Sleeping is something that we are all familiar with. It is a part of our everyday health and general wellbeing. But are you aware that certain habits are more harmful than helpful when it comes to sleep? Did you know that the details of our nightly sleep, such as certain sleeping positions and particular foods consumed before bed, could prove damaging? This article exposes some of the worst sleep sins that many of us commit without even realising it. How many of these are you guilty of?
Confession 1: Sleeping In The Wrong Position
When getting into bed each night, the position we sleep in is often a mindless decision, based on what feels most comfortable at the time. But does our sleep style really matter? The short answer is yes. All postures have their downsides, but certain sleep positions may be especially damaging. Some signs that your sleep position may not be working for you could include tiredness, back and neck pain, sleep apnoea, muscle cramps, heartburn, headaches and possibly even premature wrinkling!
Let’s consider some repeat offenders:
- Sleeping on your stomach: Roughly 7% of adults claim to prefer this position, and you may be one of them. If you sleep on your stomach, it is hard to keep your spine in a neutral position (because you have to turn your head to one side to breathe), leading to neck and back pain. It also puts extra pressure on your muscles and joints.
- Sleeping in the fetal position: This may shock you as it is a very common position – 40% of us sleep this way. But it has been proven to be risky. The extreme curve of the spine can cause strain and discomfort in the neck and back. Being so curled up can also restrict your breathing.
So what is the best way to sleep? Most people prefer to sleep on their sides, and for a good reason. Many sleep specialists recommend this posture for several reasons. The spine should remain elongated and neutral in this position, therefore helping to prevent neck, back and shoulder pain.
Confession 2: Sleeping Too Little (Or Too Much)
Most of us are aware that skipping sleep is bad for our health. But did you know that oversleeping can be equally as harmful? Let’s have a look at the downsides of both.
- Sleep deprivation – If you decide to skip sleep regularly, you may potentially be exposing yourself to a wide variety of issues, including an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and even heart disease. A lack of sleep might also increase your chances of catching a cold. Plus, if you regularly get less than five hours of sleep a night, your risk of obesity may go up by 50%!
- Oversleeping – Sleeping too much comes with its own risks too. Surprisingly, some of the biggest risks associated with excess sleep are very similar to the issues that sleep deprivation can cause. Therefore, oversleeping can impact a variety of symptoms connected with diabetes, heart disease, obesity, headaches and depression.
It is essential that we get an appropriate amount of sleep without over or under-indulging. Most experts recommend that healthy adults should aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Anything more or less than this amount may potentially put your wellbeing at risk.
Confession 3: Using Devices Before Bed
Another sleep sin that many of us may fall prey to is using electronics just before we go to bed. 90% of Americans admit to using electronic devices in their bedroom within an hour of trying to sleep, and similar patterns may apply to sleepers in the UK and beyond. But why is this such a bad thing? Well, let’s take a glance at the chaos that can be caused by using these devices shortly before sleep.
- Blue light may damage your eyes: The blue light emitted by your screen decreases your melatonin levels (a natural substance that plays a vital role in sleep). This means that your body stays alert rather than winding down. Artificial blue light may also be harmful to the different structures within your eyes.
- Electronic devices may increase your alertness at night and make you feel drained the following day: Interacting too much with devices before bed keeps your brain ‘wired’ and makes it harder to rest. The next morning, you may be more likely to feel sluggish and tired.
- Your device can interrupt and reduce your REM sleep: If your device is not in silent mode, then notification noises coming from your phone can interrupt your deep sleep. This is damaging because, during REM sleep, our brains organise our memories and retain the learning that has taken place during the day.
You can take control by switching off your devices (or at least putting them on mute) 30 minutes before you go to bed. Why not pick up the book that has been gathering dust on your nightstand, or jot down your thoughts in a journal?
Confession 4: Eating And Drinking The Wrong Things Before Sleep
Not many of us are strangers to popping to the fridge before bed for a midnight snack or grabbing an extra glass of wine before bed. But again, these habits can negatively affect our sleep and bodies. What sleep sins are you committing this time? Well, let’s take a look.
- Eating before bed: Before going into the negatives, it is important to mention that some foods can prove beneficial before sleep, particularly nutrient-rich ones or those containing melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep). However, many of us are drawn to large, carb-heavy meals and unhealthy snacking late at night. The cons to eating before bed are numerous. It can interfere with your sleep (especially if you consume foods containing caffeine) and slow down your metabolism (which may contribute to weight gain). Lying down shortly after eating can also trigger heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion. Some of the long-term risks associated with eating before bed may connect with illnesses like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Yikes!
- Drinking alcohol before bed: A drink before bed is fairly common for many, as some people believe this habit can help them sleep better. But actually, the reverse may also be true. Alcohol has been proven to delay the onset of sleep, reduce REM activity and disrupt your sleep cycle in some cases. Another potential risk is sleep apnoea – which causes abnormal breathing, temporary loss of breath and even loud snoring. Research has shown that consuming alcohol may increase the risk of sleep apnoea by 25%.
What is the best course of action when it comes to consuming food and drink before bed? It may be wise to steer clear of alcohol entirely if you want to ensure a restful night. Any foods you eat should have a decent nutritional profile and, ideally, contain melatonin or tryptophan (an amino acid that increases your melatonin levels).
How To Redeem Your Sleep Habits
By now, you should be aware of some of the sleep sins you’ve been committing (yes, even those sneaky accidental ones). Given how vital a good night’s sleep is, what can we actively do to protect our rest? Well, on top of reconsidering your posture, limiting your device use and avoiding eating the wrong foods before bed, a herbal supplement may be the ticket to keep you on the right track.
Here at Yawns, we have developed an exclusive and all-natural sleep supplement in the hopes of bringing some plant power to your wellness routine. These capsules, or Night Caps, as we call them, are specially designed to help you wind down every evening. The formula is sourced entirely from nature and features a range of botanical extracts. Each ingredient has been cherry-picked for its potentially beneficial qualities. Keep reading to learn what our exceptional ingredients are and why they may benefit your sleep:
- Ashwagandha powder: An iconic herb that may help you manage stress symptoms, impact your natural hormone levels, and even affect blood sugar levels. Some traditions suggest that this plant may impact some common mental health symptoms, along with some signs of inflammation, cholesterol and more.
- Valerian root powder: This plant is anecdotally known to supplement sleep and decrease some anxiety symptoms.
- Griffonia seed extract: These seeds may potentially reduce some migraine symptoms and help you to sleep more peacefully at night. Griffonia seeds are associated with weight loss efforts and serotonin levels (a hormone that helps fight signs of depression and contributes to how we feel).
- Black pepper powder: This classic and universal spice is not only found in many kitchens around the globe, but it’s also high in antioxidants and may have some potential anti-inflammatory properties. It might also affect your natural brain function and cholesterol-related symptoms as well as blood sugar levels.
The Bottom Line
This article has shown that a regular and sensible nighttime routine is fundamental to our overall health and wellbeing. We now know that certain sleeping positions are bad for us. It’s also important to get the balance right, as both oversleeping and undersleeping can be unhealthy. Using our electronic devices and eating or drinking right before bed can also significantly disrupt our sleep.
Why not make Night Caps a natural addition to your bedtime routine? With just two capsules a night, you can sample a diverse range of plant extracts and general goodness all in one go. It might even help you to make your nights feel more successful. All you need is a glass of water to go with it as you prepare to drift off.