Getting a good night's sleep is essential if you want to start the following morning bright, alert and ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, many of us don't often get the required 8 hours a night due to habits that we have built up over the years and failed to eradicate from our nighttime routine (if we have one at all).
So with that in mind, and in lieu of a recent statistic that found 1 in 3 Americans aren't getting an adequate amount of sleep, we at Lifehack Lane have done our research and come up with 15 of the most commonly-cited no-nos medical professionals have told us we should never do before going to bed if we want to improve our sleeping patterns.
1. Drink caffeine
Drinking caffeine can be vital for staying awake in the morning because not many of us are natural morning people and no one wants to feel sluggish and half-dead. However, if you're working long hours and rely on caffeine throughout the day, your sleeping pattern will be heavily impacted, regardless of how tired you feel.
It's a stimulant after all, and one which makes us wide-eyed and awake, as CBS News reported when they stated, "When consumed a few hours before bed, the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world seems to disrupt the body's internal clock.”
While most people smoke to calm the nerves and take a break from the all-encompassing stresses of modern-day life, research has found that those who smoke before bed are doing their sleeping patterns more harm than good.
According to one study by The Active Times, smoking has been shown to increase blood pressure and thus make you more alert because it is a stimulant.
3. Eat before after going to bed
Research has shown that going to bed soon after a meal typically leads to a restless night, with digestive unpleasantries like heartburn an all-too-common reality.
Instead, try to eat at least two hours before you decide to go to bed, and avoid foods which are typically high in sugar and acid.
4. Exercise shortly before sleeping
While putting your body through various cardio and weight-intensive exercises can tire you out as the day goes on, your body feels more alert and active post-workout because of the high levels of adrenaline in your body.
Therefore, as is the case with dinner, give yourself at least 2 hours after exercising before hitting the sack. That way, your heart rate would have hopefully lowered, and you'll start to feel tired.
5. Keep the heating on
Is there anything worse than tossing and turning trying to get to sleep in the middle of the summer? Probably not, because the hotter the weather becomes, the harder it is for humans to sleep but some make it worse for themselves by having the heating on all night.
Not only is this incredibly expensive, but it's been proven that lower room temperatures aid people's sleep more than rooms with higher temperatures. So keep a window open, turn the heating off and, if it's the middle of winter, make a hot water bottle and have extra warm blankets instead.
6. Regularly hydrate
While it's good to hydrate throughout the day and drink your two litres of water, try to refrain from liquids late in the evening.
If you don't, you'll likely find yourself making one too many trips to the bathroom as your bladder gradually decides to empty itself during the night.
7. Check your phone
Everyone has a smartphone nowadays, and most of us can't live without them as our social and professional lives become increasingly dependent on them, but they are also addictive and can impact our sleep.
Research even found that the average mobile user checks their phone 85 times a day, and a large chunk of that probably comes at night which won't be doing your sleep any favours as the light disturbs our circadian rhythms and makes our body feel more awake.
With that said, your best bet is to turn it off, place it far away from the bed and invest in an alarm clock instead.
8. Play video games
Though it's common knowledge that watching TV or looking at your phone in bed disrupts your chances of a good night's sleep, playing video games is another visual medium you should add to your list of pre-bedtime no-nos.
In fact, it's even worse because not only are your eyes being alerted by bright lights; your brain is also feeding off the stimulation that playing a game spawns and such interactivity makes you more alert.
9. Work in bed
It's always worth taking on board the advice of many prominent business people and CEOs, many of whom often stress the importance of a work/life balance, and working in bed certainly isn't going to help if you wish to attain such an equilibrium.
Worst, taking your work home and into bed will stimulate the brain, making it harder for the receptors to turn off.
Showering before bed can make you feel clean and cosy after a long day's work at the office, but though it may offer a nice feeling, you'll actually feel more awake by the time you've finished up.
Indeed, research has shown that if you shower in the morning, the brain can get confused and believe you're repeating the process again, so it might be better to stick to that one morning shower instead. If you feel sweaty and dirty, you can always use wipes and a body deodorant instead.
11. Eat chocolate
Chocolate is something we all love and are privy to on many occasions, but dark chocolate, which is ironically the healthiest, is the type we should stay away from if we wish to improve our sleeping patterns.
According to Dr. Mercola, it's caffeine-like effects on the brain can wreck havoc with our sleep. “Though the healthiest form of chocolate from an antioxidant perspective, (dark chocolate) can contain relatively high levels of caffeine that can keep you up at night if you're sensitive. It also contains obromine, a compound that has caffeine-like effects.”
12. Watch something scary/distressing
As we've said before in this article, anything involving a screen shortly before bed is off-limits, and that's especially true for those prone to staying up late and watching something scary.
Unsurprisingly, research points to an increased likelihood of having a sleepless night if the brain has recently watched something unsavoury/depressing.
13. Take certain medications
Unless you're taking sleeping pills, most medications consumed shortly before getting into bed can have adverse effects on your sleeping habits according to individual studies.
If you find yourself regularly taking certain medicines and suffering from a lack of sleep, it might be best to seek medical advice from your doctor.
14. Fight with your partner
It's a known fact that arguments lead to higher blood pressure levels, but few know that having a full-blown argument, or even just a heated disagreement can cause long bouts of insomnia.
That's according to Health.com, at least, who wrote that the "brain uses the same neurotransmitters for sleep and mood; it's often hard to know which starts first. Stressful situations or events, such as money or marital problems, often kick off insomnia that can become a long-term problem.”
15. Sleep with the lights on
Sleeping with the lights on isn't the best idea in the world, yet many who aren't light-sensitive, often out of laziness, can't be bothered to switch the lights off and instead opt to stay under the sheets even if it slows down the sleeping process.
Even if you aren't too bothered by the light as more sensitive sleepers are, according to the Sleep Academy, light impacts on all our body clocks, and causes our bodies to produce less melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that induces sleep.