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Good habits that mess with your sleep

Are healthy habits negatively affecting your sleep? Paul Zolty, M.D., a sleep medicine specialist and pulmonologist at Piedmont, shares 10 common sleep disrupters.

1. Exercising. “Exercise is really good for you, but you should finish exercising at least two hours before you go to sleep,” says Dr. Zolty. Consider switching to morning exercise or try yoga for better sleep.

2. Drinking coffee or tea. Small doses of caffeine can boost your metabolism. Plus tea and coffee are full of healthy antioxidants. But too much caffeine, particularly in the afternoon, can affect the quality of sleep. Nix the caffeine after 12 p.m. for more restful slumber.

3. Taking medication. Certain medications can help with depression, asthma and hypertension, but they can impact sleep quality. Talk to your doctor if you suspect your medication is affecting your sleep. He or she may recommend taking the medication earlier in the day. However, never change how or when you take your medication without first talking with your physician.

4. Having a pet. Having a pet may mean more regular exercise, but your furry friend’s nighttime movements can disrupt your sleep. Plus, their fur and dander in your bed and on your pillow can lead to allergies. Talk to your veterinarian about ways to train your pet to sleep in his or her own bed.

5. Enjoying leisure time. It’s important to have time to relax each day, but the bright lights of your television, tablet or smartphone can delay your biological clock, says Dr. Zolty. Avoid using these devices in bed as well. “You’re training your brain to watch TV, not sleep.” Instead, create a calm atmosphere at least an hour before bed: Read with a low-watt light bulb, turn off the electronics and avoid stressful discussions.

6. Catching up on sleep. A nap or sleeping late on the weekend may seem like a great way to catch up on much-needed ZZZs, but this habit can backfire. If you get too much sleep during the day, your body won’t be ready for sleep at night.

7. Eating a healthy dinner. Just avoid eating an hour or two before bed, no matter how busy you are. “Lying down after eating is a bad idea,” says Dr. Zolty. It can lead to heartburn, indigestion and less quality sleep. Stick to small, healthy meals throughout the day.

8. Managing your time. While a clock is key to good time management, keep it away from your line of vision at night. “If you wake up and see the time, it can make you anxious and make your brain hyper-aroused, doing calculations of how much sleep you’ve gotten and how much time you have left to sleep,” he explains. After setting the alarm, try facing the clock away from you while you sleep.

9. Being a supportive partner. “Spouses who snore or who have sleep disorders can fragment your sleep,” he says. “Also, you may lose sleep worrying about your loved one’s sleep disorder.” If this is a recurring issue, talk to your partner about seeing a sleep specialist. You both deserve a good night’s rest.

10. Sipping an adult beverage. Alcohol can have some health benefits, but it can also prevent a good night’s rest. “Alcohol may shorten the amount of time it takes to get to sleep, but it can disrupt the quality of your sleep,” says Dr. Zolty.

Other tips to help you get a better night's sleep:

  • Keep your bedroom cool. Experts recommend setting the temperature between 60 and 67 degrees at night.
  • Replace uncomfortable mattress or pillows. Most good quality mattresses last about nine to 10 years before they should be replaced.
  • Quit smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant like caffeine – and there is no good reason to consume nicotine anyway.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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