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9 Sleeping Habits You Need To Break Right Now

There are no buts about it—consistent quality sleep is critical to your overall health and wellbeing. While you're busy snoozing, many functions are automatically performed that help with the recovery of both your mind and body. If you're not regularly achieving a solid night of sleep, you'll likely lose concentration, find yourself in a lousy mood, or worse, open the door to long-term health conditions.

It sounds simple enough, but we know that sleep (and getting enough of it) is a struggle for many people. As always, a GP should be your first port of call for any sleeping troubles, but in the meantime take a look at these troublesome sleeping habits that might be keeping you awake.

1. Using technology in bed
With various social media platforms and a never-ending catalogue of binge-worthy shows at our fingertips, it's no wonder many people use their smartphone or device in an attempt to wind down before bed. Unfortunately, the stimulating effects and light that is given off can make it harder to fall asleep and therefore leave you feeling less than ideal the next day. If it's practical, leave your phone outside your bedroom to avoid any interruptions or notifications throughout the night.

2. Exercising at night
Building up a sweat too close to your bedtime could be the reason you're finding it hard to catch those all-important zzz's. While the effects of exercising at night vary from person to person, it's clear that a workout speeds up your heart rate and raises your body temperature, which is not conducive to a restful sleep. Try mixing up your workout hours and pay attention to any changes in your sleep.

3. Taking long naps
A twenty-minute power nap can be the ultimate way to reinvigorate yourself during the day. However, naps that exceed an hour run the risk of leaving you feeling even more lethargic and interfering with your sleep later that night. If you want to take a nap throughout the day, try to keep it to around twenty-minutes and before 3 pm to avoid any potential sleep conflict.

4. Consuming caffeine
If you're anything like us, you rely on your morning coffee to kickstart the day. Research suggests that caffeine in the morning can be beneficial to keep us alert and focused, but a late afternoon latte isn't the best idea. Aim to avoid caffeinated foods and drinks at least six hours before you plan to sleep for a better chance at a night of quality sleep.

5. Room temperature
Did you know that your room temperature plays an important role in facilitating a deep sleep? Your body temperature naturally cools down after sunset, signalling to the brain to begin melatonin production (responsible for regulating sleep). So, it's important to consider this the next time you reach for the thermostat. Between 15 to 19 degrees celsius is considered the best range for sleep, with cooler temperatures associated with a longer time spent in a deep, REM sleep.

6. Drinking alcohol
There are a few different side effects associated with having a few too many of your usual tipple before bed. The first is that your body produces adenosine (a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain) after drinking which allows you to fall asleep quickly, but inevitably wears off and wakes you up before you're fully rested. Another side effect is that alcohol can block REM sleep (considered the most important sleep phase) which leaves you feeling groggy and unrested the following day.

7. Late-night eating
Giving in to cravings late at night is a big no-no when it comes to getting a relaxing and restorative sleep. Eating a meal right before you nod off can cause uncomfortable heartburn, which can make it difficult to fall asleep in the first place. Once you do finally drift off, your blood sugar levels may spike and crash, decreasing melatonin production and interrupting your sleep.

8. Working long hours
You might be tempted from time to time to take your work home, and even into your bedroom. If you're busy working up until the time you decide to go to sleep, you can assume that it'll be more difficult for you to fall asleep. Your brain needs time to relax and wind down before you hit the pillow, otherwise you'll find yourself with a wave of work-related thoughts running through your mind. If you can, always conduct work outside of the bedroom, keeping that space as a place of rest and relaxation only.

9. Sleeping in
Who doesn't love a Sunday sleep-in? We've all been guilty of staying in bed a couple of hours longer on the weekend than we regularly would, but it turns out that it's an unhealthy habit that affects your overall sleep pattern. By the time Sunday night rolls around, you might find yourself tossing an turning, counting down the hours to the morning alarm. To avoid waking up on Monday morning feeling worse for wear, try to stick to a sleep schedule every day so that your body maintains a healthy routine that will benefit you long term.

More sleeping tips? Discover the best (and worst) positions for sleeping.

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