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Tuesday
Apr142015

8 Mistakes in Your Night Routine

We all know how important sleep is to our metabolism and health, yet many of us continue to struggle with getting enough quality rest every night.

We make excuses about work we need to do or distractions we get lost in.

Just as with eating and exercising, making sleep happen takes planning and prioritizing. We organize our lives around what it takes to create a healthy diet. Likewise, we need to put sleep front and center each evening.

Assessing our routines is key in that process. What can we do to optimize our chance of getting to bed on time - and enjoying quality sleep once we’re there?

In order to get to the “shoulds,” let’s look at the obstacles. Below are eight common mistakes you might be making that sabotage your sleep - and health. 

You have no routine.  

First and foremost, you want to develop your own personal nighttime routine. Many of us are extremely structured during the daytime. We wake up at the same time every morning, go to work at the same time, etc. At night, however, we fly by the seat of our pants.

Routines are helpful because they create consistency and habit. Make sure you set up your routine to realistically fit your family, work and other lifestyle needs. Start first by identifying a bedtime that allows for enough sleep and then work backwards.

You eat too late.

When your body is digesting food, that process takes physical priority over other systems internally. Eating too close to bedtime can hamper your ability to fall asleep. It can also exacerbate other gastrointestinal issues, such as acid reflux. One good rule of thumb is to pick a dinner time that is at very least two hours prior to bedtime.

For my clients who get home late due to long commutes, I usually suggest a bigger lunch and a dinner time protein shake or something that can digest a little more quickly than whole foods. 

You’re too stimulated.

Your body can be stimulated by stress hormones or caffeine. Make sure that you’re restricting your caffeine, especially if you have challenges falling asleep. Try to eliminate any caffeine after noon each day. If you’re having a hard time falling asleep without consuming caffeine, you might want to have your adrenals checked.

If you’re stimulated by stress, try not to take work home with you. Make a cut-off time to stop checking emails. Start an evening routine such as yoga or meditation to help prepare your mind for rest as well. I often encourage all of my clients to start a gratitude journal so they can end their day with relaxing and positive thoughts that help them fall asleep. 

You don’t plan for the next day (e.g. lay out workout clothes, make lunch for work, etc.)

This is a big one for my clients. I always think that taking the 5-10 minutes to prep for the next day is a great habit to practice each night. It gives you the opportunity to plan for the next day and allows you time to make healthy choices, such as pre-cutting your veggies for a snack, packing your supplements, or even laying out your workout clothes in your bedroom to avoid missing your morning workout appointment. Planning these things ahead of time helps your mind relax. 

Your house is lit up like a Christmas tree.

The typical American household has televisions, tablets, and various other technological toys. All of this artificial light can actually confuse the body into thinking that it’s daytime instead of time to wind down and prepare for rest and recovery. This is because the artificial “blue” light actually stimulates cortisol, your internal stress hormone, which can disrupt the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall and stay asleep.

Try to have a “lights out” time, and resist the temptation to check your emails in bed or fall asleep with the T.V. on. Limiting your exposure to artificial light will improve your sleep quality and help you feel more rested and focused each day.  

You don’t have a bedtime.

Similar to having an evening routine, having a bedtime is a great start. When you don’t stick to a set bedtime, the number of quality sleep hours varies and can disrupt your entire routine and energy the following day. Record television programming that runs past your bedtime to watch episodes during your normal waking hours.

Most adults have an alarm clock to wake them up. Setting the alarm to go to bed is just as important. 

You don’t “end” the day. (You go to bed thinking about what you didn’t get done, etc.)

Have you ever gone to bed only to dwell on the unfinished tasks of the day and things you need to do tomorrow? To help alleviate this tendency, it’s best not to think about it. Instead, put pen to paper, and write down what you’ve accomplished and what needs to go on the next day’s docket.

This is why a checklist can be so effective for many people. When you write out your tasks, you’ll feel more organized and less stressed about what needs to be done the next day. 

You don’t have an optimal sleep environment.

There are so many variables that can impact your sleep, beyond the artificial lights mentioned earlier. The fact is, your mattress, your snoring partner, your home’s humidity level, the temperature, and many other factors can influence your ability to fall and stay asleep comfortably.

Take an assessment of where you go to bed. Does it feel calming and relaxing? Many of my clients have removed their televisions or work related equipment because they’ve realized that their bedrooms have become more of a catch-all, do-all room instead of a place for rest.

If it’s been a while since you have changed your mattress, or if you wake up with aches or pains, set the goal to start saving for a new bed. Make other minor shifts to create the optimal sleep environment by using light blocking curtains to ensure a totally dark room, and set the thermostat to a cooler temperature. Additionally, some of my clients sleep better with white noise such as a fan or sound machine. 

Thanks for reading, everyone. Are you interested in learning more about good sleep hygiene? Talk with one of our professional staff today!

Written by Anika Christ, Senior Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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