Going to bed too early
If you slept poorly the night before, you may want to slide into bed ahead of schedule. But this can actually make sleeplessness worse. People with insomnia frequently have irregular sleep-wake cycles. Sticking with a consistent sleep routine – a regular bedtime and a regular wake time – strengthens your body’s circadian rhythms and the biological cues (like melatonin release) that help you fall asleep. Hitting the sack unusually early may garner you some ‘extra’ sleep in the early part of the night, but you’re likely to wake up earlier than normal, throwing your sleep routine even more off-kilter. Aim to have your bedtime deviate by no more than 30 minutes from one night to the next.
Getting in bed before you’re sleepy
I recently had a patient who was often anxious and alert at bedtime – she described the feeling as “wired and tired”. She’d crawl into bed anyway, and lie wide awake late for an hour or more, frustrated and sleepless. I recommended she delay her bedtime until she felt ready to fall asleep. A restless, wired mind is one symptom of sleep deprivation. Learn to recognise the difference between being tired and being sleepy – and hold off going to bed until you feel ready to nod off. Take some extra time with your nightly routine, or find other ways to relax away from bright lights and screens near your face.
Drinking alcohol to help you nod off
Plenty of people are looking for ways to cut back on their drinking. It’s a good idea, according to the US National Sleep Foundation. The relationship between alcohol and sleep is complicated. One drink in the evening may help you fall asleep, but drinking more heavily can be stimulating, not sedating. Even if a nightcap does help you doze off initially, alcohol in your system at night disrupts your rest in other ways, causing lighter, more restless sleep, exacerbating snoring, and making you more likely to have to get up to use the bathroom. If you’re already having trouble sleeping, skip the before-bed glass of wine.