If you feel energetic at night, take ages to fall asleep, wake up in the middle of night, or wake up feeling tired, your sleep habits need help asap. Start by avoiding these 6 common things that you may not realize are affecting your sleep quality. Though some of these things are healthy for you, they are best avoided in the hours leading up to bedtime.
1/ Vigorous exercise
You body naturally releases catabolic (break-down) hormones in the morning to enable you to stay alert and work hard. So the first half of the day is best for exercising. These hormones slowly decrease after midday and are replaced by anabolic (build-up) hormones which enable you to rest and repair while you sleep.
If you exercise vigorously in the late afternoon or evening, your hormonal system will be disrupted so that even when you are sleeping, your body’s system’s are not resting and repairing – which is the whole point of sleep! Make an effort to change your exercise schedule so you are not doing a hard workout late in the day.
Sex is an exception to this rule, as the hormones that are released from sexual activity can actually aid sleep. Woohoo!
2/ Stressful TV shows and movies
Your mind has such a powerful influence on your body that even if you are laying down motionless, your body will respond to stressful situations – even TV plots – by releasing those catabolic hormones again. TV shows and movies full of violence, murder, arguments and suspense can get your pulse racing, even when you don’t feel emotionally affected by it. And then once again, your body is in stress mode while you’re sleeping!
Though it’s best to turn off the TV well before bedtime, if you’re going to watch something in the evening, keep it comic or light. This is also why it’s best to ‘never go to bed mad’. Calmly resolving stressful fights before going to bed will make all the difference in your sleep.
3/ Food that is hard for you to digest
Normally, digestion processes are greatly slowed during sleep so your body can put it’s efforts toward growing and repairing other areas of the body. To ensure this growing and repairing (the point of sleep) takes place each night, avoid eating any foods before bed that require great digestive effort.
Sugar and junk food should be an obvious no-no before bed, but there are also many primal foods that can require lots of digestive work. This usually includes meats, and for some people may also include raw vegetables, nuts, grains, and dairy. Better choices are light soups, low-sugar fruits like berries, and avocado. If you have regular digestive problems, it’s best to avoid eating anything for 1-2 hours before bed.
Speaking of eating before bed, if you’ve been indulging in paleo and primal style desserts, you’ve probably discovered cacao. We surely enjoy raw cacao chocolate bars from time to time, and got addicted to raw cacao avocado mousse as an evening snack. However, cacao contains a compound called Theobromine, which is a strong stimulant and was used by the Spanish to keep their armies going while conquering Central and South America. Therefore, it will also keep you up at night, or keep your body’s system’s up at night when you think they are sleeping with you. Best to avoid cacao several hours before bed, or for the second half of the day if your sleep needs serious help.
5/ Caffeine – it’s not just in coffee
And while we’re talking about stimulants, be aware that even if you’ve wisened up to not having coffee late in the day, there are also caffeine and other natural stimulants in black tea, jasmine tea, chai tea, and green tea. Avoid any of these drinks several hours before bed. Good naturally caffeine-free alternatives are herbal teas (like peppermint, ginger, chamomile, etc.), dandelion root tea (which resembles coffee) and Rooibos tea.
Having said that, if you’re prone to waking up in the middle of the night to go pee, it’s best to not drink any liquids for at least 3 hours before bed!
6/ Computers & Mobile Phone
The blue light emitted from your computer and phone screen is also present in morning light. So when you are staring at those screens before bed, your body thinks it’s morning and starts releasing wake up hormones, which also suppresses the release of sleep hormones like melatonin.
You may have heard this one a lot lately, but it’s a hard habit to break in our internet addicted world, so even we need to constantly remind ourselves and each other to turn off the screens before bed.
Set yourself an electronic curfew alarm two hours before your bedtime, and plan for other activities instead. If you make it a rule to avoid electronics before bed, you will have more time for reading, meditating, a relaxing stress session, or having sex – all which will encourage sleep.
Apply these rules to your kids too
If you are struggling to get your child to go to sleep and not wake up at night, look at some of these same six factors. Are they watching dramatic shows, playing violent video games, or using a computer at night? Are they having stressful arguments with you about dinner and bedtime? Are you trying to ‘tire them out’ with lots of physical activity at night? Which is in fact just stimulating them more? Are they going to bed right after a huge meal? Are they having any stimulant drinks at night?
Focus on avoiding these 6 things in the hours before bedtime, and you may be amazed at how well you and your family sleep!
Other sleep articles by Primal Health:
Are Your Daily Habits Affecting Your Sleep Quality? Take the Quiz.
How My Body Swelled Up From Sleep Stress
Have you had problems getting quality sleep? What have you tried to improve your sleep?