Although we don’t want to admit it, many of the sleeping problems we experience are caused by our own harmful habits. We stay up late, eat food that doesn’t help our bodies, and interfere with our sleep cycle in a variety of ways. When these problems become routine, we simply teach our bodies not to sleep properly, and of course, there are negative consequences to this. The good news is that you can avoid these sleep problems and correct these habits by recognizing the 10 harmful mistakes you’re making that are keeping you from a good night’s sleep and learning how to prevent them!
Many think they can make up for lost hours of sleep by going to bed earlier the next day, but our biological clock doesn’t work that way, it prefers consistency. Another problem is the desire or need to complete the hours of sleep over the weekend, and these two practices together are what’s keeping you up at night. Some people just decide to "give up" and play on their computer or watch TV instead of staying in bed because "they can’t sleep," exposing them to sources of light and irritation that only exacerbate the problem.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day - this is one of the most important things you can do to make sure you fall asleep at night and wake up alert. A regular sleep cycle allows the brain to release appropriate hormones for all actions at regular times and, more importantly, prevents it from releasing them when they aren’t needed.
Long naps, especially after 4 pm, damage your sleep cycle and don’t allow you to enjoy a good night's sleep every night.
If you have to rest your head and close your eyes for a few minutes, it’s important that you do so only once a day, before 4 pm and for no more than 30 minutes. In general, a short nap isn’t harmful to sleep and in fact, a slight rest of half an hour after lunch can even improve your alertness.
Don’t expect your body to shift from alert to deep sleep easily and quickly without being prepared for it. Your body needs time to signal to the brain that it is time to go to sleep, allowing it to start releasing the appropriate hormones.
First, stop using electronic devices, such as a smartphone or a computer, after 10 pm as they stimulate your brain and make you stay awake for longer. The second thing to do is dim the lights of the house about an hour before you go to bed, and you can also draw yourself a warm bath, listen to relaxing music and do some yoga and relaxation exercises.
Our bodies depend, among other things, on signals that it is time to sleep and wake up, with the two most significant being light and darkness. Today we live in a world filled with artificial lighting, which disrupts our biological clock. However, when we sleep in total darkness, our bodies produce more melatonin, which is a hormone important for sleep.
Look around your bedroom: Is there an alarm clock that emits a strong light? Does your phone charger light the room up? Is there a computer in the room or a TV clock? Even the smallest light can interfere with the secretion of this very important sleep hormone, thus preventing you from sleeping well. If you have no way to remove these devices from your bedroom or turning them off, buy an eye mask. If you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, don’t turn on the light or use a night light in the bathroom.
Carbohydrates and sugars raise blood sugar, cause the organs of the body to work vigorously and prevent the secretion of sleep hormones. Eating them in the evening before bedtime can adversely affect your ability to fall asleep and even cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, as there is an imbalance in sleep hormone levels in your body during sleep.
It’s best not to eat anything before bedtime, but if you’re starving, opt for a protein snack that won’t only prevent an imbalance in sleeping hormones but will also provide you with the amino acids that produce them.
Because alcohol has soothing properties, many people with insomnia use it to speed up their process of falling asleep. Although alcohol does help to fall asleep quickly, sleep, after it is consumed, is interrupted during the second half of the night, leading to a reduction in sleep time.
Don’t drink alcohol to sleep, and instead try to consume foods rich in amino acids, as well as chamomile or valerian root tea. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium are also important for good sleep because they help the body produce melatonin. The importance of consuming these minerals has increased over the years because our body produces fewer sleep hormones on its own in advanced ages.
Sleeping pills don’t solve sleep problems, they just put a temporary band-aid on them. Many studies conducted on the use of sleeping pills have shown that they do more harm than good in the long term, and may also be addictive and even dangerous to the body. You may need to consume sleeping pills in the short-term, which can help you rebalance your biological clock, but if you use them for a long time, they will only harm you, and you should consult with your doctor to check what course of action is right for you.
Apart from the physical problems that exist in the body, stress is the number one cause of sleep disorders. Temporary stress can slowly lead to chronic insomnia and adversely affect our sleep cycle because many people fail to "turn off" their brains when they go to bed. To avoid this, do breathing, yoga, or meditation exercises that will help free your mind from obsessive thoughts.
If you can’t fall asleep after 30-45 minutes in bed, chances are you'll spend another hour trying to fall asleep. In such a situation, you missed the time window you had, because studies show that our brain goes through several repetitive sleep cycles during the night. These cycles occur every hour and a half to two hours, and at the beginning of each one, a window opens where the body is ready to fall asleep. If you lie in bed and aren’t falling asleep, you’ve probably missed this window.
If you aren’t asleep within 30-45 minutes, get up and read a book or relax for an hour. If you stay in bed you’ll only grow more stressed that you aren’t falling asleep, which will keep you from actually falling asleep.
Since a lot of us fall asleep in the living room in front of the TV, many have gotten the bright idea of placing a TV in the bedroom instead. If you’ve adopted this bad habit of falling asleep while watching TV, you'll probably find yourself waking up in the middle of the night. This is because you create sleep conditioning that actually encourages an interrupted night's sleep, and many patients who come to sleep experts find that they have developed insomnia because of this habit.
This might sound like a radical solution to some, but you have to understand that the bedroom should be a place for rest, relaxation and intimacy.
Most often, thinking about sleep prevents you from falling asleep. The way people deal with insomnia is just as much a problem as insomnia itself, and it is often a vicious circle of worries about not falling asleep, which means you’ll never really fall asleep. As in other areas of life, here too one must learn to release and go with the flow. Your need for sleep is as natural as breathing and eating, and it comes automatically without having to think about it.
Increase your awareness by paying attention to when your body is tired and react accordingly. If it isn’t tired, use your time efficiently instead of feeling upset about it - it will help you get into bed with a good feeling and wake up feeling even more positive.
One last thing
Of course, there are also physical disorders that prevent us from sleeping properly, such as sleep apnea. This is a condition that affects many people, and some aren’t even aware that they suffer from it. These are usually people who snore, due to air blockage. As a result, the brain feels that it has no oxygen and signals the body to wake up. Not only does it interfere with sleep, it also increases blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, it adversely affects insulin sensitivity and increases the risk of diabetes, so if you sleep poorly, it is highly recommended that you get checked by a doctor to make sure you don’t suffer sleep apnea.