It's the caffeine. It was perfect with that apple pie. But at 3 a.m. when you're still awake? Not so much. Caffeine lurks in lots of places like tea, chocolate, soda, and energy drinks.
A 'nightcap' is the perfect way to end the evening, right? Wrong. Alcohol messes with deep sleep, which is important for restfulness, memory, and other things your brain does. It can make you drowsy enough to fall asleep, but it often wakes you up just a few hours later.
Artificial light at night can be bad for sleep. But the 'blue light' on smartphones and computers is particularly bad -- televisions, too. Shut down bright screens 2 to 3 hours before bedtime to get your body ready for snoozing.
It's a great way to catch up on a little shut-eye. But if you take one after 3 p.m., it might affect you later on. So, no naps and no coffee. A splash of cold water on your face or a brisk walk can get you moving again.
You've probably noticed it's harder to fall asleep when it's hot. But did you know it can hurt your sleep quality, too? High humidity can make it even worse. Like so many other good things in life, if you want to get good rest, you gotta stay cool.
A little bit is probably fine. But a big meal or snack can supercharge your metabolism and speed up your brain, which could lead to indigestion and even nightmares. But it doesn't affect everyone the same way. If you're a midnight snacker, keep a diary of what happens when you eat late to see if it bothers you.
If you're supposed to take meds before bed, you should. But some prescription drugs can keep you from getting quality sleep, and some over-the-counter medications are loaded with stimulants. Check with your doctor about what you're taking and when before you change or stop any medication.
Exercise is usually good for your sleep. It can boost your mood, lessen anxiety, and wind you down at bedtime. It also helps set a regular pattern of going to sleep and waking up around the same time each day (circadian rhythm).
Though exercise is good for your sleep, exercising too close to bedtime can ruin it. It doesn't happen to everyone, but if that sounds like you, try to finish up your workout at least 3 hours before you go to bed.
You're more likely to have sleep problems if you have untreated mental health issues. It might be a condition like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. Or it could be a difficult period in your life, like losing your job or partner. Whatever the cause, talk therapy, medication, or both might help. Ask your doctor what's best for you.
Did I take the trash out? Did I feed the dog? Is it my turn to do carpool tomorrow? Thinking about these things can keep you up at night. Writing a to-do list before you lie down might help. It can ease your mind and make it easier to fall asleep. Keeping a pen and notepad next to your bed can be helpful if you think of something in the middle of the night.
Difficult or angry discussions late at night can trigger hormones that keep you up. Save tough talks for daylight hours, and try a soothing evening routine. Read a book or listen to calming music. A hot bath or shower or some light stretching exercises might also help you wind down.
You want to drink enough to stay hydrated, but not so much that it interrupts your sleep with repeated bathroom breaks. That's why it's best to spread the amount of water you drink over the course of the day. Don't try to guzzle it all down before bed.
It may seem like a good way to catch up on rest, but it doesn't do much to make up for lost sleep. It can mess with your normal cycle of going to bed and waking up. Keep regular hours, and you'll probably snooze better and longer.
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- Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research: "Alcohol and Sleep I: Effects on Normal Sleep."
- American Psychological Association: "The effects of bedtime writing on difficulty falling asleep: A polysomnographic study comparing to-do lists and completed activity lists."
- Baylor University: "Can Writing Your 'To-Do's' Help You to Doze? Baylor Study Suggests Jotting Down Tasks Can Speed the Trip to Dreamland."
- Harvard Health Publications: "Blue Light Has a Dark Side."
- Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine: "Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep."
- Johns Hopkins Health: "Exercising for Better Sleep."
- Mayo Clinic: "Insomnia"
- National Institutes of Health: "Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm," "Opiates, Sleep, and Pain: The Adenosinergic Link."
- NIH MedlinePlus: "Tips for Getting a Good Night's Sleep," "Drugs, Herbs and Supplements."
- Sleep.org: "The Connection Between Hydration and Sleep," "Sleep Hygiene," "How to Sleep Better if You're Stressed," "Insomnia," "How Exercise Affects Sleep," "What Causes Nightmares?" "Seven Worst Sleep Habits."