Bedtime Blunders: 5 Habits to Ditch Before Hitting the Sheets

Researchers estimate that around 40% of Australian adults are not getting the quality sleep they need and want. Poor sleep can leave you feeling moody, demotivated, sluggish and unfocussed.

If you’re wondering how to sleep better, it might be time to look at your bedtime habits. What you do in the lead up to bedtime affects the amount of restful sleep you get each night.

Check out our list of 5 sleep-spoiling bedtime habits and find out how to improve your sleep quality with our 5 simple fixes.

What 5 habits are affecting your sleep?

According to sleep researchers, these 5 daily habits could have an impact on your how well you sleep.

1. Using digital devices or watching TV before bed

Do you stare at your phone before bed, only to find yourself still awake hours after you’ve put it down? Your glowing phone screen emits blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking that the sun is still shining.

It’s not just phones, either. TVs, tablets, even LED lights all emit blue light to some degree. And this light can reduce the levels of melatonin in your body. With less melatonin, it’s hard to feel sleepy and nod off.

The blue light from your devices can also mess with the amount of slow-wave and rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep you get each night. That means less deep sleep, the kind that recharges your brain and body.

2. Having an irregular sleep schedule

When your sleep and wake times are all over the place, you can confuse your body’s internal clock.

This clock, located in your brain, drives your 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. When your eyes are exposed to light, your brain tells your body to be alert. When it gets dark, your brain increases the amount of melatonin to help make you sleepy and relaxed.

When your sleep schedule is out of sync with the solar day, your brain gets confused about when it should be releasing or decreasing the hormones that help you sleep. So, sleep quality goes out the window.

3. Drinking caffeinated drinks or alcohol before bed

Caffeine is a stimulant found in tea, coffee and chocolate. It’s also added to many soft drinks, including cola and energy drinks.

Stimulants like caffeine mess with your sleep by:

• Making it more difficult to fall asleep.
• Making your sleep lighter.
• Causing you to have to get up to go to the toilet during the night.

The stimulating effects of caffeine can last up to 7 hours. So, consuming coffee, tea, caffeine-containing soft drinks or chocolate in the evening will likely affect the quality of your sleep that night.

Alcohol is a depressant (that is, the opposite to a stimulant). Although alcohol can make you sleepy — and even help you nod off — it spoils sleep later in the night.

People who drink alcohol before bed may wake up more often through the night, overheat or sweat, have bad dreams, and wake with headaches. So, alcohol makes sleep generally less restful.

In addition, binge drinking (drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short space of time) can alter levels of melatonin in your body. The effects of alcohol on melatonin can last for up to a week, making it much harder to stay awake during the day and fall asleep at night.

4. Having a heavy meal late at night

Having heavy meals close to bedtime can cause discomfort and impact sleep quality.

One US study found that eating or drinking less than 1 hour before bed was linked to longer sleep, but also more waking up during the night. When people ate or drank further from bedtime, they had better sleep quality with less waking up.

Another study suggested that consuming food close to bedtime, particularly dinner and late-night snacks, reduced sleep quality.

5. Not having a wind-down routine

The kind of activity you do before you go to bed impacts how easy it is for your body and mind to transition to sleep. Stimulating activities — like high intensity exercise or intense conversations — can make it challenging for your mind and body to let you slip into restful sleep.

Tips to improve your sleep?

Fortunately, you can tackle your bedtime habits with a few simple changes to your evening:

Limit screen time before bed by giving yourself a digital curfew before bedtime. Swap out the screens and engage in relaxing activities.

Set a consistent bedtime and wake up time, even on weekends. Create a sleep routine to foster a reliable internal clock.

Limit caffeine and alcohol intake in the hours before bedtime. Swap your evening tipple for calming teas or milk <link to snack blog> to help you relax.

Allow 2-3 hours between your last main meal of the day and going to bed. A light snack before bed is okay.

Establish a wind-down routine before bedtime. You could try relaxing activities like meditation, a warm bath or some light reading. Doing the same things each evening will cue your body and brain that it’s time to rest.  

Use a Sleep Tracker

A sleep tracker can help you get a sense of how your sleep is going. You can use a tracker to monitor how much sleep you get at night, how often you wake and other factors that contribute to quality sleep.

Circadin’s sleep tracker <link> can help you keep track of your rest and of the daily habits that can negatively impact your sleep quality.

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