It’s amazing how many little annoyances can keep you from a restful night’s sleep. It is as though a force beyond this earth doesn’t want you to sleep well. It’s very probable that your evening habits are to blame. It may be time to examine what fills your evening before bedtime and steals away your much-needed sleep.
Studies show that there are several habits that contribute to disrupting people’s sleep and I have picked out the five most influential.
1) Exercising too late: In your effort to maintain a healthy weight, control high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, you have taken an oath to do your exercise routines every single day, without fail. Well, good for you! But getting on that treadmill at 10 PM is not really a good idea!
What it will do is give you that extra boost of energy you don’t need at bedtime. If you decide to skip your exercise routine for one day, don’t be so hard on yourself! If you feel you need to make it up then get up earlier the next day and do it then. You will have great energy at the start of your day, when you need it most!
2) Night Caps: Since 1818, the word night cap has been used to describe what you would wear on your head to keep you warm and cozy while you sleep with a warm beverage by your side. By the turn of the 19th century, the word night cap meant more the drink, than a hat!
I have come to realize that alcohol, warm or on ice, is more of a stimulant than a relaxant! Even though after a few glasses I may get drowsy, I am never sleepy. Having wine with dinner would not pose a problem but drinking hard liquor before bedtime is not recommended if sleep is what you want. Read this article if you want to find a healthier alternative to your night cap.
3) Tired but wired: So many of us have dropped from exhaustion on the couch but somehow that trip to your bed has awakened every cell in your body and it’s ready to go dancing. Why?? You should have just stayed on the couch. Even though tomorrow you have a busy day at work, a parent-teacher meetings, soccer, and dinner on the run, your body won’t wind down when it needs it most.
What is important to note is when you have one or more of those days a week, you need to carve out some time, as little as 30 minutes, before bedtime to relax. Taking a warm bath will easily and quickly bring down the intensity, as a cup of warm herbal tea and a few chapters of your bedside book will as well. Activities such as writing in your journal, meditating, or gentle yoga stretches will bring you to a calmer place internally so that you can sleep.
4) Late Meals: You didn’t have time for dinner and now it’s bedtime! Rather than stopping at the all-night burger joint, which will keep you tossing and turning all night, opt for a turkey sandwich on whole grain or a bowl of whole grain cereals. A handful of almonds will keep those stomach rumblings at bay as will a few whole grain crackers and cheese. Eating light and nutritious as you get closer to bedtime is the key to a good night’s sleep.
5) Caffeine: You are craving a hot cup of Joe but you know your sleep will suffer from the caffeine. Since herbal teas is not an option for me, I always boil a cup of roasted chicory root, which has been used as a coffee substitute for centuries and used as a blood purifier by the Ancient Romans and Egyptians. When roasted, this plant tastes oddly like coffee but without the jitters.
So, you see, there are no sleep-stealing gremlins under your bed. When you review your evening habits and consider these suggestions, your sleep disruptors will slip away into the dark!
Gerry, Your Sleep Expert!