Sleep is essential for rejuvenation and relaxation after a long and demanding day. It plays a crucial role in allowing the body to recover physically and mentally. However, many individuals engage in activities before bedtime that can cause restlessness and difficulty falling asleep. In this article, we will explore the habits that hinder sleep, the ways in which these activities can deteriorate sleep quality and duration, and offer suggestions on how to tackle these issues.
Worst Bedtime Habits – The Importance and Hygiene of Sleep
An adult who does not suffer from insomnia needs approximately 7-8 hours of sleep per day. When dedicating less time to sleep than recommended by psychiatrists, the body begins to rebel. Mood deterioration, increased irritability, and concentration problems may occur. Additionally, a series of additional reactions can develop, such as: increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, potential for weight gain, and decreased sexual drive.
There are specific habits that most people, even unconsciously, perform moments before falling asleep. Excluding them from your daily routine will definitely improve the length and quality of your sleep and eliminate problems related to falling asleep. Before going to sleep, already in the evening, it is also worth taking care to minimise stressful situations, not to drink stimulating beverages and to take care to calm down.
Worst habits before going to sleep – electrical devices
The need to check all social media on your phone, tablet, or laptop and respond to all messages appears in the evening when it’s time to prepare for sleep. If these activities are familiar, it’s definitely worth considering a lifestyle change. Addiction to electronic devices is one of the main causes of insomnia, regardless of gender and age. Often, some people cannot live without them, and paradoxically, cannot fall asleep without them. This is a problem affecting an increasing number of individuals.
The blue light emitted by the device screen adversely affects the eyes and has a negative impact on melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for the biological clock, including sleep quality. When it’s dark, the natural signal for the body is to increase the production of this hormone. Body temperature decreases, heart activity is reduced, and blood flow decreases. The blue light from the phone disrupts this entire process, making it more difficult for us to fall asleep and causing frequent awakenings during sleep.
Worst habits before sleep – coffee and sleep
Coffee is one of the more popular stimulating substances containing caffeine. It is often consumed in the morning to energise the body for the entire day. However, caffeine exhibits its best effects only for a few hours, which is why many people, especially those with demanding jobs, drink additional cups of this “liquid gold”. Over time, the body becomes accustomed to caffeine and requires more of it. Our taste buds also adapt to the flavour left by coffee, and we often treat it as a regular beverage.
This is, of course, a mistake, as such behaviours contribute to problems with falling asleep and subsequently waking up in the middle of the night.
Opinions on when to consume the last cup of coffee are divided among scientists. According to some, it should be consumed by 5:00 PM, while others strongly advise not to exceed 2:00 PM. The latest research shows that caffeine can linger for up to 12 hours after consumption. Therefore, it is recommended to drink caffeine-rich beverages in the morning or early afternoon. It is definitely not advisable to have coffee just before bedtime.
Worst habits before sleep – sugar
Eating a bar of chocolate or a portion of ice cream before bedtime is a habit of many people. These treats do not help you fall asleep; on the contrary, they stimulate the body. This occurs due to the simple sugars contained in these products. Before sugar reaches the stomach, it must be digested by the pancreas. After consuming a large dose of simple carbohydrates (mainly glucose), blood sugar levels rise, causing the pancreas to secrete a significant amount of insulin to balance it.
The entire process is endoenergetic, meaning it requires a substantial amount of energy. Therefore, after consuming chocolate, the body is stimulated, and the intestines work intensively, which makes it difficult to fall asleep. It is advisable to eliminate such products if they are consumed shortly before bedtime and instead replace them with herbal teas.
Worst habits before falling asleep – stress
Stress has been recognised as a disease of civilisation; everyone is susceptible to it. It will be greater in one person and less in another. It all depends on how the body and mind cope with it. Stress can make the body feel extremely tired and at the same time insomnia occurs. When we are stressed, the body releases adrenaline and noradrenaline, which belong to the stimulating hormones. These cause an accelerated heart rate, increased blood pressure and pupil dilation.
Additional symptoms of stress can also include accelerated intestinal peristalsis and increased blood glucose levels. Such signals make the body ‘battle ready’ and it will take a long time for it to return to a state of relaxation and rest. For this reason, it is worth ensuring that you get rid of negative emotions before going to sleep and – although it is difficult – try to avoid stress.
Worst habits before going to sleep – physical activity
Many people value all kinds of physical activity at later times, claiming that this makes it easier for them to fall asleep. The fact is that systematic physical exercise has a salutary effect on the body with a number of positive effects. It is worth noting that our body temperature rises during physical activity and only begins to fall a few hours after training. The lowered body temperature allows us to fall asleep quickly, so it will be much more difficult to reach a state of relaxation moments after exercise.
Physical activity also means subjecting the body to high stress. A time should be set in which it is able to rest. Therefore, exercising just before bedtime is not the best solution. It is advisable to wait about 2-3 hours after a workout for the body to “cool down” sufficiently so that any physical activity will have a significantly positive effect on us.
Intensive mental work before bedtime
It is very common for decision-making efforts to be made in the evening, as the evening time is conducive to thinking. This is a habit to be avoided. Such activities cause the mind, instead of calming down, to work at “top speed” and do not help one to fall asleep.
What’s more, by leaving important matters for the evening hours, the body gets an extra dose of stress (worrying about whether it will definitely get everything done and ‘sleep’ for the next day). It is a good idea to plan the chores that have to be done the next day, and it will be much easier to rest in the evenings.
Worst habits before going to sleep – diet
Diet has a huge impact on well-being as well as on falling asleep. There are several habits that should definitely be avoided or combated, as they worsen the quality and duration of sleep and make falling asleep more difficult. These activities include:
- Consuming high-calorie meals shortly before bedtime (the body will need several hours to digest them, causing discomfort associated with the need to go to sleep),
- Eating sweets before sleep (such a sugar dose is an energy bomb that forces the pancreas to work intensively, simultaneously accelerating vital functions and stimulating the body),
- Drinking alcohol (this is one of the worst habits before sleep; it’s true that alcohol can help you fall asleep, but during the night, it causes multiple awakenings and usually waking up after 4-5 hours, unable to fall back asleep).
How to ensure proper sleep hygiene?
Factors such as avoiding naps during the day, going to bed and waking up at regular hours, significantly support the homeostatic process (i.e., the biological need for sleep). In this way, sleep occurs at the same time every day. To improve its quality, it is worth gradually introducing small habits that allow the body to rest properly:
- Limit the time spent in bed before sleep,
- Avoid trying to “force yourself to sleep”,
- Steer clear of caffeine and stimulants shortly before bedtime,
- Maintain a regular lifestyle,
- Eat dinner approximately three hours before sleep,
- Avoid napping during the day.
Temporary trouble falling asleep is not dangerous but serves as a signal that something worrisome is starting to happen in the body. A good solution is to analyze which habits may cause such a situation and eliminate them from the routine. If sleep problems persist despite improvements in lifestyle, it is advisable to consult a psychiatrist.