7 Sleep Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making and How to Fix Them

4 Min Read | By Brett Janes

Last Modified 19 December 2022   First Added 4 December 2014

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Our bedtime routines are often formed by the life we lead. That makes sense, but our activity when we’re awake can often affect our sleep negatively. These seven sleep mistakes are some of the most common, so we wanted to look at how they can be fixed.

To give you a point of reference:

22% of people sleep poorly most nights.
47% of people say stress or worry keeps them awake at night.
49% of people have never taken steps to help them sleep.

Related: The Science Behind Why Alcohol Is Bad Before Bed

Does the last figure sound strange to you? Good. It should. When something isn’t right, we aim to fix it, and the only way sleep is different is that it’s much more important.

7 Sleep Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making – An Infographic

7 Sleep Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making and How to Fix Them: An Infographic from the Sleep Matters Club

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Are you having trouble sleeping? You’re not alone. 22% of people sleep poorly most nights. 47% of people say stress or worry keeps them awake at night. Despite this, 49% of people have never taken steps to help them sleep. Counting sheep and listening to lullabies can only get you so far. Here are some common bedtime mistakes you might not even know you’re making – and how to avoid them.

Common Sleep Mistakes
Consider your pre-sleep routine: are you guilty of any of these bad habits?

1. Caffeinated midnight snacking
Caffeine is a stimulant and in moderate doses can block sleep neurotransmitters causing insomnia. Whilst refined sugars can stress the organs in charge of hormone regulation – causing you to wake in the night as your levels fluctuate.

Snack on foods that contain tryptophan. This amino acid is needed by the body to produce serotonin, which in turn makes melatonin – a hormone that helps control your sleep cycles.

Read More: Melatonin And Sleep

2. Catching up on sleep
It’s a common misconception about sleep debt: you accumulate lost hours of sleep that you can pay back later on, and your body will be fine.

Sleep debt isn’t a straight balance. Most people only usually need two or three good nights’ sleep to get back to normal after serious sleep deprivation.

3. Sleeping with pets
According to research, 63% of pet owners who shared their bed or bedroom with their pet experienced poor sleep quality.

Keep your pets in a different room. If they’re exceptionally noisy, consult your vet to rule out any medical problems – they might be making sleep mistakes themselves!

4. Hitting the snooze button
Any extra sleep you get is fragmented, making it low quality. You also prepare the body for a new sleep cycle that you won’t have time to finish, resulting in fatigue throughout the day.

Set your alarm for when you actually need to get up, and try to do it for the same time every day. This regularity will hopefully mean you should wake up without the need for an alarm.

5. Having a nightcap
Though alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker, it reduces REM sleep – the phase of sleep associated with deep dreaming. Disruptions in REM sleep may cause daytime drowsiness.

Avoid drinking alcohol just before you go to bed. On average, it takes an hour for the body to process one unit of alcohol. Instead, opt for herbal teas, such as camomile, which have a sedative effect.

6. Using technology before bed
78% of people use a smartphone, tablet or laptop before going to bed – but these emit blue light, which is said to delay the production of melatonin, the sleep inducing-hormone.

Give yourself a tech curfew, and move your electronic devices out of the bedroom altogether.

7. Leaving the TV on
38% of people watch TV to wind down for sleep. However, watching TV before bedtime encourages you to stay up later, harming the sleep cycle and leading to poor quality sleep.

Keep TVs out of the bedroom. Alternatively, listen to the radio to help yourself fall asleep. With a few changes to your bedtime routine, you’ll hopefully be dozing off in no time.

Sweet dreams!

Have you tried any of these solutions and succeeded? Let us know how effective you found them, and which was the best, or, if you haven’t started yet, which problem do you think is causing the worst sleep?

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Related: How To Get Back To Sleep In The Middle Of The Night

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