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Sleep Health

3 Bad Sleep Habits To Give Up (And 5 Good Habits To Start)

This article, which is adapted from Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, originally appeared on DemosHealth.com.

By Robert Rosenberg, DO

Good sleep brings clear thinking and vitality, but in order to get good sleep, you might have to break some bad sleep habits and build some good sleep hygiene practices. While changing long-held habits and modifying your behavior is never easy, remember this: if you value your life and want to enjoy better health, then deep sleep is your prized ally; the way you get there is with good sleep hygiene.

3 Bad Sleep Habits You Have To Break

Late night nicotine: Many of my patients who have trouble sleeping—either falling asleep or staying asleep—tell me a cigarette helps them to relax. Indeed, with the first puff this may be true. Nevertheless, within a short time nicotine promotes the release of the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This is one of the most powerful wake-promoting chemicals produced by our brain. It increases the activity of the major wake-promoting circuit of the brain called the reticular activating system. Cut out the cigarettes before bed to improve sleep (and for better health all around, consider quitting entirely).

Drinking too much alcohol: Alcohol initially can induce sleep and can promote increased deep sleep. Unfortunately, many fall into the drinking trap and consume alcohol past this point, actually harming their sleep. As your body metabolizes alcohol, this causes a withdrawal characterized by an increase in the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline. This then results in a rebound of wakefulness, causing an inability to return to sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, try cutting out alcohol, or at least reducing your intake.

Relying on caffeine: Contained in foods and drinks such as coffee, caffeinated teas, and dark chocolate, caffeine should be avoided if you have trouble sleeping. I usually recommend to my patients with insomnia that they eliminate all caffeine. If they cannot comply with that request, then at least curtail caffeine intake after 10 AM. Some patients have severe headaches and anxiety when they stop cold turkey. For these patients, I recommend a 50% reduction every two days until they are off caffeine completely.

5 Great Habits To Help You Sleep

Taking a warm bath: Enjoying a bath before bedtime can help to induce sleep. Everyone knows that warm baths are good for relaxation, but there’s another biological reason why this habit could help you. One of the major signals that occur with the onset of sleep is a drop in core body temperature. A warm bath will raise your body temperature, while exposure to room air after exiting the bath cools you down. A drop in body temperature might help signal your body into entering sleep.

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