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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

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              Marianne Stenger

              Writer, Open Colleges

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              Last Updated on February 21, 2019

              How to Improve Your Memory: 7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways

              How to Improve Your Memory: 7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways

              How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

              If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

              Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

              So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

              1. Meditate

              We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

              Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

              Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

              Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

              Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

              If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

              And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

              2. Get plenty of sleep

              If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

              If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

              How much sleep should you be getting?

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              Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

              Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

              Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

              Yes, there are.

              Try these three things:

              • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
              • Don’t eat too late
              • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

              Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

              However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

              3. Challenge your brain

              When was the last time you challenged your brain?

              I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

              To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

              Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

              There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

              • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
              • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
              • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

              If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

              Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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              4. Take more breaks

              When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

              At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

              However, I was wrong.

              Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

              Let me explain.

              Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

              Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

              It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

              It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

              What’s the answer?

              Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

              If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

              5. Learn a new skill

              I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

              “Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

              From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

              Let me give you an example of this:

              Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

              Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

              The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

              Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

              Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

              6. Start working out

              If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

              Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

              Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

              “But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

              Not a problem.

              A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

              Interested in getting started?

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              Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

              • Join a gym
              • Join a sports team
              • Buy a bike
              • Take up hiking
              • Dance to your favorite music

              7. Eat healthier foods

              I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

              This applies to your brain too.

              The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

              Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

              Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

              Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

              • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
              • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
              • Nuts – improves memory
              • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
              • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

              Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

              Final thoughts

              I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

              You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

              But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

              More Resources About Boost Brain Power

              Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

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