You counted 1,000 sheep, yet you’re still awake and it’s 3am. You somehow manage to fall asleep an hour later, only to be rudely awakened by your alarm at 6am. Then, you have to kick ass and take names at work, but not even 50 cups of coffee can cure your grogginess. The next night, you repeat the cycle. If you’re not catching your ZZZs, it may be time for a wake-up call about your nighttime routine.
“Improving your habits and behaviors regarding sleep can make it easier,” said Richard Shane, PhD, who developed Sleep Easily, a medication-free program that provides steps to help you sleep. “And when you sleep well, life is better. It can improve your health, thinking, mood, performance and relationships. That’s a lot of good that comes from one change—improving your sleep.“
I asked Shane to help you figure out those pesky reasons for sleep loss and say farewell to those sheep.
You’re Eating a Large Meal Too Close to Bedtime
You may not be one to frequent early bird specials, but if you eat too close to bedtime, it could be harming your sleep cycle. “Your digestive system has to stay active working digesting your food,” Shane said. “It’s difficult to have the rest of your body sleep well when part of your body has to stay active.” Shane recommends eating dinner at least three hours before you call it a night.
On the flip side, try to sleep when you’re hungry and your growling stomach will make for an ineffective lullaby. “Your blood sugar drops, causing your adrenal glands to activate, which creates the buzzing feeling that makes sleep difficult,” Shane said. Grab a light, low-sugar snack with carbs and protein, like toast and turkey slices.
You’re on a Sugar High
Sweet tooths, beware. “Too much sugar in the evening can make your brain and mind active,” Shane said. He also said the amount of sugar someone can handle will vary person to person, so try experimenting by lowering your intake little by little at night and throughout the day.
You’re Too Warm
If you have a ton of blankets or the room temperature is too high it can make it tough to sleep. Layering isn’t just for fashion, it can help you drift off to dreamland, too. “Sleep with multiple blankets rather than one heavy blanket,” Shane said. “Although it might initially sound counterintuitive, take a hot bath before bed. When you get out of the bath, your body begins to cool off back to room temperature and continues to cool off a little more. Having a slightly cooler body is conducive to sleep.”
You’re Obsessed With Instagram
“Computer and phone screens have a blue tint that makes them appear brighter and crisper. That blue light shuts off your brain’s melatonin production, which is essential for sleep,” Shane said. If possible, stop the use of electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime. If reading a good book before you turn in helps you relax or you can’t live without that final scroll through Twitter, try glasses or over-the-glasses goggles like BlueGard that block blue light.
You’re a Card-Carrying Member of #FitFam
Your New Year’s resolution to hit the gym more is doing wonders for your abs (is it summer yet?), but exercising is often one of the reasons for sleep loss because it raises blood temperature and induces endorphins. Hop off that treadmill at least three hours before witching hour.
You’re Tech Obsessed
Can’t sleep? There’s an app for that, but you may want to hold off on downloading it. “Some people become too vigilant about their sleep,” Shane said. Try it. If it works, great, if not, stop.
You’re a Fan of the Nightcap
A bottle of red wine may make you drowsy, but it’s not going to help you get a good night’s rest. The more alcohol you drink, the less deep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep you’ll get and the less awake you’ll feel the next day. A glass of wine won’t kill you, but if you’re out on the town, “you’re going to have to choose what’s more important,” Shane said.
You’re Watching the Evening News
Being well informed about what’s happening in the world is important, but the old adage about “too much of a good thing” applies here thanks to constant talk of wars, terror threats and the thought of Donald Trump in the White House. “Most of the time, you will be sufficiently informed if you read, watch or listen to news one time per day,” Shane said.