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5 Habits to Break for Better Sleep

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5 habits to break for better sleep

The majority of people nowadays are walking around like zombies, half awake and dragging their leg behind them while they shuffle over to where they need to go. Why is it that we can’t seem to consistently log in the recommended eight hours? 

In this blog, we discuss five habits to break to make falling and staying asleep more achievable. 

1. Exercising Too Late in the Evening

Improved sleep is among the many benefits of regular exercise. In fact, sleep.org reports that adults who get the recommended amount of exercise—150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week—are 65% less likely to feel drowsy during the day because they fall asleep faster, sleep longer and have higher-quality sleep than non-exercising adults.

However, exercising too late in the evening can actually have a negative effect on your sleep. For the best night’s sleep, Men’s Fitness recommends finishing your strenuous workout no later than three hours before bed. If you prefer some movement before bed, try yoga or simple stretching, both of which can help you unwind and relax for a restful night. 

2. Consuming the Wrong Food and Drink

It should come as no surprise that what you’re eating and drinking before bed can have a huge impact on how you sleep. Consuming caffeine is a surefire way to disrupt your body’s ability to wind down, as it takes around six hours for just half of the caffeine you drink to disappear from your body. Other pre-bed food offenders include spicy, rich or heavy meals and meals high in protein, all of which are difficult to digest. 

Don’t worry if you’re the type who has a difficult time saying no to that late-night snack or meal, as some snacks are A-OK to eat before bed. According to Michael Breus, Ph.D., the ideal snack is approximately 250 calories and is 80 percent carbs and 20 percent protein. 

Many people will opt to drink a glass of wine or cocktail to help them fall asleep, as alcohol makes them feel drowsy. However, drinking alcohol before bed can actually make staying asleep more difficult. 

3. Using Electronics

Many of us spend our evenings dividing our attention between our television or computer screens and our cell phone screens. While we may feel like we’re giving our bodies a rest, using electronics before bed actually makes it harder for us to fall asleep. This is because the blue light emitted from electronics can block the production of melatonin, a chemical that helps us fall and stay asleep. What’s more, the constant buzz of incoming alerts makes it difficult for our brain to relax.

To keep your electronic use from preventing a good night’s rest, restrict your TV watching and other screen use to earlier in the evening. Opt instead to end your evening by reading a book or meditating.

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4. Relying on Unnatural Sleep Aids

If it’s been some time since you’ve had a good night’s rest, it is highly tempting to reach for unnatural sleep aids to help you catch some ZZZs. Medications like diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Unisom) should be avoided as they can cause low blood pressure and palpitations. Continued zolpidem (Ambien) use can lead to dependence and worsen the mental clouding that many insomniacs already experience. 

Herbal supplements such as Valerian Root, Passion Flower, or Kava Kava Root are known natural remedies for insomnia that have very few side effects.

Behavioral treatments such as deep breathing, meditative exercises are effective at helping you relax before bed. 

5. Sleeping In

All of us have felt the temptation to “catch up” on sleep by sleeping in later on our days off or taking sporadic naps during the day. But doing so messes with our circadian rhythm (essentially, our internal clock), and often results in us feeling restless in the evening when we should be heading for bed and exhausted in the morning when we should be energized.

The best way to keep your circadian rhythm in check is to keep the same bedtime and wake times every day. Also avoid taking naps that are not normal to your routine.

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About the Author

Breana Charles

Breana Charles

I'm a registered dietician that teaches my patients that health starts at home. I want to show others simple ways to incorporate healthier habits in a way that is conducive to their lifestyles. I believe food is medicine, and every time we eat is a new opportunity to feel healthier and happier.

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