10 Common Sleep Mistakes We're All Making (Plus How to Fix 'Em)
Rest & Repair at last...
Whether you want to make big gains in the gym, perform your best at work, or just feel like a million bucks, you're going to need a good night’s rest. Too many of us neglect to remember the important fact: When you get quality REM sleep, your muscles, brain and body are able to repair themselves and fire on all cylinders.
But let's be real... Plenty of us don’t get quality sleep because of a few misconceptions and mistakes we're all making. Let’s fix that with 10 smart sleep tips:
10. Boozing Before Bed
A couple of drinks to unwind at the end of a long day can't be too bad, right? Well, in theory. In moderation, an adult beverage or two won't hurt you a couple of days a week. But despite its relaxing depressant effects, you'll still have to choose between alcohol OR a good night's sleep.
Alcohol in your system can help you drift off slightly faster, but it prevents REM (rapid eye movement) sleep... That good, deep slumber where all your body's repairing functions go to work. Miss out on REM sleep for a few days and you'll be dragging; but over an extended period the effects of sleep deprivation take hold. Especially on those nights you're exhausted, skip the booze so your sleep will actually count.
9. Blue Light at Night
Try to not look at your phone or any other electronic screen for at least an hour before bed. Such screens emit blue light, which can trick your eyes and brain into thinking the sun is rising and hijack your sleep process.
Furthermore, you can also help your brain convert the day's serotonin into melatonin to assist sleep by gradually dimming the lights as the night goes on, so your body will naturally ease into rest and repair mode.
8. Not Burning Off Enough Energy During the Day
Nothing helps you fall asleep better than actually being tired, and feeling properly "body-tired" instead of just mentally drained makes a huge difference. It can be tough to move enough if you've got a desk job or are stuck behind a computer all day, but a quick workout or run in the evening can shake off some of that restless energy.
Make sure you're using enough physical energy during the day to avoid restless legs and a racing mind when you lay down, and you’ll not only feel ready for bed when the time comes - but you’ll fall asleep more easily and soundly.
7. Randomly Napping
If you're lucky enough to swing a nap in your regular schedule, power to ya. Napping can be beneficial, especially during the dip in your circadian rhythm from around 1pm to 3pm each afternoon.
That being said, try not to nap outside this window or later in the afternoon if you can avoid it. A 6pm nap sounds good in theory, but it can confuse your body into thinking a new day has just begun when you wake up around dinnertime. Getting back to sleep when bedtime rolls around could be near impossible.
6. Afternoon Caffeine Revivers
Afternoon slumps and caffeine seem like they're made for each other, but approach that 4pm double espresso with caution - especially if you have trouble unwinding at night. Unbeknownst to many, caffeine actually stays in your system for up to 10 hours, so that afternoon coffee might still be kicking your butt when your head hits the pillow.
This one can be hard to execute, as the tiredness = coffee time routine is a vicious cycle for many of us. If you can manage it, skip caffeine altogether after about 3pm. But if you're too reliant on that afternoon boost, try switching to green tea and a piece of fruit when you feel like you're fading. You'll get a milder caffeine kick along with some healthy fruit sugars for energy.
5. Inconsistent Sleep Schedules
Your body and mind can be trained to fall asleep more readily and consistently if you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. It’s not as free-wheeling as just falling asleep when you run out of gas, but it is better for your long-term health!
This one's especially important if you're working on your physique, as your circadian rhythms are linked to your heart rate, blood pressure, and other cardiovascular functions. Plus, if you get into a spiral of chronic sleep deprivation, your body suppresses your secretion of human growth hormone. This can lead to weight gain and a slower metabolism, so be sure to accelerate your HGH production with consistent sleep so you can keep seeing lean muscle stacking on and fat burning off.
4. Not Dipping the Thermostat
Harking back to caveman times when we slept outside, our bodies are geared toward cooler temperatures at night when the sun would set. This is still true in our physiology today, and you'll sleep better if your bedroom is a few degrees cooler when you hit the sack.
Your body performs best at optimal working temperature during the day, but as you head to bed you'll want the room on the cooler side so your skin can dump heat and let you fall asleep faster.
3. Working in Your Bedroom
Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but wherever possible, keep your work in the kitchen or elsewhere in your home. Working in your bedroom connects your bed with activity to your unconscious brain, which could make it tricky to switch off and go to sleep when the time comes.
Keep your bed sacred for sleeping, sex, and chilling out, so your brain will form an effortless connection that it's time to relax when you lay back.
2. Skipping Decompression Time
Some before-bed meditation or reading can go a long way toward calming your mind and settling any rampant thoughts you may have about the day. Plus, it’s far better than scrolling social media or watching TV while lying in bed, as these sensory activities spark brain activity and wake you up again.
1. Neglecting the Goldilocks Standard
If you can’t get truly comfortable, bite the bullet and buy a new pillow or mattress. If you're still sleeping on the same mattress you had in college, you're well overdue to bring your bedroom into 2022. You’d be surprised just how much of a difference a new pillow or orthopedic bed can make if you struggle with insomnia.
With these 10 sleep secrets under your belt, you're set to have the deepest, most restorative sleep possible. Getting the REM sleep your body needs to repair itself, revive your mind and kickstart your hormone function is key to feeling awesome - so don't miss another good night sleep. Trust me, your body will thank you for it.
Thanks for reading, stay strong warrior.
Justin | MME Wellness Contributor
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