5 Habits That Contribute To Poor Sleep

When it comes to poor sleep, it’s often a chicken or the egg situation, with the patient not knowing if poor sleep is contributing to all of their other health problems, or if their health problems are causing their poor sleep.

There are several things that your body relies on to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm and healthy sleep pattern, and if any one of these is neglected over and over again, your sleep will likely suffer as a result.

Here are some of the top habits that contribute to poor sleep and some tips on how we can help.

  1. Irregular morning and evenings routinesYour body likes ritual and routine. Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning is a major circadian rhythm trigger that is hugely helpful in entraining your body’s natural circadian rhythm and contributes to sustained, restful sleep. Set a bedtime routine with a strict bedtime and do your best to stick to this every single night, even on the weekends. It’s helpful during this nighttime routine to drink a relaxing tea such as chamomile, passionflower or peppermint. Often, our practitioners will custom blend a tea just for you to drink during this time to help your body relax and drift into a deep sleep.
  2. Eating within 2 hours of sleep – It’s very metabolically expensive to digest food, especially large meals with heavy proteins, which are quite common as most people’s dinner. When we eat within 2 hours of trying to sleep, the body is still working hard to digest the previous meal, taking essential energy away from resting and repairing your body’s other organ systems while you sleep. A heavy stomach can keep you awake at night and contribute to fitful sleep.  It can also deflect valuable energy away from supporting the rest of your body while in a restful state. Try to have the last bit of your food consumed 4 hours before trying to sleep and reduce nighttime snacks, especially of foods that are high in sugar or carbohydrates.
  3. Screens – One of the biggest circadian rhythm triggers is the presence or absence of light as perceived by your eyes to signal the sunset or sunrise and in turn, signals your hormones to adjust to the environment and either help you fall asleep or help you wake up. Melatonin, your body’s sleep hormone, is signaled by the absence of light, and when you keep the lights on right before trying to fall asleep, or are staring at a TV screen, computer screen or on your phone, this confuses your hormones and literally works against you every night. You send your body conflicting signals when you stare at blue light from screens, making it extremely difficult for your body to entrain your natural rhythm and get a restful night’s sleep. Always remove screens from your bedroom, and either listen to a relaxing podcast, do deep breathing or meditation, or read something soothing in place of screens (and dim your bedroom lights!) within 45 minutes of trying to fall asleep.
  4. Working in bed – Your bedroom should not be your workspace. Your brain needs time to relax, decompress and let go of the day’s stress before it can feel relaxed enough to sleep. The more stressed or busy our minds are before we sleep, the more intensely our subconscious mind reflects that when we sleep, often resulting in fitful sleep with stressful and troubled dreams that can make us feel stressed out and exhausted when we wake up in the morning. Do your best to keep your work out of your bedroom, and wrap up your day before entering your bedroom. Take some time to make your bedroom a peaceful and welcoming place, free of anything that reminds you of stress, overwhelm or burdens. This should be one place in your home that both your conscious and subconscious mind should feel at ease.
  5. Pets – This may sound like a no brainer, but the number one reason my patient’s can’t sleep is honestly due to disruptive pets that they don’t want to acknowledge are a problem. Unless your pet is a champion sleeper, remove them from your bedroom – cats especially. This always takes several weeks of re-training as your pets have their own expectations and rhythms as well, and it is almost always worth it in the end to make this your new sleeping habit for sustained and more restful sleep.

One of the most unique ways the practitioners at Richmond Natural Medicine solve health problems is by asking a lot of questions and digging more deeply into each person’s health story.  Do you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or need some support in setting a circadian rhythm routine to help improve your sleep habits? Contact Richmond Natural Medicine at (804) 977-2634 and our practitioners will help you determine the cause of your sleep troubles and  put together a custom care plan to address your needs and help you sleep soundly.

About the Author:

Lindsay Kluge is a Clinical Herbalist & Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and received her Masters of Science degree in Herbal Medicine from the Maryland University of Integrative Health in 2012. She has been with Richmond Natural Medicine since 2013, and specializes in therapeutic holistic nutrition, circadian rhythm balance and sleep physiology, digestion, and Ayurvedic nutrition. She offers individualized nutrition and herbal medicine consultations that include meal planning support, custom compounded herbal formulas, nutrition guidance and general wellness support.  Learn more about services that Lindsay offers at Richmond Natural Medicine by clicking HERE.


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