There are many things about modern busy lifestyles that can negatively impact on sleep but in this article, I’m going to cover some of the less-commonly discussed obstacles that may be stopping you from sleeping which you may not even have considered.
1) Brushing Your Teeth
We all brush our teeth before bed (And I’m definitely not saying that you shouldn’t) but did you know that it can make it harder for you to fall asleep? Mint (especially peppermint) can actually stimulate you. It’s a great way to feel more energetic. Peppermint tea, for example, has been shown to make people feel more awake and invigorated. Chewing mint-flavoured gum has been shown in some studies to improve exam performance too – it’s thought to increase focus. This sounds great for many reasons, but not so great for getting to sleep at night. Yet so many of us are in the habit of brushing right before bed. If you struggle to get to sleep at night making a simple change to your bedtime routine by brushing your teeth earlier in the evening can make a positive difference.
2) Reading in bed
It’s not uncommon for people to suggest that reading a book in bed really helps them to get to sleep at night. If that helps and works for you then by all means continue. Chances are though, if you are reading this you are looking for ways to sleep better. In this case, changing this habit may help you out. Reading a good story can often make your brain more active. When you read a good book, the chances are that it engages your imagination and get’s you thinking more relatively as you imagine the characters coming to life as you work through the the pages. As fun as this may be, waking up your mind – especially the creative parts – right before trying to “switch off” is counter-productive.
The other problem with this is that bed should be reserved for sleep (and sex but that’s a whole other conversation). If your mind associates being in bed with going to sleep, it will make it for easier to drift off. If you mind associates bed with imaginary worlds, exciting stories and staying up late reading & fighting off the urge to sleep until you finish that chapter – well, then you’re training yourself to stay awake in bed rather than to sleep.
If you really do find that reading before sleep suits you and is what you want to do with your evening then I’d recommend sitting next to or ON your bed while reading and only getting under the covers and INTO bed after you have finished reading and are ready to sleep.
People often refer to the downsides of a range of different chemicals can have on sleep. Caffeine, alcohol and other drugs but people often breeze over how much of an impact tobacco can have on sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant and, as such, smoking in general is not great for sleep and smoking in the evenings even less so. The later you smoke the greater the impact will be on your sleep. – If you are looking to quit check out Alan Carry’s Easy Way to Quit Smoking. It has worked for many many people looking to quit. If that doesn’t work, then get in touch, I can explain why that wasn’t the right approach for you and help you to quit.
4) Sleep Monitoring Devices
I know some people who thought they slept well until the started using a Fitbit which told them otherwise. After ‘discovering’ that they had poor sleep quality, they began to feel less well-rested and their sleep quality got even worse. Worrying about the quality of their sleep and believing it to be a problem actually created a problem that wasn’t really an issue beforehand.
5) Trying to sleep
Oh the irony! One of the worst things to do when you struggle to sleep is to ‘try’ to sleep. It’s partly the expectation you set for yourself when you decide to “try” (which presupposes failure just from that wording). Also the act of ‘trying’ to sleep is not particularly relaxing. Make the aim to rest and relax. If sleep happens that’s a great bonus – it’s far ore likely to happen when relaxation is the goal. Even if the sleep doesn’t happen, a night of being relaxed is far better than a night of being stressed about not sleeping.
Okay, so this heading may be a title misleading. Sleeping in itself is not bad for sleep. But it is worth a mention that sleeping for too long, napping too late in the day and other sporadic sleep habits are often unhelpful in improving sleep quality and getting to sleep well at night.
For more tips on improving your sleep – click here.