7 deadly sins of insomnia

7 sleep sins that keep you awake at night

Are these sleep mistakes disturbing your slumber without you knowing?

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The clock on your bedside tells you that it’s already two in the morning and yet there you are, between the sheets, still struggling to get yourself to sleep.

You’ve been experiencing similar bouts of insomnia for several days now, and it seems that no matter what you do or how much you tire yourself out, you still can’t sleep well. What could be the problem?

Your sleeping problem might well be a sign that you have committed a sin against your body and it is now exacting punishment from you in the form of insomnia.

Browse through the list below and try to determine which of the following sins are keeping you restless throughout the night.

1) You don’t stick to a proper sleep schedule

One of the most common sins that people commit is assuming their bodies are impervious to the effects of an inconsistent sleep schedule. If you think that your body can tolerate constant shifting of sleep/waking times, then you’ve got it all wrong.

Quality sleep is not just about sleep duration. Michael Breus, PhD, aka The Sleep Doctor emphasizes the body’s need for consistency by advising individuals to sleep and wake on schedule every day.

Forcing your body to observe different sleeping and waking schedules is like forcing your body to adapt to different time zones every week—it’s just impossible.

2) You think it is okay to go to bed early

It might come as a surprise to you, but going to bed too early is not necessarily going to help you get quality sleep. But how can that be? Isn’t sleeping early supposedly healthy?

Not according to Colleen Carney of Ryerson University’s Sleep and Depression Laboratory. If you’re an insomniac, you might need to practice what’s known as sleep restriction therapy.

Basically, you send a signal to your body as though you are depriving it of sleep so that it will crave for your hours in bed. So how do you do it?

  • First, you need to come up with a wake-up time. Let’s say that you want to wake up at 5:30 in the morning.
  • Then count back some seven or eight hours to determine what time you should sleep. So if you want to wake up at 5:30AM, you should not try to sleep before 9:30 in the evening.

That’s it, in a nutshell. Sleeping before that time will only make you feel restless and will end up frustrating you. Of course, each person may have a different hour requirement for sleep. Some only need six or seven hours to feel well-rested. If that is true of you, then do base your sleeping time calculation on your personal sleep requirement.

3) You don’t have a bedtime routine

You may think that only kids need to have a bedtime routine, but they are not the only ones who need one. You know, there is a good reason for bedtime stories—they help the mind unwind, allowing for quality sleep.

Dr. Carney continues her advice for good sleep by reminding us to allow our bodies at least an hour to unwind from the whole day’s activities.

Try dividing the hour into three 20-minute segments, each segment more relaxing than the preceding one. You can cram in any last-minute To-Dos in your first 20-minute segment.

After that, you should proceed to the next leg of your pre-sleep routine, which would include taking a relaxing shower, brushing your teeth, and changing into your favorite sleepwear.

Your last 20-minute segment should find you in your bed, doing something to soothe away your day’s stresses. You might want to do some yoga or read a favorite novel. Once your 60 minutes is up, you should turn out the lights and go to sleep.

4) You think you can handle huge doses of caffeine

A lot of us are coffee-holics and thus find it hard to imagine getting through the day without a few cups of your favorite brew. But every time you feel tempted to take a satisfying sip of coffee during the latter part of the day, remind yourself that your body is not immune to the stimulants that your beverage contains.

As you are well aware of, coffee contains a high caffeine content, which works as a stimulant and explains why coffee is a good way to jumpstart our mornings.

However caffeine has a half-life of around 5-6 hours, and it can take up to 48 hours until all the caffeine is completely out of your system. Although we are all individuals, the research shows that caffeine can disturb sleep in many different ways, which is why Dr Breuss recommends a cut-off time of 2PM for your last cup of Joe

5) You can’t keep your hands off your gadgets at bedtime

In a world that where mobile technology has developed into something that is becoming increasingly addictive, we need to instill self-control in the amount of time we spend using it. Gadgets that require too much interaction and mental stimulation promote insomnia.

As well as the additional mental stimulation, research has proven that the type of blue light emitted by smartphones, tablets and computer screens causes our bodies to stop producing melatonin, the hormone which naturally kicks in at night to make us feel drowsy and ready for bed. (Editor’s tip: if you must use your computer at night use F.lux, the amazing free software which makes your computer screen ‘sleep-friendly’)

So, if you are into the habit of tweeting on Twitter, posting to your Facebook page, or browsing through Instagram, you need to change your habits. Why don’t you try knitting something or reading a book before going to sleep? Doing so will help you calm your mind and relax, preparing your body for a good night’s rest.

6) You are too conscious of the time

If that clock beside your bed is making you even more anxious about falling asleep than you already are, then try to keep it out of sight when you go to bed.  Keep in mind that nothing spikes up anxiety levels at night than the habit of constantly watching the clock and ticking off hours in your mind.

Don’t stress yourself to sleep with thoughts like, “I should be asleep by now so why is my body not sleeping yet?” or “Oh no! I have six hours left before I should wake up!”

Thinking along those lines will not help your mind relax at all. If anything, stressing yourself out because of your inability to fall asleep will only stimulate your body’s production of cortisol—keeping you further from falling asleep.

7) You think alcohol will help you sleep

Some, in a desperate attempt to fall asleep, try to bribe their eyes by drinking a glass of alcohol before bedtime. True, a full glass of Sauvignon Blanc may be enough to knock you asleep, but it is not going to give you a satisfying rest. Why? Even as you sleep, your body remains busy trying to metabolize the alcohol in your system.

It is inevitable that when you wake up in the middle of the night, you would find it difficult to enjoy the comfort of deep slumber, even when you could go back to sleep. So the next time you struggle against the temptation of having a glass of wine before bedtime, think about how doing so would keep you from waking up refreshed the next day.

This is a guest post from BRI Nutrition