Sleep is something we do for roughly one-third of our lives. And it’s important it is done right every night so the other wakeful two-thirds of our days can be well spent. Sleep impacts your ability to focus, organize thoughts, create memories, and it plays a critical role in managing anxiety.
We already know the basics like no caffeine 6-8 hours before bed and to avoid eating spicy food unless we want indigestion. What about the unwitting and common daily practices for our bedtime?
In this guide, we look at things a little differently. Here are the 7 common and destructive ways we live by that is destructive to our sleep.
The 7 Ways to Wreck Havoc To Your Sleep
1. Sleep inconsistently every night
Consistency is important for our habitual brains. We crave routine, and much of it is owed to our circadian rhythm. Although there are special circumstances that differ from person to person, the quickest way to ruin our sleep schedule is to not follow one at all.
We find this evident with shift workers such as firefighters, doctors, and factory workers. The inability to sleep after a number of rotational shifts can be disabling. Being able to remember things and focus when it matters become impaired once we throw our sleep schedule out the window.
So how do you reset and fix your schedule if it’s all over the place?
For those who are struggling with it, the best way is to simply make the commitment to either sleep the same time every night or wake up at the same time every day. Being aware of the distraught of shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) can help us better understand the consequential risks of playing with our bedtime. Understanding the impact of the benefits to our sleep can also persuade us to sleep on time every night.
If you find yourself staying up late at night for whatever reason (say to impulsively browse our smartphone), then it might be time to eliminate the distraction or at least reduce them to the best of our ability so we can rest easier.
2. Check your smartphone then stare at it for a very long time while in bed
The notifications on our phone can be tempting, to the point where we impulsively check our phone when we hear a ding or see a new message and email. Becoming hyper-aware of our smartphones to the point where we become addicted can bring on a very attention-distracting life. If you find yourself hearing your phone notification or feeling it vibrate in your pocket when neither of these happened, then we might have a problem.
The blue light emitted from many electronic devices (and the blue sky) is also disruptive to our sleep. The short energy wavelength of the blue light causes our brain to become alert and wide awake.
During the night, when it’s just about bedtime, our brain begins to secrete a hormone known as melatonin to induce drowsiness. When our eyes are glued to the screens of our devices, the melatonin process is halted and we become “wired in”. If we do this enough over time, the production of melatonin becomes weaker and our sleep can become difficult and short. Get rid of your phones and combat the desires to check it frequently. Your attention and sleep depend on it!
3. Sleep on an old used up mattress and pillow
Ever heard of the story about the princess and the pea? The princess sleeps on multiple layers of luxurious mattresses (like a boss) and yet she suffered from a sleepless night because of a single pea.
We don’t advise sleeping on multiple mattresses or placing peas underneath our beds to try this out, just as we wouldn’t recommend using a worn-out, old mattress with indentation and sagging across the surface. It can become very uncomfortable and damaging to our day-to-day living.
The typical useful lifespan of most quality mattresses is somewhere between 5 to 10 years. Depending on the material quality, general use, and the sleeper’s weight, we might find the lifespan to vary greatly.
The same also applies to pillows, with a general useful lifespan of 1 to 2 years. Buying a new mattress can be tough on our wallets, and finding out then bringing it home can be tedious. However, when you do the math you might find that over a useful period of time, the cost of owning a quality mattress is only a quarter or two each day.
The last thing we want is to climb into bed uncomfortably and wake up with aches and pain. To sleep well for 8 hours so we can spend the remaining 16 with energy might be worth the money.
4. Eat unhealthy junk and eat late
As the saying goes, we are what we eat. The right nutritious food energizes us, keeps us going throughout the day, and it can make us feel good. The wrong kind can cause problems for our sleep. Certain foods like spicy meals can cause indigestion that keeps us up at night. Heartburn and acid reflux can also make sleep difficult.
Hunger can also keep us up, but eating too late at night can do the same. The body is more likely to store the new calories as fat.
So what can we do?
Talking to your doctor about your health so you can plan a diet that caters to your need. Everyone’s health is different so we want to have medical professionals and nutritionists look after you.
