Kelly Rudolph, BA (Psych) – June 2016

A good night sleep plays a key role not only in your ability to function the next day but also in your overall health. Getting that good night sleep is often difficult for some people however, and it is often related to what they are doing leading up to going to bed. Here are four habits that you may be doing that are disrupting your body’s ability to get the rest it needs, and four ways that may help you correct these habits.

  • Eating heavy foods before bed
    • Going to bed on a stomach full of heavy foods can make for an incredibly uncomfortable night of tossing and turning. Naturally your body’s metabolism is slower at night and therefore digestion takes much longer. This causes your body to produce more gasses and can make for a very uncomfortable sleep as your body tries to digest food and rest at the same time. This does not mean that you should go to bed on an empty stomach either; instead stop eating carbohydrates at least four hours before you are planning to go to bed and try not to eat anything for at least two hours before bed. If you do need to have a snack of some sorts between supper and bedtime, have something small and light like a bowl of yogurt or cereal. This will help you sleep better as your body won’t be trying to digest heavy foods and also because it will not be making the “I’m hungry!” noises that will interrupt the silence of your room.
  • Using technology or watching television
    • While there is nothing wrong with curling up and watching your favorite television show or playing games on your computer after a long day at work, often times people will do these activities right up until they decide to go to bed. Even more problematic, that “one episode” has now turned into three and suddenly you are finding yourself stumbling to bed at midnight instead of ten. This can throw off your whole sleeping habits you may have previously formed. Instead of spending time in front of the television or computer until your bed starts calling, set a timer to twenty minutes before your bedtime and when it goes off shut off the technology, and then pick up a book or talk to your spouse about your day. This will allow your body to “wind down” and become more relaxed than it would have been while using technology and help you to maintain a sleep schedule.
  •  Something on your mind
    • We have all have had those nights where we cannot sleep because something is on our mind. It could be excitement over an upcoming trip, stressing over an argument with your partner, or fretting over a project deadline, but no matter the situation it seems like your mind just won’t accept that it is time to rest. While there are many recommendations for dealing with this type of thinking during the day, a good suggestion for dealing with it late at night is to write it down. If you have something that is nagging at you, grab a piece of paper and write down everything and anything that comes to mind. This will allow you to get the thoughts that are keeping you up out of your head and put your mind at ease. Similarly, voicing your thoughts to a partner, a family member, or even simply out loud to yourself can provide you the means to empty your mind and fall asleep.
  • Not having a consistent sleep and wake time
    • It is well known that your body is supposed to get between six and nine hours of sleep a night. This isn’t always easy for people to do, especially those who work irregular hours. To help your body form a clock like knowledge of when it is time to rest, you should do your best to go to bed at the same time every evening and wake at the same time every morning. Understandably, for those that may work an evening shift one day and a morning shift the next, bedtime could be ten one night and three in the morning the next. This one of the reasons that shift work is often a factor in an individual’s ability to get the sleep they need. To help with this, do your best to keep a consistent sleep schedule on days off and try to sleep the same amount of hours a day even when you are working to allow your body the rest it needs.