4 Mistakes People Make when Trying to Fall Asleep

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Lack of sleep can cause depression, anxiety and a weakened immune system.

Sleep is a vital factor in the overall health and wellbeing of our life. Recognising just how much of a crucial role it plays, is the first step to maintaining healthy sleep hygiene.

It's during sleep that the body takes care of important internal processes such as cellular reparation, restoration of major organs – such as the brain, heart and skin – and renewal of tissues and nerves.

It is also during sleep that we dream, and though this period of slumber is not yet fully understood, it is widely accepted that this is a time to collate our experiences, thoughts and emotions, consolidate them and process them into long-lasting memories, where they can be better understood.

If we were told that there was to be a scarcity of food and water, we would panic and prepare ourselves accordingly. Yet many of us live with sleep deprivation for many years, sometimes choosing to forego sleep for work or purely social reasons.

Sleep shortage leaves us feeling hazy, significantly affecting our mood. Yet as frustrating as these effects may be, they are not the only negative impact. Lack of sleep holds high risk of causing physical and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, a weakened immune system and shortened life expectancy, to name but a few.

How can we ensure that we are not only getting enough precious dormancy time but also, that it is of good quality including that all-important REM phase?

For many, bedtime can bring on anticipatory anxiety in which we worry we will not be able to sleep. This causes anxiety which inevitably leads to a sleepless night. Still, all is not lost. There are ways to alleviate this setback and by simply eliminating certain bad bedtime habits and adopting new ones, healthy sleep patterns can be restored.


Mistake #1 Eating and drinking too much before bed.   

Alcohol and caffeine are stimulants, and should be avoided at all costs at least 6 before bedtime. 

It is also best to finish the last meal of the day at least 4 hours before bedtime to ensure our digestion doesn’t interrupt our sleep. Though at times, a light snack such as piece of fruit or a handful of nuts may help us sleep.


Mistake #2: Using smartphones and tablets before bed

Blue light emitted from the display of our smartphones and tablets has a strong detrimental effect on our circadian rhythms and the production of melatonin – the sleep hormone. The pineal gland produces and distributes melatonin throughout the body according to our circadian rhythms, with peak levels occurring indisputably during the night.   

It is best to spend as many of our waking hours as possible, exposed to natural daylight. Even if this means leaving the office at lunch time for a stroll in the park. Doing this not only improves the production of melatonin, but also comes with the added bonus of keeping us alert during the day. 


Mistake #3: Trying to sleep in a noisy environment

We are all aware – on some degree – of just how distressing and disruptive the sleep deprivation experienced by new parents can be.

The alarming cry of a new-born infant is designed to alert its parents of any immediate threats as well as to make sure its needs are prioritised – there is at least some sweet comfort for the parent in knowing this. But a broken night’s sleep is detrimental to rest whatever the reason.

It is best to keep noise to minimum levels. When there are external factors beyond our control, we can try listening to soothing music or even nature sounds. Doing this not only blocks unwanted noise, but aids in the production of serotonin – the happy hormone.


Mistake #4. Wearing uncomfortable attire in bed

We all like looking like we fit. We dress up for work or celebratory occasions, so why not dress for bed? Temperature and comfort are both important factors for rest.

Our body temperature tends to fall during the night, to help us sleep soundly. Body temperature directly regulates our circadian rhythms, which determine when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up.  

The clothes we wear to bed should be loose, and preferably made of natural and breathable materials which prevent overheating and waking up drenched in sweat.

For more information on sleep hygiene, head over to Sleep Council.