Even if you eat kale and get plenty of exercise, it won’t matter much if you don’t get a decent amount of sleep. Your body and mind desperately needs rest to function properly.
Take a look at these sleep habits to find out whether you’re making these major mistakes, and learn how to fix them:
1. You swear by your sleep tracker
“You don’t need a health tracker to find out if you’ve had a good night sleep,” says Matt Leve, physical therapist at Shift Integrative Medicine in New York City. You know that feeling you get when you wake up on vacation? It’s called refreshed, and it’s how you should feel every. Single. Day. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends adults get about seven to nine hours of quality nightly sleep for optimal health, productivity, and daytime alertness. Even if your tracker says you’ve slept enough, if you generally wake up groggy, absolutely require caffeine to function, or doze off throughout the day, you’re not getting adequate sleep.
2. You only use your pillows for your head
If you sleep on your back, wedge one under your knees to take pressure off your lower back. Or if you sleep on your side, wedge a pillow underneath your top armpit to support your arm and one between your legs to keep your spine aligned.
3. You sleep on your stomach
Sleeping face down can cause some obvious issues — like not being able to breathe. Because you need to turn your head to one side to get air in and out, you inherently twist your spine. Over time, this can cause neck and back pain, says Ilene Rosen, M.D., an associate professor of clinical medicine for the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia and member of the board of directors for the AASM.
To straighten your spine, bend the elbow and knee on the side you typically turn your head toward, and wedge a pillow underneath that armpit and hip. If you tend to kick the pillows and wake up flat on your stomach, tape a tennis ball to the front of your pajama shirt to teach your sleeping self not to roll. And if you really can’t sleep in a modified position? Wedge a thin pillow under your abdomen to take pressure off your back.
4. You booze it up before bedtime
While drinking at night can help you doze off at first, it can also cause you to wake up throughout the night, which will ultimately interfere with the quality of your sleep, according to a comprehensive review of existing research that was published last year. The more you drink, the worse you’re going to sleep. If you plan to throw back more than a few stiff ones, start early and slow down toward the end of the night.
5. You don’t have a bedtime
When you crash hard at 9 p.m. on Monday night and stay up all night Tuesday to binge-watch your Netflix queue, your body won’t know when to shut down on Wednesday night. A consistent sleep schedule helps your body know when it’s time to fall asleep and wake up.
6. You sleep in on weekends
Think you can run on no sleep all week and catch up Saturday morning? Recent research suggests skimping on sleep can actually lead to permanent brain damage that can compromise your alertness and brain power — and binge-sleeping can’t mend that.
7. You go to sleep on a full stomach
Whenever you eat dinner less than three hours before bedtime, you put yourself at risk for heartburn and indigestion, which can make it tough to doze off, according to research published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Keep late-night snacks light, and always avoid fatty, fried, or spicy foods before bed.
8. You sleep on a super-fluffy pillow
Ideally, your pillow should elevate your head and neck just enough to keep your spine straight while you sleep. Pillows that raise your head more than a few inches cause you to round your head and shoulders forward. You can get away with a slightly higher pillow when you sleep on your side, because there’s more room to fill between the side of your head and the mattress when you lie in that position.
9. You sleep in foetal position
This side-sleeper tendency can restrict your breath and compromise the quality of your sleep. Wedge a body pillow under your top arm and leg to unwind your limbs and lengthen your spine. Even if you kick it away at some point during the night, you’ll at least get some good quality sleep.
10. You sleep on a mattress that’s older than you
Most inner spring mattresses only last for five or 10 years, max, depending on the quality of your mattress, your weight, and how much time you spend in bed. If yours has a large indentation in the middle, or your body sags into the mattress when you lie on it, you’ll likely wake up with lower back, hip, or shoulder pain. A foam cover or a new mattress can help.
11. You sleep in synthetic materials
That goes for both lingerie and bedding: Foam mattresses, sateen sheets, and satin PJs may feel good, but they retain body heat more than natural materials, which can amount to a temperature change that wakes you up. Always sleep in sheets and pajamas made of cotton, bamboo, or natural fiber. If you have a foam mattress, use a wool mattress topper that’s at least a half an inch thick. It will wick away body moisture so you don’t wake up with the sweats.
12. You sleep on a mattress that’s too soft
Sorry, Goldilocks, there’s no perfect mattress — it all depends on your frame and weight and personal preference. That said, yours is probably too soft if you feel like you sinking into it. If your pelvis drops more than a few inches, you could suffer from lower back pain.
13. You sleep on a mattress that’s too hard
If your body doesn’t sink at all, you could develop a curve in the spine that causes a stiff back and shoulders or hip pain in the morning. Buy a foam mattress cover to make it a little more forgiving.
14. You sleep with your phone, or use your computer or TV before bed
These screens emit blue light that activates your brain and interferes with your body’s natural sleep cycle.
If you get a text or email in the middle of the night — even after you close your eyes — the light can go right through your eyelids and stimulate your nervous system and brain. So you can kiss your deep, restorative sleep good-bye.
Ideally, leave your phone outside your room while you sleep. If that’s not an option, put it in silent mode with the screen facing down on a surface that’s far from your bed.
15. You sleep in a room with no blinds
Light is a product of modern civilization, and humans aren’t designed to bask in glaring streetlights while they sleep. Try black out shades — they’re the best thing you can do for your brain. A sleep mask can help too.
16. You sleep in a room that’s too hot or cold
Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees will disrupt sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Recent research suggests that sleeping in a room that’s about 66 degrees can increase your metabolism.
17. You get in bed with dirty feet
This stinks up your sheets, and if you wear sandals or walk barefoot around the house, it can redeposit the dirt and dust you picked up throughout the day onto the bottom of your bed. A warm bath or shower will fix that. Plus, it will raise your body temperature, so by the time you tuck in, your temperature naturally will be dipping back down, which gets your body into sleep mode so you fall asleep faster.
This article was reproduced with the kind permission of Organic Health www.organichealth.com