5 Surprising Ways You Might Be Sabotaging Your Sleep

Wide awake in West LA

Is this heat wave making it impossible to get a good night’s sleep?

The temperature has been soaring recently–even in our usually temperate beach town of Venice, California, the thermometer has been over 100 degrees several days this week. This unusually hot weather is making it hard to sleep, and many of us are feeling foggy and cranky as the nights of little sleep are adding up…

We Google “How to sleep in hot weather?”. We try fans, cold washcloths, soothing music, meditation. There are many suggestions on the internet about how to fall asleep more easily, but what are the things we are doing that are actually making it harder to get a good night’s sleep?

Here are 5 things you might be doing that make it even harder to get that restful sleep you need:

1. Winding down with a glass of wine

Alcohol affects the quality of your sleep, so even if that glass right before bed helps you relax and get into “sleep mode” it may be causing you to sleep less soundly, and wake up less rested. The best time to metabolize alcohol turns out to be late afternoon/early evening, so enjoy happy hour, but at bedtime try having  herbal tea or making some “golden milk” instead.

Spin class in West LA

2. Not working out because it’s too late in the day

The common advice is not to work out within several hours of going to bed. I’ve always been an evening workout kind of person, so I decided to do a little research. Especially since running in the mornings literally resulted in scratches and scrapes from clever moves like running into the side mirrors of parked cars. I will never be a morning person.

Interestingly, a 2013 study by the National Sleep Foundation of the sleep patterns of 1000 people found that a huge majority (83%) of people slept better when they exercised at any time of day, including in the evening! Only 3% of evening exercisers reported sleeping worse on days when they exercised than on days when they didn’t.

The moral of the story: know your body. If you prefer to exercise in the evening, chances are that it will be better for your sleep than not exercising at all!

laptop at night in West Los Angeles

3. Watching a mindless tv show

Many of us understand that watching a scary or violent movie can make it harder to get a peaceful night’s sleep, but it seems to make sense that watching something mindless and funny can help take our minds off of the stressful events of the day and help us get ready for sleep. In fact, studies show that this is not the case. Watching a screen before going to bed has a negative effect on your sleep, even if it is just Rick and Morty.

4. The “Never go to bed angry” myth

When we are tired (and hot!!) is not the best time to resolve our differences with our partner. Arguments can escalate to the point where things are just going to get worse, not better. Often the best course of action is to simply “agree to disagree” and promise to work on a solution tomorrow. Not surprisingly, many disagreements seem much less dramatic in the morning. The trick is to be able to mutually trust that you will come to some sort of solution eventually; you just don’t have the energy for it right now.

5. Journaling

Journaling in West Los Angeles

This never fails to surprise my clients when we discuss it. It is important to be aware that there are two different kinds of journaling.

There is the kind of journaling where writing things down helps you find solutions to a problem. In fact, studies show that writing (not typing!) accesses a different part of your brain from just talking or thinking about a problem, so brainstorming on paper is always a good idea.

Then there is the other kind of journaling that I call “ruminative journaling”. Rumination is when you get a thought stuck in your head and go over and over it without coming to any sort of conclusion. Sometime this happens and we believe that if we can just get our thoughts down on paper we can get them out of our head. Sometimes this does help.

But not always.

Sometimes we think we are helping ourselves by putting our ruminations down on paper, when all we are actually doing is ruminating in a different way. This kind of journaling just reinforces the rumination in our mind and makes it harder to fall asleep after.

If you read over what you have written and see the same thing over and over with no conclusion, then you are ruminating. Put down the pen.

What is the better solution? Distract yourself. Given the above suggestions, you should resist the temptation to distract yourself with something on a screen, a glass of wine, or exercising! The best way to distract yourself is by talking to someone about a different subject. By this I actually mean “talking”. Texting or messaging won’t be distracting enough.

If you are the kind of person who ruminates frequently (guilty, here!) then it is an excellent idea to have a good book by your bedside. I like to have a book by my bed that I don’t read any other time, so that I look forward to reading it at the end of the day.

For even more ideas on how to get a good night’s sleep, click here.

Are Racing Thoughts Still Making It Hard for You to Get a Good Night’s Sleep?

overwhelmed in Venice Beach

Sometimes stress  prevents us from sleeping well no matter what we do. In that case, working with a therapist can be extremely helpful for learning techniques to manage your stress and change ways of thinking and feeling that make it hard for you to get the sleep you need.

If this is the case, please give me a call at 323-999-1537, or shoot me an email at amy@thrivetherapyla.com and we will set up a time for a free consultation either on the phone or in my office–whatever works best for you. We will have a chat about your specific needs and how I can help. I’ve helped many people manage their stress and learn how to get a good night’s sleep, and I can help you, too!