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Health and Fitness News

The Fight for Sleep

Six things you need to avoid before heading to bed.

Do you find that a good night’s rest is getting harder and harder to come by? Maybe it takes you hours to fall asleep or you wake in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep. Perhaps you’re one of the millions who suffer from sleep apnea or another sleep disorder that’s preventing you from reaching deep, restorative sleep cycles. Or maybe you just stay up too late and skimp on sleep.

Regardless of why you’re not sleeping well, quality sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining the health of your mind and body. You hear suggestions about things you should do before bed like taking a hot bath, reading a book, and keeping the lights turned down low, but what things should you not do before bed if you want to sleep soundly? Keep reading to find out.

Don’t Drink Coffee

A cup of coffee after dinner is a nice routine, but it may be keeping you from enjoying restful sleep. Even though you may drink coffee hours before turning in, caffeine stays in the body up to 12 hours. For some people, a cup of coffee in the early afternoon is still too close to bedtime. And don’t think you’re safe with decaf coffee. Some decaf coffees contain up to 20 mg of caffeine. Coffee’s not the only source of caffeine that may be hindering your sleep. Watch out for tea, soda, and chocolate as well.

Don’t Use Screens

You’re surrounded by screens all day, every day, from your smartphone to the television to tablets, e-readers, and computers. It’s hard to imagine life without them, but in the hour before bed, it’s smart to turn them completely off. Electronic devices emit blue light, which slows the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. If you must be on a screen, turn down the brightness of the screen, turn off the blue light if possible, and hold the screen at least 14 inches from your face.

Don’t Eat a Big Meal

Don’t plan to go to bed right after dinner or if a craving hits, don’t raid the kitchen for a big snack on your way to bed. Being uncomfortably full makes it difficult to fall asleep. Fatty, greasy, or spicy foods are especially risky to eat before bed, as they increase the risk of acid reflux or nightmares. Instead, make it your routine to eat dinner at least two hours before bedtime. If you feel hungry later on, eat a small healthy snack.

Don’t Drink Alcohol

A glass of wine before bed sounds like a relaxing way to end the day, but drinking alcohol before sleep can backfire. It may make you feel sleepy, but when you do fall asleep, having alcohol in your system can shorten your restorative REM sleep. As a result, you may wake up in the morning still feeling tired. In addition, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning you may wake in the night needing to use the restroom.

Don’t Have a Heated Discussion

Stress is a major contributor to insomnia. When stressed, your cortisol levels are elevated, your adrenaline is pumping, and your mind can’t shut off. To help ensure a restful night’s sleep, avoid heated discussions or serious conversations before bed. Wait until the next day after you’ve rested and cooled off to bring up big decisions or conflicts.

Don’t Text

How many times have you just fallen asleep only to be rudely awoken by your text tone? Be smart and don’t text a friend, or especially a group of friends, before bed. If you sleep with your phone nearby, be sure to turn off all notifications before lying down for some shuteye.


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