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Want to Improve Your Quality of Sleep? Avoid These 8 Things Before Bed

Want to Improve Your Quality of Sleep? Avoid These 8 Things Before Bed

Do you wake up feeling rested and ready to tackle the day, or groggy and desperate for a cup of coffee to help you pry your eyes open? The truth is that most of us aren’t getting the right amount of sleep each night, and one survey found that 58% of workers feel they don’t sleep enough, and only 16% are getting the recommended eight hours of sleep each night.[1]

Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to everything from obesity to cardiovascular disease, but even a low level of sleep deprivation can impact cognitive function and will almost certainly affect your performance at work, and eventually maybe even your career.[2]

So what can you do to ensure that your nights of rest are actually restful?

Most of us know better than to consume caffeine or sugar late at night, but there are likely plenty of other things you do regularly that are messing with your quality of sleep. With this in mind, here are eight things you should try to avoid at all costs before bedtime.

1. Smoking or drinking alcohol

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    Obviously you’re aware that smoking and drinking alcohol aren’t the healthiest of habits to begin with, but smoking or drinking right before going to bed can make it more difficult to fall asleep, and also cause you to wake up more frequently throughout the night.

    Nicotine is a stimulant, so smoking just before bed will leave you feeling wired, and while alcohol may initially cause you to feel drowsy, it also disrupts your restorative rapid eye movement (REM) sleep,[3] leaving you feeling groggy and unable to concentrate throughout the day.

    2. Heavy meals

      In general, it’s best to avoid eating too close to your bedtime, as a full stomach will make it harder to fall asleep. Lying down right after you’ve eaten can also cause heartburn and indigestion, which obviously doesn’t contribute to a good night’s sleep.

      If your schedule makes it impossible to eat at least three hours before your bedtime, try to eat your heavier meals for lunch and then eat lighter meals that are easier to digest at the end of the day, such as salads, or fruit and yogurt.

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      3. Technology in bed

        Research shows[4] that the blue and white light given off by the screens of our favorite devices prevents the brain from releasing melatonin, which is the hormone that tells your body when it’s time to sleep.

        With this in mind, it’s best to avoid reading on your smartphone or laptop before going to sleep, and if you usually watch TV or binge on Netflix in the evening, try to give yourself at least one hour of screen-free time before you climb into bed each night.

        4. Hot baths

        Hot baths can certainly be relaxing, but taking one too close to your bedtime can also prevent you from falling asleep. This is because your body temperature naturally drops a bit in preparation for sleep, so when you take a hot bath, your body needs more time to cool down before you feel sleepy.

        If you like taking hot baths right before bed, you can avoid this problem by taking a cold rinse off right after your bath to bring your core temperature down again.

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        5. Strenuous exercise

          Exercising during the day can lead to more restful nights, but if you’re working out too close to your bedtime you might actually be sabotaging your sleep. Just like hot baths, strenuous exercise causes your core body temperature to rise. It also leads to increased brain activity and releases adrenaline, which is not ideal when you’re trying to sleep.

          If you’re not a morning person, try to do your workout at least three hours before you go to sleep, and when this isn’t possible, try a less strenuous form of exercise, such as swimming or yoga.

          6. Work related activities

            Checking your email or taking work calls right before you go to sleep not only exposes you to the melatonin-suppressing light of your phone’s screen, but also prevents you from ever really relaxing.

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            One study even found that people who used their smartphones for work purposes at night were less productive and had difficulty focusing the next day.[5] With this in mind, it’s important to set some clear boundaries and make a conscious effort to unplug and relax once you finish work for the day.

            7. Intense conversations

            Arguments tend to elevate cortisol and other stress hormones, which is really the last thing you want just before bed. While it’s not always possible to avoid arguments and stressful conversations entirely, try to hash things out earlier on in the day rather than leaving frustrations to simmer until bedtime.

            If you know you have an important decision to make, or need to talk something through with a friend or partner, it’s better to agree on a time to discuss the issue the following day when you’ll be free to reflect and process things.

            8. Not following a routine

              Humans are creatures of habit, and if you’re constantly going to bed at a different time, it will be difficult for your brain to slow down and fall asleep. With this in mind, try to develop your own little nighttime ritual that starts about an hour before you plan to go to sleep and helps you relax and wind down.

              This could include anything from laying out your clothes for the next day, to stretching and meditating, to reading or journaling, which has been shown[6] to relieve stress and anxiety, and even lower symptoms of depression.

              Featured photo credit: Hernan Sanchez via unsplash.com

              Reference

              More by this author

              Marianne Stenger

              Writer, Open Colleges

              Want to Improve Your Quality of Sleep? Avoid These 8 Things Before Bed Four Ways to Boost Your Earning Potential On Airbnb 5 Home Improvements You Should Leave to the Professionals 5 Best Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint Is Your Job Impacting Your Health? Here are 3 Ways to Combat Unhealthy Work Practices

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              Last Updated on January 21, 2020

              5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

              5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

              Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

              All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

              The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

              “Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

              The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

              “The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

              The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

              “The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

              So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

                Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

                1. Build a Memory Palace

                  What is it?

                  The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

                  How to use it?

                  Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

                  “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

                  Example

                  An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

                  • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
                  • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
                  • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
                  • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
                  • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

                  You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

                  2. Mnemonic

                    What is it?

                    A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

                    How to use it?

                    Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

                    Example

                    I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

                    I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

                    Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

                    Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

                    Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

                    Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

                    C

                    J

                    H

                    D

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                    P

                    Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

                    Cubs

                    Just

                    Hate

                    Doing

                    Push-ups

                    Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

                    3. Mnemonic Peg System

                      What is it?

                      According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

                      How to use it?

                      The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

                      Example

                      Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

                      0 = hero

                      1 = gun

                      2 = shoe

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                      3 = tree

                      4 = door

                      5 = hive

                      6 = sticks

                      7 = heaven

                      8 = gate

                      9 = line

                      Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

                      4. Chunking

                        What is it?

                        Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

                        How to use it?

                        In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

                        Example

                        Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

                        Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

                        081127882

                        Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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                        081 – 127 – 882

                        Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

                        “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

                        5. Transfer of Learning

                          What is it?

                          Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

                          “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

                          How to use it?

                          There are two specific ways to use it:

                          1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
                          2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

                          Example

                          I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

                          Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

                          The Bottom Line

                          The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

                          We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

                          Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

                          “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

                          More About Enhancing Memories

                          Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

                          Reference

                          [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
                          [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
                          [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
                          [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
                          [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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