Enemies of Sleep.

Countless clinical studies have been published over the years, stressing the importance of a good night’s sleep. We all know the cornerstone of good physical and mental health is sleep: consistent, deep and restful sleep. Right?? Then why do so many of us fail at the basic tenet of getting that good night’s sleep? Our busy and hectic lives are not a good excuse for ignoring the obvious importance of sleep.

A bad habit or two can seriously affect our ability to sleep well and wake up every morning refreshed and ready to go. These bad habits are what I consider the “enemies of sleep”. Here are the top 5:

  1. Cell phones. Simple: keep them turned off or out of the bedroom at night. Smartphones represent countless distractions in the form of text messages, emails, social media and the Internet. Waking up throughout the night (even for a minute) to check a text disrupts your sleep patterns and the overall quality of your sleep. Additionally the light from the screens of our portable devices has been proven to have a detrimental affect on our ability to initiate and maintain sleep (see #3). Turn it off, whatever is there will be there in the morning.
  2. Cut out the caffeine in the evening. Caffeine is everywhere: not only in coffee and tea, but also in chocolate, soft drinks and some drugs. Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in the body, caffeine will persist for several hours: it takes about 6 hours for one half of the caffeine to be eliminated. I have heard the line many times, “I can drink coffee at night, it doesn’t bother me.”   Actually, it probably does bother you. Try going without it in the evening, I believe you will find you sleep much sounder.
  3. Electronic Screens. Blue wavelengths, or so called blue light, tell our circadian rhythm that it’s daytime. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, televisions, even strong clock lights, all emit bright light that can trick the brain into thinking it is daytime. Turn them all off, ideally one hour before bedtime.
  4. Drinking any beverage right before bedtime will result in waking you up in the middle of the night for a trip to the bathroom. Reduce or eliminate drinks before bedtime to prevent this.
  5. Lack of sleep schedule. Many of us like to stay up late on the weekends but do your best to get ready for bed at the same time every night. Routine, routine, routine.

Understand the enemies of sleep and take appropriate actions. As Sun Tzu wrote in his famous book, The Art of War: “Know thy self, know thy enemies. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”