Getting a full night of quality sleep is essential for maintaining good health. However, many everyday habits can disrupt our sleep without us realizing it. As a doctor, I often counsel patients on sleep hygiene and recommend eliminating common sleep “saboteurs” from their evening routines.
One of the most common sleep disruptors is caffeine. While coffee can perk you up in the morning, drinking it too late in the day can impair sleep. Caffeine is metabolized slowly and has a half-life of up to 5 hours. This means consuming coffee, tea, soda and even chocolate several hours before bed can overstimulate the nervous system and keep you awake. I advise stopping caffeine intake past 2 pm to allow adequate metabolism before bedtime.
Alcohol is another sleep saboteur. While some think alcohol helps induce sleep, it actually leads to frequent awakenings and disrupted sleep cycles later in the night as the body metabolizes it. Alcohol suppresses REM and deep sleep stages important for restorative rest. Limit intake to 1 drink, at least 3 hours before bedtime. Bigger or closer to bedtime has a greater impairing effect.
Eating too much close to bed can also disrupt sleep. A full stomach triggers digestive processes that interfere with sleep. Finish meals 2-3 hours before bedtime and avoid greasy, spicy or sugary foods that can cause discomfort or heartburn which disturbs sleep. Melatonin-disrupting light from TVs, phones and tablets is another issue. Avoid screen time for 1-2 hours before bed, and use blue light filters on devices in the evening.
Establishing a consistent, relaxing pre-bed routine is key to a good night’s rest. Unwind with a book, light stretches or meditation instead of high-intensity exercise. Get into bed at the same time each night to regulate your circadian clock. Ensure your sleep environment is cool, dark and comfortable. Following healthy sleep hygiene helps optimize the hours you spend in bed. Avoid sleep-disrupting habits that work against your body’s natural sleep mechanisms.
With simple lifestyle tweaks, you can prevent sabotage and get consistent, restorative sleep.