Sleep is crucial for your mental health and well-being. However, sleep problems plague a majority of people dealing with mental health problems. Most commonly affected are those struggling with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and attention problems. Here are some things to avoid for good, restful sleep.
- TV/ screen time
Light from the sun regulated our Circadian rhythm (day-night body clock) before artificial light sources came to be. Light sends a signal to our brains to be alert, awake and focused, and darkness signals the brain to get ready for sleep. Bright screens are unavoidable in this day and age. When you watch TV or use your phone/tablet at night, light from these screens is signaling your brain to stay alert. This gets in the way of sleep. Avoid looking at bright screens including watching TV, using smart phones or tablets 2-3 hours before bedtime for better sleep.
- Large meal right before bed
Studies have shown a large dinner or even a late night snack right before bed worsens both the quality and duration of sleep. This effect is more pronounced in women and when higher calorie foods are eaten (by both men and women). In part this is due to the physical discomfort from eating a large quantity of food. Eating late at night can lead to other nutritional and metabolic problems by altering sleep patterns. Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime, and limit food intake before bed to a bite sized snack if at all for better sleep.
While a drink can surely make you sleepy, alcohol changes the way you sleep. Studies have shown a decrease in the most restorative part of sleep after drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol can increase the number of times you wake up through the night, decrease total sleep time, increase snoring and worsen sleep apnea. How you breathe changes when you sleep after drinking alcohol. It is likely you will wake up more often to use the bathroom as well. Avoid drinking alcohol for better sleep- even a late afternoon drink can disrupt the way you sleep.
The effect of exercise on sleep has been studied for many years. Multiple studies have confirmed that physical exercise improves the quality of sleep. You get more restorative sleep when you exercise regularly. However it is important to note that the timing of physical exercise is key. Exercising shortly before bedtime can lead to a stress effect and worsen the quality of sleep. For a good night’s sleep it is important to get regular physical exercise earlier in the day and to avoid exercising closer to bedtime.
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 decrease the duration of sleep by up to one hour. Drinking coffee closer to bedtime has more disruptive effects including further decreasing the duration of sleep and causing sleep fragmentation. 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.
If you have any questions about your sleep or any other issues please feel free to reach out to us at 919-636-5240
Live Mentally Healthy,
Dr. Sayanti Bhattacharya