Since we can remember, the only rule of thumb when it comes to sleeping has been “you need at least 8 hours of sleep per night!” The emphasis on this rule has allowed us to neglect the other important, if not more essential, sleep health rules out there.
Contrary to popular belief, falling asleep and staying asleep for 8 hours isn’t always sufficient for a healthy lifestyle. Although most people do recognize the importance of a good night’s sleep, they don’t know what qualifies as such. Like most things in life, sleep adheres to the quality versus quantity rule.
The leading causes of a poor night’s sleep are the environmental factors that surround us throughout the day and before bed. These elements are responsible for a low quality sleep, regardless of the hours you get each night. These common sleep disruptions can come from all kinds of environmental elements.
7 Common Sleep Disruptions That Sabotage Your Sleep
1. No Strict Bedtime / Wakeup
Your body loves having a schedule, regardless of your spontaneous personality! Both your mind and your body benefit hugely from sticking with a solid bedtime routine. You send your kids to bed at a certain time each night don’t you? Setting a regular bedtime and wakeup time for yourself allows your body to get used to its sleep limitations.
Slowly, you’ll see that waking up in the morning becomes easier if your bedtime is consistent. Your body can predict when wakeup time is approaching because the time you’re asleep will also remain the same. Can you imagine waking up each morning feeling prepared, refreshed, and ready to go?
This may seem like an obvious sleep sabotager but the truth is, everyone is guilty of watching TV, texting, or reading online news before bed (to name a few). You may think that watching a movie makes you drowsy and reading the news on your tablet helps you wind down, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The lights that are emitted from the screens of your TV, tablet, and phone will stimulate your brain and actually trick your brain into believing it’s day time, not bedtime! The artificial light from the screen is proven to inhibit your body’s production of the hormone, melatonin. This hormone is responsible for promoting sleep and managing our natural sleep cycle; messing with melatonin production can seriously impact your sleeping habits.
3. Violence and Stress Before Bed
It’s sometimes our inclination to watch the news before heading off to bed but not only is this disrupting melatonin production as discussed before, it’s also interfering with our natural stress hormones. When we watch violent and negative news our stress hormone, cortisol, is elevated, which increases our blood sugar and ability to shut down.
The same goes for working right before bed. Fitting in an extra hour of work or emailing before bed is not a good idea because it naturally raises our stress hormones as well. It’s natural that you’ll go to bed thinking about the most recent activity you did, and if those thoughts are all concerning tomorrow’s work day, you may have a restless sleep ahead of you.
4. Proper Bedding
This component may seem trivial, but it’s scientifically proven that our melatonin levels can’t rise if we are too hot. Your body needs to be cool enough to fall into the deeper stages of sleep.
The same goes for ill-fitting pajamas – don’t wear tight clothes to bed! Wearing soft, loose clothing to bed will allow your body to feel comfortable, without overheating. Sleeping naked is also an excellent option in the summer months because your body is able to regulate its temperature by a simple flick of the covers.
5. Bedtime Appetite
Even though eating right before bed can have an impact on sleep quality, going to bed with a hungry tummy can also influence your sleeping habits. If you feel that familiar growl, a little snack before bed is much better than waking up famished the next morning. We like to call this “the point of no return” where you are so hungry you eat whatever you see first, which generally leads to an unhealthy meal full of carbohydrates and refined sugars.
To avoid this have one of these bedtime safe snacks before bed:
- Jasmine rice
Here are some more bedtime snack do’s and don’t
6. Bedtime Mood
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again; don’t go to bed angry! Whether you’re in an argument with your husband or wife, your child, someone at work or yourself, take a minute to calm down before getting into bed. Sitting in a dark room with nothing but your anger is a dangerous thing and it will absolutely raise your cortisol levels, making you stressed, anxious and restless. In addition, when your stress hormones are raised, your body’s blood sugar also rises, which has a significant impact on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
It’s an unfortunate truth that sleep is usually the first thing to go when your life gets busy. Staying up late to finish work, waking up early so you can get a run in before going to work; it all seems a little hectic.
What a lot of people haven’t grasped yet is that sleep is right up there in importance with food. Some scientists even claim that quality sleep is just as essential as a nutritious, well balanced diet.
An excellent way to look at sleep is through the eyes of the restorative theory. This scientific theory views sleep as a necessary means of restoration for your body. Everything your body did during the day drained it, and now it needs to be restored, replenished, and rested. Science proves that the majority of your body’s restorative functions happen during the hours you’re asleep. For example, muscle growth, tissue repair, growth hormone release, and protein synthesis, all occur at a heightened level during sleeping hours.
So remember, quality over quantity always! Set a bedtime, shutdown, have a light snack, get cozy, and be a happy sleeper.
1) Mayo Clinic News Network. Are Smartphones Disrupting Your Sleep? Mayo Clinic Study Examines the Question. http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/are-smartphones-disrupting-your-sleep-mayo-clinic-study-examines-the-question-238cef/
2) Bush B, Husdon, T. The Role of Cortisol in Sleep. Natural Medicine Journal. http://naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2010-06/role-cortisol-sleep
3) Pizzorno J, Murray, M. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th Ed. Churchill Livingstone. 2012.
4) Krauchi et al. Thermoregulatory effects of melatonin in relation to sleepiness. Chronobiology International. http://www.chronobiology.ch/wp-content/uploads/publications/2006_07.pdf
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