As a night owl, one of my biggest challenges in life is waking up early. Wait, let me add to that – waking up early feeling refreshed and ready to seize the day.
Some people do it effortlessly, though (and for that, they have my perpetual envy). It all comes down to their bedtime habits.
People who manage to have a good night’s sleep are able to do so because they practice good sleep hygiene.
That includes avoiding certain habits that can mess with their sleep patterns and leave them feeling groggy in the mornings.
If you want to be more like them, here are 8 habits to start avoiding. I’ve started on these habits myself, and I can say there’s been a real improvement in my mood upon waking up.
Let’s check them out!
1) Late-night eating
This is probably the one I found most difficult to quit. I’m a midnight snacker through and through, and in the old days, I’d think nothing of having a bag of chips or a bowl of pasta late at night.
The thing is, while it might feel good in the moment, late-night eating disrupts our sleep patterns.
One recent study revealed that consuming higher amounts of fat and calories at night can lower sleep efficiency scores (the quality of sleep). That goes for both men and women.
If you’re a midnight snacker, I hate to say it, but it’s time to cut that out. I know it’s hard, but if I can do it, you can, too!
2) Caffeine and alcohol consumption
Another habit that’s a double whammy for me. As a writer, I tend to write well into the night with the requisite writer’s beverage beside me – coffee.
Then, sometimes when I’m done with work, I kick back with a glass of wine.
Obviously, I had to train myself to stop taking these well-loved drinks at night. Just like late-night snacking, they felt good (so good!) in the moment, but turned out to be major sleep-wreckers.
Here’s how they do that, according to the Sleep Foundation:
- Caffeine – shortens sleep time
- Alcohol – results in poor sleep quality
What helped me was to take my last cup of coffee in the early afternoon (or at least 6 hours before bedtime) and swap out wine for chamomile tea.
It’s been hard, but so far it’s working out wonderfully for me. I fall asleep at night faster, and I wake up feeling more refreshed.
3) Exercising close to bedtime
Really? People do this?
Yep! There are even 24/7 gyms where you can work out at 2 a.m. if that’s your jam.
I hope it’s not, though. Not if you want to wake up early feeling refreshed.
Because here’s the catch: while exercising is great for overall health, working out too close to when you hit the sack can be counterproductive for a restful night.
Intense physical activity revs up your heart rate and adrenaline levels. This makes it harder to wind down and drift off to sleep.
It’s all about timing – ideally, get your vigorous workouts done at least a few hours before bedtime.
This gives your body enough time to cool down and your mind a chance to transition into relaxation mode.
What if your schedule is so packed during the day that late-night workouts are your only option? Hmm…that’s quite a conundrum.
I’d urge you to consider lighter activities like yoga or stretching, which can actually help prepare your body for sleep.
The key is to find the right balance – exercise is important for your health, but so is a good night’s sleep.
4) Irregular sleeping times
Speaking of bedtime, what time do you sleep every night? Is it a fixed time, or is it whatever time you finish doing chores/take-home work/watching one last episode and just generally adulting?
If it’s the latter, that could be one reason why you aren’t waking up refreshed in the morning.
You see, the human body loves consistency. It thrives on structure – it’s got its own internal clock known as the circadian rhythm. This biological clock responds best to a regular sleep schedule.
With a consistent sleep schedule, your body naturally adjusts and begins to feel tired at just the right time each day.
But when you go to bed at different times every day, you kinda screw up this clock.
The result? Your body gets confused and struggles to understand when it’s time to wind down or gear up. Which then leads to restless nights and groggy mornings.
So, if you’re looking to wake up feeling more alert and less like you’re dragging yourself out of bed, try setting a fixed bedtime and sticking to it. It’s a simple tweak that can make a huge difference.
5) Excessive screen time
Another habit to ditch if you want to wake up feeling refreshed is to scroll through your phone, watch TV, read on your Kindle, etc. Anything that has to do with a screen.
Why? Two words – blue light.
Blue light from our devices suppresses our production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.
In fact, it’s so disruptive that it has been linked to insomnia in teens and children. That’s why sleep experts advise the following:
- Having a screen-free bedroom
- Turning off all electronic devices at a minimum of 1 hour before bedtime
- Decreasing even daytime use of electronics
I can practically hear the collective groan from all of you reading this. What do I do then, you might ask?
Well, consider reading a physical book, chatting with your partner (or your dog/cat – works for me!) listening to relaxing music, meditate….
You want to do things that put you in a relaxed state instead of the hyped-up one our devices put us in. That’s what people who wake up feeling refreshed every morning do.
This brings me to my next point…
6) Doing something stressful before bed
No one likes being stressed at night. Of course not. Yet, such is the reality of adult life.
Just to give you a few examples: We catch up on work emails. Argue with our partner or kids. Finish a report that’s due tomorrow.
Heck, even just watching a suspense or horror show before bed can ramp up our stress levels!
The problem with engaging in stressful activities before bed is that they can trigger a flood of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
These hormones are great when we need to be alert and focused during the day, but at night, they’re not our friends.
People who wake up feeling refreshed every morning know all about this, so they take the time to create a pre-sleep routine that’s calming and relaxing.
This routine serves to signal your body and mind that it’s time to wind down. Like, “Hold up – all the stress stops right now! It can all wait until tomorrow.”
For me, having a pre-bedtime ritual has really helped me get a better night’s sleep. It has certainly helped me stop…
7) Overthinking and worrying
Do you spend a lot of time going around in circles in your head at night?
Yes? Well, hello there, fellow overthinker and worrywart.
I’m here to, first, give you a virtual hug because I know just how hard that is. No one likes tossing and turning around in bed!
And second, to tell you that this is a major reason why you aren’t waking up refreshed. Overthinking at night is robbing you of precious hours of deep sleep.
And on top of that, it creates a feeling of dread around the whole idea of sleeping.
But you probably already know this. And if you’re anything like the old me, you’re probably dying for some quick fixes.
Well…I don’t have any. Overcoming the monkey mind in bed is really tough and won’t happen with “quick fixes”.
But I’ll share what has worked for me so far:
- Having a pre-bedtime ritual (which I mentioned earlier, and which, I’d like to add, includes journaling so I can empty out those worries on paper)
- Meditation and deep breathing
- Tiring myself out during the day
- Going to my “happy place” (visualizing myself on a hammock shaded by palm trees on a beach, I just imagine rocking there till I fall asleep)
That said, these are not instant fixes. It’s not going to happen overnight (pun intended).
But as I mentioned earlier, consistency is key. Just keep at it, and eventually you’ll learn how to let go of your worries when your head hits the pillow.
8) Sleeping in a cluttered room
Good sleep hygiene isn’t just about clearing away the mental clutter. You might actually need to clear out some physical clutter, too.
You see, our sleep environment matters a lot. It’s easy to overlook but it plays a role in how well (or how poorly) we sleep.
Think about it – if your room has so much clutter and disorder, don’t you feel frazzled? Or restless?
The clutter can send a subconscious signal to your brain that there’s work to be done.
Aside from that, consider the temperature and lighting as well. A room that’s too warm, too cold, or too bright can disrupt your sleep patterns as well.
The bottom line is, getting into the state of deep sleep is all about delivering the right cues to the brain.
Set yourself up for success with the right sleep environment (and doing away with all the habits on this list), and you’ll definitely wake up feeling refreshed every day.
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