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3 Healthy Habits That Might Be Sabotaging Your Sleep

February 24, 2021
Photo Credit: Jennifer Brister

If you’re having trouble sleeping, you might suspect too much stress, too much screen time, or too much wine/chocolate/sugar before bed. What you might not have thought considered? Some of your healthy habits may be affecting your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. The truth is, not every wellness practice works the same way for everyone. While one person might benefit from a certain nighttime ritual, the next person might not.

Here are 3 healthy habits that might be sabotaging your sleep:

1. You’re taking sleep supplements.

A quick internet search produces a very long list of sleep supplements, including magnesium, melatonin, chamomile, l-theanine, CBD, and GABA — just to name a few. But, while many of these sleep supplements will help you fall asleep quicker, they’re not without controversy. Did you know, for example, that you shouldn’t take melatonin for more than a couple of months at a time?

Some supplements have the potential to cause side effects like anxiety, interfere with your sleep cycle, and even make you feel groggy and unrested in the morning. In some cases, like with CBD, certain doses can actually keep you awake. As with all supplements, you should exercise caution and it’s best to work with an expert, especially if you’re taking them for extended periods of time.

2. You’re working out too vigorously.

There’s no questioning the fact that moving your body is amazing for your health; in fact, exercise is one of the absolute best things you can do to improve your sleep. Study after study has shown that exercise can raise your core temperature, release endorphins, and help relieve stress to get you to sleep fast.

In fact, according to Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital, just 30 minutes of exercise today could improve your sleep quality significantly as early as tonight. “It’s generally not going to take months or years to see a benefit,” she says. “And patients don’t need to feel like they have to train for the Boston Marathon to become a better sleeper.”

So what’s the problem, then? A potential issue can arise if you work out too vigorously or too late in the day. Exercise triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol. And while this is typically only short-term, if you exercise too late in the day, the waking effects of exercise may cause trouble sleeping. You can still move your body before bed, but avoid anything too intense at least one hour before bed. Instead, try a short yoga sequence or some stretching.

3. You’re eating healthy foods that contain caffeine.

Improving your diet is a great way to support optimal sleep. Avoiding ingredients like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol can lead to better sleep and certain foods — like bananas, peanut butter, squash, and lentils — may actually help you sleep better. That said, there are some healthy foods that might be sabotaging your sleep without you realizing it.

For example, switching from milk chocolate to dark chocolate is an all-around healthy move, but dark chocolate contains higher levels of cacao, a natural source of caffeine. That means enjoying some dark chocolate or a Raw Cacao Hot Chocolate after dinner isn’t the wisest choice.

Another common offender is tea, which can be hiding in places you might expect. There are a ton of green-tea-infused recipes and matcha, which is a highly concentrated form of green tea (and caffeine!), is often added to snacks, baked goods, and desserts. Another one is kombucha, which is a form of fermented tea that is great for your gut, but still contains caffeine.

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