Good quality sleep is essential for us to be fully functional as human beings. Many of us don’t have enough of it, and even if we do, it’s sometimes broken, uncomfortable and restless — and that hinders our productivity. It also lowers our concentration and makes us tired during the day, resulting in a lack of motivation or the energy to carry out our tasks.
Sadly, everyday stresses make it hard for many of us to settle down at bedtime. Let’s take a look at 10 common sleep mistakes that could be hurting your productivity.
You may not even realising you’re doing them!
1. Hitting the Snooze Button
Alarms are a noisy (and annoying) reminder that we have to lift ourselves out of the bed and face the day. It’s hardly surprising that many of us reach for the snooze button for an extra 10 minutes of shut-eye, however snooze buttons are actually the enemy. Going back to sleep prepares your body for a fresh sleep cycle, and being woken up only minutes later will cause your body to not finish that cycle, leading to fatigue during the day.
Instead, set your alarm for the time that you need to wake up (add the extra snooze minutes) and eventually your body clock will wake you up at that time every day.
2. Watching TV Before Bed
We’ve all, at one time or another, fallen asleep on the sofa while watching TV after a long and hard day. Many, however, see this as something to replicate in the bedroom when we can’t fall asleep — this is a very common sleep mistake. Watching TV in bed actually encourages us to stay up later, meaning we mess up our sleep cycles and fall asleep later and later everyday.
Bedrooms should only be associated with sleep, so keep televisions out of the bedroom and do something less stimulating like reading a book, meditating, or listening to the radio.
3. Having Too Much Light
Our bodies require darkness in order to produce the sleep hormone melatonin, which helps to prepare us for our sleep cycle. When our bodies detect light, production levels of melatonin are decreased, meaning artificial lights (such as the sorts that come from lamps, devices, TVs and other technology) damage our sleep.
Make sure your bedroom is dark at bedtime by avoiding device screens and covering up stray lights (digital clocks, chargers, et cetera) to encourage effective melatonin production, ensuring that you’ll be well-rested the following day. For those who can’t seem to escape technology even when in bed, i0S 9+ devices have a “Night Shift” mode which omits a dim yellow light, as opposed the usual blue light that reduces melatonin levels.
4. Eating Sugary Snacks Before Bed
Refined sugars can disrupt the organs that control hormone regulation. When blood sugar levels and hormones fluctuate, this can cause you to wake up during sleep cycles and therefore cause fatigue the following day. If you need to eat before bed (you shouldn’t really though), opt for proteins such as yogurt, milk or eggs, which indirectly raises melatonin levels.
5. Drinking Alcohol Before Bed
Alcohol is a sedative, which leads most people to believe that it’ll help them nod off. While alcohol does indeed help you fall asleep initially, you’ll find yourself wide awake later on.
Opt for calming herbal teas (such as camomile) to help with sleep, rather than alcohol. Herbal teas also act as a sedative, but won’t disrupt sleep or impair your productivity the next day.
6. Stressing About Sleep
You may experience anxiety after a few nights of bad sleep, but stressing about it before bed is a terrible mistake and makes the situation far worse. Avoid stressing about sleep by having a relaxing bath before bed. Meditation can help too; why not try out some of these fantastic apps that can help you to meditate and relax?
7. Having an Irregular Sleep Pattern
Having a regular routine when going to bed makes getting a good night’s sleep much easier. Many of us, however, go to bed at different times every day; disorganized sleeping patterns can lead to fatigue and insomnia.
As an alternative, try to establish a routine where you go to sleep and wake up around the same time everyday, including weekends; this way our internal clock runs smoothly and our brains become attuned as to when it should and shouldn’t release sleep hormones.
8. Laying in Bed When You Can’t sleep
Ironically, when you can’t sleep, it’s actually best to leave the bed rather than keep trying. Laying there staring at the ceiling only causes anxiety when you keep willing yourself to sleep without success. Instead, walk slowly around the house for half-an-hour or read for 20 minutes until you feel truly tired. Again, try to avoid bright lights and screens while doing this.
9. Sleeping With Pets
While many of us love to have our furry companions snuggle into the crook of our arms while we sleep, it’s actually a sleep mistake that many of us are unaware of. Pets tend to fidget and this interferes with our sleep. Pets can also set off minor allergies if you come into close contact with them for too long.
Don’t worry, your companion will still love you in the morning!
10. Using Sleeping Pills
While sleep medication may seem like the obvious solution for troubled sleep, it should actually be avoided at all costs. Sleeping pills have been shown to be more harmful than useful; studies have shown that they can be very addictive and can actually worsen the effects of insomnia when used for too long.
One of the main reasons that many of us find it difficult to fall asleep at night is because we’re stressed about something, but if you de-stress using breathing and meditation techniques, you should have no trouble catching some Zs at night.
It’s hugely important to start noticing the mistakes you might be making that results in sleep issues. Sleep is so crucial for both our health and lives overall; when we have poor quality (or too little) sleep, we become run down, tired, and we lose focus.
Identifying and tackling these sleep mistakes will give you more energy — you’ll be less stressed and far more productive.
I’m a nutritionist and lifestyle blogger at Nomad Noms, currently writing nutrition guides for digital nomads whilst travelling the globe with my husband.