Sleep is essential for health and well-being. Sleep problems are very common in people dealing with mental health problems. Some things you can avoid before bed for good, restful sleep:
1. TV/ screen time before bed
Light sends a signal to our brains to be alert, awake, and focused. Darkness signals the brain to get ready for sleep. When you watch TV or use your phone/tablet at night, light from these bright screens is signaling your brain to stay alert and makes it harder to fall asleep. It also worsens the quality of sleep. Avoid looking at bright screens including watching TV, using smartphones or tablets 1-2 hours before bedtime for better sleep.
While alcohol can make you feel sleepy, it changes the way you sleep in harmful ways. Alcohol shortens the most restful part of sleep, shortens total sleep time, increases snoring and worsens sleep apnea. It changes how you breathe while sleeping. You may wake up more often to use the bathroom as well. Avoid or limit drinking alcohol to improve your sleep.
3. Large meal right before bed
Studies have shown eating dinner or even a snack right before bed worsens the quality and shortens total sleep time. This tends to affect women more. Higher calorie foods have worse effects. This happens in part due to the physical discomfort from eating large amounts of food. Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime for better sleep. Opt for a bite-sized snack if you need to eat before bed.
4. Exercising close to bedtime
It is well established that physical exercise improves sleep. You get more restful sleep when you exercise regularly. However the timing of physical exercise is important. Exercising shortly before bedtime can be bad for sleep. For a good night’s sleep get regular physical exercise earlier in the day and avoid exercising closer to bedtime.
Be aware of how much caffeine you are consuming. Coffee and some sodas have more caffeine in them than tea. Drinking a strong cup of coffee (16 -20 oz) even hours before bedtime can shorten sleep time by up to one hour and can make sleep fragmented. It is recommended to limit caffeine intake to 5 hours before bedtime. Switching to decaf coffee, sodas that are not caffeinated or tea as an evening beverage will help you sleep better.
Sleep well and stay healthy,
Sayanti Bhattacharya, MD, MS