6. Inconsistent Bedtime
Not everyone works a standard nine-to-five shift, and depending on the profession, shifts can rotate. For those who work night and day shifts, it can be extremely hard to adjust to a normal sleep schedule. This abnormal, inconsistent schedule can lead to what the NSF refers to as shift work disorder, which can lead to chronic sleep deprivation and insomnia.
More generally, taking lengthy naps can contribute to poor sleep habits. This is not to say napping should be cut out all together, however. The NSF suggests a short nap of 20-30 minutes may improve one’s mood, energy levels, and focus. The NSF recommends capping that nap at 30 minutes and taking it at least four hours before bedtime for optimal sleep at night.
7. Keeping Lights On
Just as sunlight signals our brain to wake up, so do bright lights. Trying to fall asleep with lights on is counterproductive because it makes the brain think it needs to stay awake. The NSF recommends dimming or even turning off lights to achieve a more relaxing environment. This same concept also pertains to television, computer, and phone screens.
Another form of light that can hinder the ability to relax and initiate sleep is watching the minutes or — even worse — the seconds go by on your digital alarm clock. Not only is the light distracting, but also watching time pass can increase stress levels, making it harder to fall asleep, says the NSF.
8. Smoking Cigarettes
Some people smoke cigarettes to relax. However, smoking before bed is not an effective sleep remedy by any means. Like caffeine, nicotine is classified as a stimulant and should be avoided several hours before bedtime. The NSF suggests cutting off smoking cigarettes four to six hours before bed.
The effects nicotine has on the body are not limited to the buzz keeping people awake before bedtime. Smoking can cause insomnia and sleep apnea, according to the American Sleep Association. Smokers also spend more time in light sleep than in deep sleep, wake up more during the night, and nicotine consumption is also linked to suppressed REM sleep, according to several studies.
9. Going To Bed Hungry
Late-night eating often gets a bad reputation, with several studies showing it can lead to weight gain over time. On the other hand, going to bed hungry can be detrimental to your sleep — and poor sleep may also contribute to weight gain. Going to bed on a growling stomach can lead to tossing and turning until sunrise. Incessant hunger pangs may not only cost a night’s worth of quality sleep, but also may make the person more likely to binge eat later on.
10. Hormonal Changes
According to the NSF, women report having issues sleeping during the days leading up to their period and during the first few days of their cycle. A woman’s hormones fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, leading to several symptoms on some days, including elevated body temperature, feelings of depression and anxiety, fatigue, abdominal cramps, and other aches. All of these can sabotage the sleep cycle. It is even more important for a woman to take the time to wind down before bed just before or during her period. Dr. Kennedy suggests reading fiction, meditating, or doing yoga to help relax the mind and body.