10 things that rob you of your sleep

Here are the habits to avoid for a more soundful slumber

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sleep, sleep problems, insomnia, sleeping, bedtime
© Royalty-free/ Masterfile

1. Using 30 Rock as your late-night lullaby
“For some people, watching TV in bed can perpetuate insomnia, either because of the content of the show, or because they start to associate wakefulness with their bedroom,” says Elliot Lee, a psychiatrist with the Sleep Disorders Services at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. PVR the show and get ready for bed — Tina Fey will be just as funny tomorrow.

2. Popping a pill for your stuffy nose
Medications such as decongestants often pack a stimulant. “Antihypertensive medications and certain asthma medications often have insomnia as a side effect,” says Lee. And some pills, such as antidepressants and vitamin B6, also cause intense dreams and heightened dream recall. If you think your Oscar-worthy dreams are thwarting your sleep, ask your physician about the best time to take your medication and supplements: You may be able to sleep better just by taking them first thing in the morning, rather than after supper.

3. Facebooking before Bed
“Staring at a computer screen right before bed wreaks havoc on sleep,” says Lee. The artifi cial light may trick our brains into thinking it’s day and thwart the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy. Instead, keep the computer out of your bedroom and FB while you’re watching Glee instead.

4. Your midday snooze-a-thon
When you feel tired on a lazy Sunday afternoon, closing your eyes might seem tempting. But bewarned: ”If you nap during the day, it’s harder to fall asleep at night,”says Lee. Getting a restful sleep depends on scheduling — and that includes weekends. “You should have regular sleep and awake times to train your body clock,” says Lee. Always set your alarm — even if you don’t have to go to work — and if you chronically smack your snooze button, move the clock out of reach.

5. Getting older
As we age, many things can interfere with sleep: being pregnant, parenting young kids or teenagers, job stress and menopause. And now Finnish researchers have discovered that the harder it is for fortysomethings to get to sleep, the more likely they are to gain weight. The 2010 study from the University of Helsinki found that of the 7,332 adults who were followed for seven years, one-third of the women who reported having frequent sleep problems put on more pounds than sound snoozers. And in a chicken-and-egg scenario, weight gain can trigger even more sleep issues, including sleep apnea, a condition that sporadically interferes with your breathing while you doze. So if you suspect you’re developing issues like regular insomnia, ask your doctor for help so it doesn’t sink in as a negative long-term habit.

6. You can’t stop thinking about your looming Friday deadline or your trip down south
“Between 3 and 5 a.m., all your mental faculties — cognition, problem solving and logic — are at their absolute lowest. So dealing with issues then is a waste of time,” says James MacFarlane, an assistant professor with the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry and director of education for the MedSleep network of clinics. Instead, schedule worry time before bed to map out problems and potential solutions. Or keep a pen and paper beside your bed and jot down concerns or solutions as they arise. Then revisit in the morning

7. The two glasses of Merlot you had at book club
“Drinking alcohol may help people feel relaxed, yet it has a contradictory alerting effect — you get a rebound wakening,” says Raymond Gottschalk, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Clinic in Hamilton, Ont. While some believe zero alcohol after 7 p.m. is the rule, you may be able to get away with sneaking in one glass, says Gottschalk.

8. That evening run with your half-marathon training club
Exercising right before bedtime can pep you up more than fatigue you (go figure). Not only does it heat up the body’s temperature (we sleep best when our temperatures have dropped and we’re in cool environments) but it revs up your mind too. So if you can’t work out in the morning or at lunch, aim to do it three to fi ve hours before you go to bed.

9. Jumping into bed as soon as you finish the dishes, laundry or changing the litter box
Collapsing into the sheets sounds pretty appealing, but everybody needs a little wind-down time. Even if you feel completely zonked, take 10 minutes to read or have a bath. Both are known to ease your body into slumber mode.

10) Your late-night lasagna and tiramisu (Thanks Mom!)
Big meals can trigger heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Instead, opt for a light snack an hour or so before bed, such as a glass of calcium-rich milk and magnesium-rich nuts. “For some people, combining calcium and magnesium before bed helps — magnesium is a bit of a muscle relaxant,” says Gottschalk.