What To Avoid Before you Go To Bed
Quality of sleep is more important than many people realize: getting too little – or even too much – can have significant effects on your waking hours, leaving you exhausted, irritable and unable to focus on important tasks. Finding a way to improve your rest and maintain it can be tricky, especially since mistakes which affect sleep are so easy to make. In the first of a series on improving your sleep quality, we’ve put together a simple list of things to avoid before bedtime which should deliver that good night’s rest you’ve been missing.
Getting a bit of exercise isn’t always a good thing – especially just before bed. Although physical activity tires you out, it also raises heart rate and body temperature and produces stimulants which prevent sleep. Exercise can be a great help in establishing a restful sleep pattern but the best time to work out is in the morning or the afternoon – so your body tires and winds down just in time for bed.
We’re surrounded by electronic devices: mobile phones, clocks, laptops and televisions – if you’re one of those people who like to check emails or watch a show just before bedtime you’re harming your chances of a good night’s sleep. The light from electronic devices inhibit the body’s ability to produce melatonin, a chemical which helps the brain relax and promotes sleep. If you must use an electronic device, try to leave around an hour between switching off and going to bed.
Some people think eating before bedtime helps sleep but that’s not necessarily true – eating makes you drowsy for only a short time and many foods contribute significantly to sleep problems. While uncomplicated food, like salad, fish or yoghurt are conducive to sleep, ‘complicated’ foods, with multiple ingredients, nutrients and fats, cause your digestive system to work hard to process what you’ve eaten at a time when it should be winding down. Eating most varieties of junk food before bed may deliver short term satisfaction but will leave you tossing and turning all night.
This may seem like an obvious one but many people encourage their pets to sleep on the bed or in the bedroom with them. This is inadvisable for two main reasons: pets can irritate allergies and other health problems and often shed hair during the night, meaning you’ll spend the night sneezing and coughing and wake without any of the benefits of deep sleep. The simple physical presence of a pet is also a big problem: dogs and cats take up a lot of space on the bed, while you squash into an uncomfortable position. Pets making noise in the bedroom, moving around or getting up during the night can easily wake you – and prevent you getting back to sleep.
Reading before bedtime is a time-honoured tradition – and one millions of people swear by. Getting in a few chapters of a good book is an effective way to relax but problems occur when you don’t put the book away and get to sleep. Reading is fine so long as it doesn’t create a pattern of irregular bed times which leave you awake into the early hours over several days of the week!
Perhaps the most important part of getting into a good sleep pattern is establishing a regular habit of going to bed at the same time each night. Tips for avoiding those things that might adversely affect sleep are only as good as your ability to set yourself a bed time and stick to it. Staying up or lying in late can be enjoyable in small doses – but too much of a good thing will prevent you getting the sleep you want and need.