We are officially in Summer! Our sleep can suffer for a variety of reasons: seasonal differences, biological, and environmental. The temperature of the intense heat can make it challenging to fall asleep and the earlier daylight may wake us up if our children don’t wake us up, eager to find out what will happen today. Extra daylight makes us more active than any other season and we maybe getting to sleep later and rising earlier, leaving us groggy and yearning for more sleep. We’re often traveling and sleeping on well worn mattresses or couches, and our routines maybe constantly shift. Given this may be a period of time when we have sleepless nights, I thought this was a good time to visit the top sleep bad habits. Recognize any? Mine is 4/7 at any given time. What is your number? Post it in the comments.
Let’s take a walk through the bad habits then stroll through the “Why” and motivation to change. When I think I “should” shift but I don’t; it’s often because I don’t see a reason why I should alter my behavior. I like what I like, right? I don’t have to be like everyone else. However, if I can understand the advantages to modify my behavior then it can empower me to make different choices. Let’s see what speaks to you and maybe a small shift can make a big difference for your sleep and daily functioning. Then, you can read some tips to help transform behavior.
Top Sleep Bad Habits
1. This is my experience with eating a large meal before bed. As I age, I am discovering that my stomach needs more life balance than my mind needs. I recently caught the Norovirus, a gastrointestinal virus, that me imagine I had eaten glass shards that were stuck in my stomach. Thankfully, I was spared the worst symptoms:vomiting and diarrhea. However, my stomach lining was so inflamed that I did not want to eat for two days and when I did eat, I ate graham crackers and drank ginger ale. To be honest, before the Norovirus, my stomach could easily feel upset or bloated. Practicing mindfulness after meals, I noticed that eating red meat at night made me feel lethargic in the morning and eating a rich, heavy meal like Fetuccine Alfredo would likely interrupt my sleep with acid reflux. I started experimenting with eating a heavier meal at lunch and a lighter meal at dinner. I soon noticed that I slept better at night after eating a lighter meal at dinner time. Do you feel that you have to sleep at an incline because your stomach is too full? Do you have a lot of energy at night and start exercising at 9 pm or later? You may have eaten too many calories and your body is expecting to expend the energy. I based my need to alter my behavior on how I felt and align my meal habits to support my body in it’s need for sleep but let’s explore the neuropsychology involved.
Even with knowing what I know about sleep, I still underestimated what sleep does for our bodies. All the cells in our bodies have functions to perform including metabolize what we have eaten. It’s no wonder that it has difficulty managing what it can when we overload ourselves with calories. Signs of overloading your body can be heartburn and acid reflux. If you’re lucky enough not to have these symptoms don’t be fooled into thinking your body is fine with late night eating. It cannot metabolize everything like sugars and fat. What happens is that blood sugar levels are 18% higher and fat burned overnight decreased by 10% than if you ate the same meal earlier in the evening. The extra calories that cannot be burned off are stored as fat. When eating late becomes routine then chronically elevated blood sugars are linked to cardio vascular disease and diabetes. Self care is planning your meals throughout the day to allow your body to do what it needs to do in sleep.
Here’s some tips:
Being “Hangry” is real.
Self care is knowing your body’s circadian rhythm and creating a routine that successfully maintains it. Circadian rhythm is the natural rhythm your body follows to wake up, sleep, and metabolize food.
2. When I was pursuing my doctorate degree and I was single, my bed served as a desk and you could say my bedroom was a multipurpose room. I had markers, books, paper, note cards, etc in bed as I highlighted what I read, made notes, and wrote snippets of my dissertation. If I needed a break, I would turn on the tv for some mindless entertainment and then resume my work. My bedroom became a study and living room and soon my sleep suffered because I developed an aversion to the room.
Psychologically, the bedroom is a sanctuary. It’s a room where we rest and sleep unless we’re making love. The bedroom is a place that promotes sleep and a place where we feel safe and protected. When our bedroom serves other purposes such a study or craft room; we are training our minds to be active in the same space where we are asking it to slow down and sleep. The dual energies can serve to interrupt our sleep and make it challenging to stop our minds. Here are some tips to creating a calming space:
3. I vary my bed times frequently. Sometimes, I fall asleep by 8 pm then I wake up at 11 pm to do some work and go to bed around midnight or later. Other times, I stay up and can’t sleep until midnight or later. But what really are the consequences? According to Dr. Matt Walker, Neuroscientist at UC Berkely, we are late for sleep cycles when we go to sleep too late. We miss the most restorative sleep there is. You missed the Non REM party sleep bus if you wake up groggy and unable to think clearly. Dr. Walker says that if we go to sleep between 8 pm and midnight; we will experience non REM sleep cycles. Any later than that and we just have REM sleep cycles. Non REM sleep strengthens our immune system, rebuilds and repairs tissues, muscles, and bones. It is said to be the most restorative, literally. Dr. Walker’s tip is to go to bed before midnight and catch the Non REM party sleep bus.
4- Why is staying in bed unhelpful? Staying in bed when you can’t sleep can cause feelings of anxiety, restlessness, despair, and anger among other thoughts and emotions. All the emotions related to “trying to sleep” are counter productive to establishing a sleep sanctuary and peace. It’s best tire yourself out and go to bed when you know you can sleep. Protect your sanctuary and peaceful energies. Tips:
5- Sleeping less when you’re busy is counter productive to having the brain power you need to accomplish your goals. Going without sleep can decrease your memory and processing speed. Those with chronic habits of going without sleep for a decade or more showed signs of 6 years of cognitive decline. What does it mean? You’re getting dumber the longer you allow yourself to make it a routine of going without sleep. Tips:
6- Night time Caffeine intake. I never got accustomed to drinking coffee but my beverage of choice is an Arnold Palmer, half lemonade and half tea. Tea contains 47 mg of caffeine compared to brewed coffee’s 95 mg yet I have experienced difficulty falling asleep when I drank an Arnie after lunch. Research has shown that consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime reduced total sleep time by one hour. Caffeine delays the sleep aspect of the circadian rhythm as it’s a stimulant. The effects of caffeine are more potent for older adults as it takes longer to process the effects. Here’s some general tips for caffeine consumption:
7- Exercising late at night. High intensity training that raises core body temperature and endorphins may not allow the body to lower these levels in order for the body to relax into sleep especially if it’s done within an hour or so before bedtime. The goal is to not alert the body to the degree that it cannot unwind and drift off into sleep. It’s best to keep to light aerobic or resistance training in the evening and stop at least 90 minutes before bedtime. Lighter exercise at night has shown to reduce night time awakening, increase non rem sleep, and helped bring on sleep.
If you’ve recognized your habits in any of the top 7 sleep bad habits, I do hope the habit is not a routine. If so, I hope you are armed with information to help you transform your daily habits. Information is power- Sir Francis Bacon. If you need some coaching to improve your sleep; I would be honored to work with you. Schedule here. https://calendly.com/tonibyoga/15min Looking to purchase an essential oil diffuser or essential oil, check here for my Doterra website https://www.doterra.com/US/en/site/tonibyoga