Getting to sleep is something we often take for granted. It happens automatically when you're tired and you crawl into bed. Ideally, your head hitting the pillow triggers that signature drowsiness we all know means we're about to drift off. But what about the nights that doesn't happen? When our brains have obediently fallen asleep on time for years, you may not know what to do about that one night when your eyes just won't stay shut. This is an even bigger problem for people who habitually have trouble getting to sleep because sleep is elusive and it's hard to figure out exactly what the problem is.
Whether you've started doing something differently recently or a bad old bedtime habit finally came to roost, when you can't sleep, it's time to assess what you're bringing to bed. There are a number of things that can help you sleep like a glass of water by the bed, a white noise generator, and your favorite pillows. However, there's also a surprisingly long list of things you shouldn’t bring to bed. They can serve to keep you awake long after you switch off your bedside lamp.
Here’s a list of common culprits that are sure to keep you from catching some zzz’s.
9 Things You Shouldn’t Bring to Bed
Many a book lover has tucked themselves into bed with a good novel. You may have been doing it since your flashlight reading years as a young child or perhaps you just can't put down a book you started reading recently. Either way, it's not uncommon for readers of all ages to decide that bedtime is the perfect moment to catch a half hour of comfy reading before sleep.
The problem with bringing your book to bed is that it can definitely keep you up. While we all know about the perils of accidentally reading too long, your mind may not be able to let go of the book even after you put it down. A busy mind is bad for sleep so unless your book is a boring one about gardening or sheep jumping over a fence, consider leaving it in the living room instead.
2. Phones and Tablets
Modern technology is the bane of healthy sleep. Sure, there are a lot of subtle gadgets like humidifier/dehumidifiers, white noise generators, and fans that make sleep better. But your personal devices and the glowing screen on your alarm clock aren't doing you any favors. Not only can small points of light in the room reduce the quality of your sleep, but the activity on your devices can also keep you awake just as effectively as a book.
To top it off, mobile devices can also keep you up with communications. If a text comes in at 3 am, you'll be beeped awake to check it. Alternately, if there's a call or text you're hoping to get, you may accidentally keep yourself awake waiting.
A bedtime snack can be a great way to boost your blood sugar before a long fasting sleep, but there are two very good reasons not to bring your snack to bed. The crumb factor is the first obvious issue. Who can sleep when their sheet is covered in tiny sharp particles? But the second problem is less well-known. Bedtime snacks normally happen in the kitchen with several minutes to let your stomach settle. However, eating right before you go to sleep can cause that blood-sugar boost to keep you awake and heavy snacks can cause digestion to wake you up later on.
4. Restless Pets
There have been many studies as to whether or not sleep suffers from allowing pets in the bed. While common wisdom suggests that pets in bed can damage your sleep, the reality is that only restless pets wake you up in the night. If you have a dog or cat that sleeps in the same spot all night with you, they can be a great sleeping companion. However, if you have pets that get up and move around at night, make them a pet bed nearby and keep your deep slumber pet-free.
5. The Remote
Watching TV in bed is a very popular pastime and many homes have televisions in the bedroom. This can be a fun and cozy way to enjoy your favorite shows as long as the bed is made and in 'day mode' during your TV time. But never combine the bedroom TV with actual bedtime. By allowing your bed to become somewhere you watch television, your mind might adapt to think that lying in bed is a TV opportunity instead of time for sleep. Before-bed television can also cause problems similar to book-brain, where you can't sleep because you're thinking about what you were just watching.
6. Dirty Clothes
Everyone wears something different to bed. Some wear matching pajamas, others wear a soft ratty old shirt, and many enjoy sleeping in the buff between clean sheets. However, one nightclothes option you should avoid is going to sleep in the day's dirty clothes. While you may feel comfortable in that shirt before the lights go out, there are hundreds of little particles you picked up during the day that are now becoming a part of your sleep experience. From crumbs to allergens, your skin may have a bad reaction to sleeping in your clothes, causing itching and discomfort that can keep you awake. Make sure your skin is touching only clean soft cloth when you sleep.
7. Too Many Pillows
Pillows are wonderful, squishy, support your head, and make great forts. However, most people only need one or two of exactly the right kind of pillow to sleep comfortably. If your bed includes a larger number of pillows than are needed, especially if these are decorative throw pillows, throw them into a chair before you tuck yourself in for the night. Extra pillows can get in the way of your ideal sleeping position and laying on too many pillows at once can make you feel 'upright' and awake.
8. Outside Sounds
Okay, so sounds outside the bedroom are not exactly things you bring with you to bed, they are things you can keep out. If your bedroom is constantly humming with distant sounds from your home, apartment building, or neighborhood, steps may need to be taken. Consider heavy sound-stopping curtains hung both over the windows and along the walls. You may also have some luck with earplugs and white noise to block and mask any intrusive sounds that could wake you up or keep you up.
9. Night Lights
Finally, watch out for night lights. This is a great tip for both parents and adults who like to find their way to the bathroom. Any source of light when you sleep can lower the quality of your sleep or keep you awake when you're having trouble drifting off. Instead of a normal night light that stays on all the time, consider a motion-sensor night light or even one you can activate through a mobile device or smart home voice command. This way, it will turn itself on when you need it and stay nice and dark otherwise.Getting to sleep is often harder than you might think. If you're having problems getting to sleep one night or regularly, remember that not everything you can bring to bed should be part of your bedtime routine. There are some things you shouldn’t bring to bed. Leave the device, books, snacks, and extra pillows behind and you'll be drifting off in no time. For more great tips on how to sleep when you can't sleep or optimize your sleep when you can, contact us today!