20 Things You Do Before Bed That Sabotage Your Sleep
- Consuming large, heavy meals
Late-night eating might be a favourite pastime, but guess what? Your digestive tract was meant to be at rest when you sleep—not hard at work. In fact, the process of digestion (peristalsis) is at its lowest ebb during sleep, says Robert S. Rosenberg, MD, board-certified sleep medicine physician and author of The Doctor’s Guide to Sleep Solutions for Stress & Anxiety, so, when you just wolfed down a couple of tacos or slices of pizza, it’s not prepared to handle the volume. If you’re hungry before bedtime, a small amount of food may be helpful, suggests Mark Buchfuhrer, MD, medical director of the Comprehensive Sleep Center at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, but for those dealing with bladder control issues or prostate problems, avoid liquids after dinner time (or for five to six hours before bedtime). Doing so can decrease the need to get up and go to the bathroom, which often significantly disrupts sleep.
- Watching exciting movies
Winding down with a movie at the end of a long day might sound like a smart idea, but be wise in your choice of genres. Scary or frightening movies cause the “stress hormone,” cortisol, to rocket, which can keep you alert and awake far past bedtime. “Try not to watch horror, action, or violent movies, or read thrillers, or play video games for at least a few hours before bedtime,” suggests Dr. Buchfuhrer. “Instead, choose calmer, possibly even boring flicks, such as documentaries, and relaxing activities such as reading and practicing meditation.” Another don’t: anything work-related, as it can make you anxious or stressed.
- Use electronic devices
This includes computers, laptops, cell phones, and just about any other electronic device that emits blue light. “Blue light upon striking your retina will shut down your normal production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, not only impairing your ability to fall asleep but also leaving you sleepy in the morning,” says Dr. Rosenberg. Once you are in bed, sleep experts advise not watching TV, but instead reading, stretching, meditating or praying, if that’s your preference. “Keep up this routine for three weeks and most people begin falling asleep without the TV and experience the uninterrupted sleep they deserve,” says Dr. Oexman.
- Having a serious conversation
Whether it’s a solemn phone call with a friend, a late-night tiff with your significant other or a pesky neighbour that’s cranking his music up too loud, fighting or talking about serious subjects before bed is not a good idea. “Confrontations lead to a stress response, with your adrenal glands producing cortisol and adrenaline,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “This is the exact opposite of what you want if you’re trying to fall asleep easily. In fact, once your body starts producing these stress hormones, you cannot wave a magic wand and get them to return to normal levels.”