We also want to avoid eating any meals too close to bedtime. Sweets and carbs especially tend to be a choice of food when we are most tired and impulsive, which can add to our weight. Be mindful of those two!
5. Forget about exercise and sit all day
Exercise helps burn off excess energy and calories. It also keeps our blood pumping, our minds active, and our hearts healthy.
The association between sleep and exercise is scientifically clear. Although poor sleep can contribute to the lack of physical exercise, the same can be true vice-versa. We can use exercise as a way to manage and improve the quality of our rest.
We also find seniors adults age 55 and up also experience better sleep metrics across the board. Sleep duration and the quality of sleep gets better by performing aerobic exercises vigorously for 5 to 15 minutes each day.
If that’s not enough, an American poll conducted by the National Sleep Association in 2013 found that:
- People who exercise frequently reported better sleep
- People who exercise vigorously reported the best sleep quality
- Non-exercisers are the sleepiest and have the highest risk for sleep apnea
- Less time sitting is associated with better sleep and health, and
- Exercising at any time of the day appears to be good for sleep
So what does this mean for us? The doctor recommended guideline is 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week. Whether it is in the morning before work, after the day job, or in the evening, living a physically active lifestyle can improve our sleep.
6. Create the worst sleeping environment possible
We sleep better in a cooled environment that is quiet and dark. Having irritatingly loud noise, bright lights, and feeling hot can make sleep extremely uncomfortable and unlikely! We already talked about the problems of blue light earlier. The sudden spike in noise level can also be disruptive. Heat will also cause problems as well when our body intentionally tries to cool itself for deep sleep.
There are several tips we can implement in order to create a sleep-inducing environment:
Lower the temperature of the room to an ideal 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 18 degrees Celsius).
Use blackout curtains to block off any sources of light. A sleeping mask can also do. Consider using a white noise to mask any sudden loud noise during the night.
7. Worry every evening, and develop anxiety and depression
How we are psychologically and mentally affects the way we sleep. When we let our thoughts get too carried away, we can find ourselves living in the past or worrying about the future. Doing so before bed especially can cause restlessness and anxious feelings preventing us from sleep. There are a lot of reasons that cause anxiousness. According to the ADAA, over 40 million Americans experience an anxiety disorder at any given year, with only one-third receiving treatment even though the disorders are highly treatable. The ADAA also mentions over 16 million Americans also experience a major depressive episode.
Anxiety and depression can be difficult to deal with, especially since it can affect our judgment and decision making. Asking for help by seeing a clinical therapist or visiting your family doctor can help.
At home, there are also two other things you can do to take care of and improve your mental health:
- There is evidence indicating the benefits of writing for our sleep. Maintaining a daily journal log can not only be a healthy outlet for any overwhelming emotions, but also an
opportunity to plan for challenges we are facing in our day-to-day lives.
- If remembering things is not your forte, then writing it down also helps alleviate the stress of possibly forgetting important events.
- Reading can also reduce stress levels, even if we do so for only six minutes each night! We can cut our stress down by a whopping 68 percent, and this can be just enough for us to get some quality shut-eye.
Our Final Thoughts
Our lives can become busy and hectic. It’s no secret that our sleep is the first to go during tough times.
In this guide, we looked at the 7 ways we can wreck our sleep and sleep schedule. From doing a poor job at caring for our health to habitually practice terrible routines, we can induce the worst to our quality of sleep.
We also look at what we can do differently, from exercising daily to sleeping at a consistent time every night. Although losing sleep can be a terrible loss, we can trust our body to be forgiving of mistakes.
If you would like to learn more about how you can improve your sleep hygiene, we dive deeper into our guide on the best practices for better sleep. Committing to care for the food you eat and the exercise you get can go a long way. The same applies to create an appropriate environment for sleep and sleeping at the same time each night.
Tell us about your sleep routine. How do you ruin your sleep? What is your special secret tip on creating chaos each night? How would you recommend others to do better? Let us know in the comments below!
About the Author
Brian Ferret is a sleep enthusiast who enjoys a good bedtime story. He is on a mission to create awareness on the best practices for sleep. His goal is to educate others on how they can sleep better so they can live happier, healthier, and better lives. Follow him on social media to learn how you can improve on your sleep.