How to Avoid the 5 Worst Sleeping Habits
5 min read
Last Modified 2 September 2021 First Added 2 October 2017
If you’re no stranger to the Sleep Matters Club, you’ll probably be familiar with the standard sleep mistakes you could be making. For example, consuming alcohol or coffee for up to 6 hours before bed, or using technology just before sleeping. Our 7 Sleep Mistakes Infographic covers such common culprits who could be disrupting your sleep. However, if you’ve resolved all the above and are still failing to get your recommended 8 hours, there may be other factors to blame. Here are five of the worst sleeping habits you may not have known about and how to fix them.
First and foremost, napping during the day is one of the worst sleeping habits. While some people may swear by a nifty nap for productivity, it could prevent you achieving 8 hours come night-time. Long naps especially, or naps late in the day, are more likely to keep you up at night than a 20-minute kip at lunchtime.
If you’re struggling to get some shut-eye, the last thing you should do is worsen your chances by napping during the day. Regardless of how tired you are, try to stay awake until at least 9pm. Although we don’t recommend napping to those suffering from sleep problems, if you’re adamant to nap, our Ultimate Guide to Daytime Napping Infographic will advise you on how to achieve an efficient and energy-boosting nap.
We’re probably all guilty of this one. When you’re struggling to sleep, it’s common just to hope you’ll drift off soon. However, this an unhealthy sleeping habit. Lying awake in bed wastes time and circulating questions such as ‘why can’t I sleep?’ builds concern. If done often enough, you can come to associate your bed with anxiety and sleepless nights.
If you cannot fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, you should focus your mind on something else. Rather than tossing and turning, try reading a book. If you continue to struggle, get out of bed and try something else until you become tired. MD Brandon Peters describes this as ‘stimulus control’, as it can control how you perceive your sleep environment. The activities you try should not be overly stimulating. It’s also important to avoid technology which emits blue light. For example, computers, television, and your phone can keep you up.
Read more about blue light: Should Children’s Bedrooms Be A No TV Zone?
It’s recommended to exercise for around 30 minutes every day. Studies show that people who get the recommended amount of exercise are 65% less likely to feel drowsy during the day. However, be careful when you choose to do this. Exercising too close to bedtime revs you up by raising body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, all of which are not beneficial to sleep.
Spend the last 2 hours before bed winding down. If possible, avoid technology or eating excessively during this time and try to relax. Activities such as taking a bath or reading a book are always beneficial before bed. If you still feel like you need to get your fix, attempt exercise which isn’t too strenuous and promotes deep breathing. For example, yoga is proven to reduce stress and consequently aid sleep.
See our Bedtime Yoga Chart for the best positions to aid sleep.
This one may sound a little harsh, but if you share a bed, then 50% of your sleep disruptions are due to your partner, according to Dr Neil Stanley. For example, if you have a partner that is up a lot in the night, or is a regular snorer, you’re less likely to get a good night’s rest and it could cause tension in the relationship.
If your loved one is keeping you up, there are certain measures you can take to help you sleep. For example, having an eye mask and earplugs next to your bed will help you remain oblivious to light and noise levels. However, if you’re still struggling, don’t be afraid to sleep in separate beds. Dr Stanley adds ‘if they are disturbing your sleep because of snoring or fidgeting, you may want to consider separate beds or even a separate bedroom.’ If discussed in advance and it works for you both, there’s no need for separate beds to impact the relationship.
See more: Should Couples Sleep in Separate Beds?
The last in our list of unhealthy sleeping habits, is varying when you go to bed and wake up each day. While this may be hard to stick to, especially on weekends, it’s important to keep your body clock and circadian rhythm consistent. If you go to bed at 9pm one night and midnight the next, your body will have no sense of when it’s tired, and you may be lying awake in bed.
Regular bedtimes aren’t just for children so try to keep to a schedule. Wake up daily with an alarm and go to bed when you feel tired. Ensure you schedule in at least 8 hours of sleep each night to meet your needs and guarantee a productive following day. While it may be tempting to have a lie in on weekends, doing so can confuse your body’s internal clock and make it harder to sleep the following night.