“Why can’t I sleep?”
That’s a question I was asked the other day by a patient suffering from back pain.
At first, the obvious reason why would be the back pain, right? Well, even though back pain does get in the way of having a good nights sleep – this particular patient went on to tell me how he’s always had trouble sleeping for as long as he could remember!
And even though his back pain is easing off, and finding a comfortable position to sleep in isn’t the issue anymore – he’s still having trouble falling asleep without lying awake for hours.
Do you have trouble sleeping too? (And you know it isn’t an injury that’s keeping you up?)
When it comes to getting a good nights sleep, a few musts come to mind – a quiet room, a comfortable bed, no bright lights… But did you know what we do during the day can have just as much effect on sleep as anything we do at night?
If you’re having trouble drifting off, just like our patient this week, maybe you have some of these common daytime habits that are keeping you awake?
1. You hit the snooze button
We’re all familiar with doing this, but what a lot of us don’t realize is that getting a good night’s sleep can depend on the very first thing you do in the morning.
Why? Because when you hit the snooze button, you’re starting a new sleep cycle you won’t be able to complete in 10 minutes when your alarm goes off again. Not finishing a sleep cycle your body has started can make you feel groggier during the day, which can also throw off your body’s internal clock and disrupt your sleep the following night too.
How to break the habit: Once your alarm goes off get into the habit of NOT hitting snooze and closing your eyes for “10 more minutes”. Instead, lay there with your eyes open for 10 if you have to, stretch and have a big glass of water next to your bed ready to drink.
2. Exercise late at night
I get it, late at night might be your only opportunity to fit in some exercise and, by all means, you should try to sneak movement in whenever possible. However, it’s important to know that getting your energy and heart rate fired late at night may prevent you from falling asleep easily.
How to break the habit: Try to find ways of exercising first thing on a morning (wake up earlier if you have to) or three to four hours prior to going to sleep.
3. Spending too much time on the couch
This can be easily done. I know, sometimes it’s tempting when it’s cold and grey outside to spend a day relaxing on the couch – however sitting all day or four hours at a time, (over time), does the opposite of moving the body.
Studies have been done time and time again which show that exercise boosts your mood, gets your blood flowing and uses energy – important for sleep. It’s been proven that sitting for fewer than 6 hours a day corresponds with good sleep compared to sitting for 10 or more hours.
How to break the habit: Over the next few days be aware of your sitting habits. How long do you sit for? How much of the day do you spend seated? Get up and move every couple of hours, stretch and walk around – anything to break up the sitting habit.
4. Sipping on caffeine throughout the day
Many of us rely on tea and coffee. It’s a well-known fact. And although caffeine can help us feel alert – it can also lead to restless nights, which then become sleepy tired days, which have you reaching for even MORE coffee.
Most people don’t know – but caffeine actually affects our system for 6 to 8 hours. Which means every caffeinated beverage you consume after 3 or 4 pm could cost you a good nights sleep and have you relying upon it the following morning, causing you to drink it all day long, again.
How to break the habit: If you’re a coffee or tea drinker – stop drinking it at 2 pm. And if you drink more than 2 cups a day, try sticking to one or two instead, it might be tough at first, but your sleep will thank you for it.
5. Drinking too late in the evening
I’m not talking water, I’m talking alcohol.
Some people like to have a nice glass of wine or bottle of beer after a long day at work, there’s nothing wrong with having the occasional nightcap. However while you may fall asleep quickly, alcohol actually has a sedative effect, which affects the quality of your slumber by disrupting your sleep cycle.
Therefore, experts recommend stopping drinking alcohol 2-3 hours before going to bed.
How to break the habit: Stop drinking alcohol 2-3 hours before going to bed and drink a large glass of water instead.
Do you do any of these things? Make a change to one of those today’s and hopefully after a week, you’ll get a better nights sleep and feel well rested.
P.S Are you suffering from back pain right now? If you’d like tips to help ease back pain, go here where you can download my free tips guide instantly: https://physiofitpt.com/back-pain/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Gladfelter, MPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
Women's Health Physical Therapy Specialist at PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness
Kim Gladfelter is a physical therapist, Pilates instructor, educator, author, and co-founder of PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness. She is known as a keen, well-rounded expert of healing through movement and women’s health specialist in the Silicon Valley area.
Kim has helped men and women of all ages to stay active and feel their best. She also writes about managing pain in her health columns, blogs and the local Los Altos Town Crier newspaper as well as reaches out to the local community, support groups, schools, libraries, and sports centers to advise and educate on body awareness and therapeutic exercise.