10 Things to Stop Before Going to Sleep
We’ve all grown up with our parents imploring us to get enough sleep each night. As children, we probably hated it since we preferred to stay up all night long, playing with all our toys and reading the hundreds of books we piled up in our beds. In college, we continued our late nights by cramming for exams in the morning or hastily finishing our essays on time, before the midnight deadlines. Sound familiar?!
Now that we’re adults — presumably! — we get it. We understand what it’s like to start each morning already feeling like we’re dragging ourselves and wondering how in the world we’re going to make it through the day with our eyes open. As adults, we understand that we can’t consistently burn the candle at both ends — staying up late each night and getting up early each morning — and expect to be firing on all cylinders, doing and producing our best work.
And yet most of us are pretty horrible when it comes to our sleep. Sure, there are sometimes externalities that affect our sleeping — such as children who need comfort during all hours of the night or bedmates whose snores could wake the dead — but for many of us, we are the ones chiefly responsible for our poor sleep.
While our parents were definitely on to something, about getting enough sleep each night, they likely couldn’t have guessed that when we’d grow up, we’d be able to essentially bring a computer into bed with us each night. Portable and accessible electronics no doubt have made it harder to go to bed each night, but technology isn’t the only thing to blame.
Below, I’ll provide a quick checklist of ten things to stop before going to sleep each night. Certainly, there are many more elements that we could include on this list, but I think these top ten are the ones that will resonate with us all the most.
Before going to sleep each night, STOP the following!:
10. Stop consuming copious amounts of caffeine in the late afternoon or early evening hours. This is pretty self-evident. Caffeine is a stimulant, of course, and as such, it stimulates your bodily system and encourages you to keep go-go-going, regardless of time of day or night. It’s not rocket science. Consider transitioning to a low-caffeine or no-caffeine drink in the afternoon hours to help you avoid staying awake longer than necessary at night.
9. Stop eating huge dinners or a thousand snacks. It can be pretty uncomfortable to go to bed with a really full stomach. Likewise, it’s also uncomfortable to go to bed with a grumbling belly. Many of us tend to snack at night out of boredom or procrastination — avoiding going to bed — and before we know it, one little snack turns into a thousand snacks. Sound familiar? Save yourself the caloric excess, and simply go to bed. Recognize that you are probably eating emotionally, not out of necessity or hunger. Some people swear by not eating after a predetermined time of night, whereas others insist on not eating after dinner. Whatever you decide, consider minimizing late-night snacking, and just get to bed.
8. Stop drinking excessively — alcohol or otherwise. Alcohol can be a pretty heated subject for some people. On the one hand, many people look forward to winding down after a day at work with a nice, cold beer or a lovely glass of wine. On the other hand, for some people, one isn’t enough, and each day brings with it multiple servings of alcohol every single night. Not only is excessive alcohol consumption deleterious for your health, but it also adversely affects your sleep. Aside from waking up the next day with a hangover, when your sleep is alcohol-induced, it’s not as restful or deep as it would be if you were sober. Besides drinking too much alcohol at night, take pains to avoid drinking too much of anything at night to avoid many nighttime bathroom trips. It can be so frustrating to have to get up several times throughout the night to answer the call of nature. Being judicious with both what and how much you drink at night can help to remedy this problem.
7. Be mindful of how exercise affects your sleep. Some people can successfully exercise just a few hours before they go to bed and sleep soundly all night long. Others, however, report that if they work out at night, they’ll be up all night. While I won’t outright recommend that you stop working out before bedtime, I’ll instead recommend that you experiment and do what works best for you. If working out in the hours before bedtime actually helps you sleep well at night, then by all means, go for it. If, however, experience teaches you that working out too close to bedtime adversely affects your ability to catch some ZZZs, move your workout time to earlier in the day or morning.
6. Stop doing intensely cerebral work. Many of us have a hard time shutting off our brains when we’re trying to go to sleep each night, and it’s probably no surprise that most of us spend much of our nights working on commitments that are meaningful to us. Engaging in intensely cerebral work at nighttime may make it challenging for you to sleep at night simply because your brain may still be working in a frenzy when you’re trying to unwind. If at all possible, consider stopping your cerebral work in an hour or two before bedtime and instead switch to something more cathartic and effortless.
5. Stop napping too close to bedtime. Sometimes when we get home from work, we feel completely wiped and are convinced we simply won’t make it to bedtime without first taking a quick nap. This plan may backfire, however, in that napping too close to bedtime may make your actual nighttime sleep suffer. You may find that it’s harder to fall asleep at night, or to stay asleep, or to get deep, restful sleep, if you nap during the late afternoon or early evening hours. If at all possible, consider going to bed earlier when you’re especially tired.
4. Stop using your phone. This will arguably be the hardest bit of advice to follow, but if you’re committed to getting better sleep at night, it’s important that you lay off your phone before going to bed. Not only are you probably wasting way more time online than you realize, but lots of science right now suggests that our phones’ blue lights disrupt our bodies’ sleeping and waking patterns. Consider giving yourself a time until when you can use your device, and then cut yourself off. Easier said than done, I know.
3. Stop wasting time on social media. Closely related to #4, point #3 specifically calls out social media as a major timesuck and something that everyone should quit before going to sleep each night. We so often get on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and who knows what else each night just to “check” on something, and before we know it, we easily drop 40 minutes on essentially nothing. Save yourself the trouble, and either install a timer that will shut you out of the offending apps or exert some self-control and stop perusing social media an hour (or so) before bed. You’ll be surprised at how much more sleep you can get by not participating in social media as the last thing you do each night.
2. Stop falling asleep to the TV. Closely related to numbers #3 and #4, point #2 also emphasizes the importance of divorcing yourself from your TV, tablet, or electronic device immediately before you go to bed each night. It can be really tempting — and somewhat comforting — to fall asleep each night to a familiar TV show, but we don’t need to be a scientist to know that this isn’t the best for our sleep, health, or sleep hygiene. Minimize the “noise” — literally and figuratively — before you go to bed each night, and you’ll be surprised at how much more sleep — qualitatively and quantitatively — you’ll be getting.
1. Stop worrying. Finally, when you go to bed each night, instead of dwelling on everything that went wrong that day and on all the ways in which you feel that everything you did or didn’t do was inadequate, just stop. Stop worrying. Trust that tomorrow is another day, another chance for you to do the very best that you can, and relax. Take the time each night before sleeping to acknowledge all your good fortunes in life, and focus on the positive. Doing so can help you feel more at ease and can do a huge number for your mental health.
With these ten tips in your pocket, I have no doubt that you’ll be well on your way to better and more restful sleep straightaway; I just hope you’re not reading this on your phone in bed. 🙂