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Power down that phone to get that power sleep you need. Photo: 123RF

5 Things You Should Never Do Before Bed

"I'm so good at sleeping, I can do it with my eyes closed."

Sleep - especially good-quality sleep - is something that eludes many of us, World Sleep Day, which happens on 17 March this year, has been a call to action on all the issues related to sleep since 2008.

The brainchild of the World Sleep Day Committee of the World Sleep Society (a group of healthcare providers and members of the medical community working in and studying the area of sleep medicine and research), World Sleep Day was designed to raise awareness of healthy sleep as a human privilege that is often compromised by the habits of modern life.

Here's a list of things you should avoid before (or rather, so that) you head off to dreamland.


1. Avoid using your mobile phone

Or any other device that gives off blue light - e-readers, tablets, laptops etc. We know, we know. Putting your phone down is like turning off light support. But seriously, power down at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted from the screens of such devices slows down the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, and resets your body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later schedule, making you more alert instead.

A study published in the Journal of Adolescence found that using electronic devices at bedtime is associated with shorter sleep duration, poor sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness. Therefore, turn off those electronic devices before you turn down the bed.


2. Avoid drinking coffee or tea

Do people still not get it?! Caffeine and bedtime don’t mix! Caffeine can stay in your body up to 12 hours after it is consumed. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that consuming caffeine six hours before bed can reduce total sleep time by an hour.

If you must have your cuppa before bed (cuz that’s how you roll), here’s a tip: dunk the teabag into hot water, then throw the water out. Then, make a second cup with that same teabag. The reason: most of the caffeine in tea is released at the start of the steeping process.


3. Avoid engaging in stressful activities

Unless you actually enjoy feeling nervous and agitated throughout the night, check your work email the next morning. More often than not, no one’s life is at stake. Going straight to bed after an activity that stimulates your brain - whether it's being on your PS4 or watching a horror movie - is a big mistake. You’re likely to be tired and unfocused the next day. Instead, focus on activities that are less mentally taxing, like packing your bag or putting away the laundry. And avoid arguments! Never go to bed mad.


4. Avoid eating spicy and fatty foods

When the most awesome murtabak or bak chor mee are just around the corner, it’s hard not to yield to temptation. But yield you should, not only because you want your #gains to be on your muscles and not around your tummy, but also because you don’t want to make a date with nobody’s BFF, acid reflux, which tends to show up when you lie down after a heavy meal of spicy and fatty foods. Relegate such food to dinnertime, and make sure it's consumed at least two hours before bed, so that there’s enough time for your tummy to digest it.


5. Avoid drinking alcohol

What harm will a little red do before bed, you might ask? Well, when you find yourself fidgeting in bed at 3am, suddenly wide awake, you’ll know what. While a tipple before bed might give you that feeling that you’re going to fall into deep and dreamless slumber, it actually reduces REM sleep - the period when sleep is most restorative. The result: fatigue and an inability to concentrate the next day. Plus, alcohol is diuretic, which means you might be awoken by a very full bladder and be forced to drag yourself out of bed for a long whizz.


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