sleep. Eating sugar before bedtime overstimulates you, just like caffeine and nicotine. Sugar also uses up magnesium, which you need for a good night’s sleep. You should especially stay away from late-night snacks such as chocolate, that contains both sugar and caffeine among other stimulants.
Getting your beauty sleep in a nice warm room might sound cozy. Especially if it’s cold outside, but it’s counterproductive if you’re after a good night’s sleep. And why wouldn’t you be? For optimal sleep, the bedroom temperature should be somewhere between 60-65ºF (16-18°C). The reason for this is that your body heat reaches its peak in the evening and then gradually drops to its lowest levels after you drift off. If it gets too warm when you sleep, you will experience restlessness. If it’s too cold, you might have issues falling asleep.
We love food just as much as we love sleep, but the two don’t really go together. Generally, you should avoid heavy meals before bedtime to give your digestive system a rest while you’re resting. High-fat foods (sorry, pizza and bacon cheeseburger), spicy dishes and protein-rich meats can all sabotage your sleep. If you really need a bite, make it a small one and try cherries (contain melatonin), dairy products (contain tryptophan, a sleep-promoting substance), sweet potatoes (muscle-relaxant potassium) or bananas (good source of magnesium).
Even if you feel tempted to jump straight into bed and close your eyes instantly, it’s beneficial to have some time to wind down before going to sleep. If you often find yourself overflooded with thoughts, and feel stressed, it’s a clear sign that you need to relax first before heading to dreamland. Or you’ll bring all that noise with you to the other side. Just take 30 minutes and don’t do anything stimulating. Focus on activities and unwinding rituals that will make you feel good. Do a little gratitude meditation, read something (on paper!), listen to some music… you name it!
Exposure to light stimulates the brain. Getting too much of it before bedtime can make you feel wide awake and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Make sure you get all the sunlight you need during the day and keep it dark during the night. Dim the lights before going to bed. Besides staying away from electrical devices, you should also invest in good light-blocking curtains or an eye mask. It’s been scientifically proven that red light helps you sleep better because it doesn’t shift your circadian rhythm and doesn’t suppress melatonin.
Now good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite!
The Wellness Starter Pack is a collection of videos, interviews and articles that explore some of the most challenging health issues music makers experience today: Sleep, Positivity, Nutrition, Exercise and Mindfulness. Think of it as a toolbox for health, specifically created with music makers in mind.
The information within The Wellness Starter Pack is provided for general informational and educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Seek the advice of a physician or a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.