7 Unexpected Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Sleep

How to identify and remove obstacles to a good night’s sleep

How to identify and remove obstacles to a good night’s sleep

Do you ever find yourself having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep? Do you wake up feeling unrefreshed or find yourself nodding off frequently throughout the day?

If so, you’re probably not getting enough restorative sleep during the night, says Kaylan Graham, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic, Carmel Valley. “Frequent waking during the night or daytime sleepiness are signs that the sleep we’re getting at night isn’t adequate,” she says.

Try these simple sleep tips to switch from tossing and turning to sleeping soundly through the night.

1. Naps 

Resist the urge to catch a few winks during the day, even if you feel sleepy. According to Dr. Graham, we all need a certain amount of sleep during each 24-hour period, and naps subtract from what your body needs at night. The bottom line is that if you sleep during the day, you’re more likely to stay awake at night. 

2. An uncomfortable bedroom 

“Do what you can to make your bedroom a sanctuary dedicated to sleep,” says Dr. Graham. To create a sleep zone, she suggests removing distractions, keeping your room a comfortable temperature (cooler is generally better than warmer) and blocking out intrusive light by closing doors and hanging blackout curtains. If distracting noise is an issue, try using a fan or other source of white noise to mask it. If you live in an extremely loud area such as under a flight path or near a freeway, Dr. Graham suggests trying soft earplugs.

3. Multitasking in bed 

Is your bed a home base for eating, reading, working or watching TV? If so, break your multitasking habit. Eliminating activities and dedicating your bed to sleep will eventually create an automatic signal that tells your body and mind to relax when you slide between the sheets.

4. Snoring

“If somebody you share a bed with snores, or if you’ve been told that you snore, the first order of business is to make sure there isn’t a medical issue, such as sleep apnea, causing the problem,” says Dr. Graham. Temporary causes of snoring can include alcohol, smoking, medications, being overweight or out of shape, colds and sinus problems, and even sleeping on your back. 

5. Food and exercise 

Getting ready for bed is actually a longer process than just putting on pajamas and brushing your teeth. Dr. Graham says, ideally, you should wrap up meals, exercise, and alcohol consumption anywhere from 4 to 6 hours before you plan to go to sleep. 

6. Lack of a consistent sleep routine

“Good sleep hygiene is the practice of establishing and following a consistent bedtime ritual,” says Dr. Graham. Make it a point to go to bed at the same time every night, seven days a week. You might also choose to engage in relaxing stretching or breathing exercises just before bed, like yoga.

7. Trying too hard 

“If you find that despite everything, you still really can’t fall asleep after lying in bed for 15 minutes or so, don’t lie in bed trying,” says Dr. Graham. Instead, leave the room, go to a different place in your home, and do something relaxing for at least 20 minutes. During this time she recommends not using items with sources of light, like bright phone screens, computers, televisions or tablets, since they can have a negative effect on your body clock and ability to fall asleep. Return to bed once you feel sleepy.

If you still can’t sleep, talk with your doctor. Your physician can determine if you have a condition keeping you awake and check any medications you’re taking to see if they are interfering with your sleep.