Reaching for a nightcap (of the alcoholic variety)
A glass of wine may be the most popular “sleep aid” around, but while booze may help you fall asleep faster, it will actually make your sleep worse through the night and over time, according to a recent study published in Alcohol. The problem is that it reduces quality sleep, disrupting the body’s natural homeostasis. “This may be part of why a hangover feels so awful,” Dr. Buchfuhrer explains. “The alcohol destroys sleep architecture, so while you may be spending plenty of time in bed you’re not getting much real rest, making you wake up groggy and tired.” Instead of drinking, try one of these healthy snacks shown to help insomnia.
Using OTC sleep aids regularly
Over-the-counter sleeping pills like ZZZQuil, TylenolPM, and Unisom have grown in popularity over the years for good reason—they’re cheap and they work. But how well they work depends on how much you use them, Dr. Buchfuhrer says. “Using them every once in a while, like on a trip, is fine but over time they will hurt your sleep,” he explains. They rely on the drowsy side effect of antihistamines, generally used as cold or allergy medications, and the other side effects like rebound insomnia, anxiety, and dehydration can take a toll. Plus, he adds, you can develop a tolerance over time and can become dependent on them to fall asleep.
You’re hitting the gym after dinner
You know that old adage of if you want to sleep well, wear yourself out physically first? It’s simply not true, Dr. Buchfuhrer says. “Exercise produces adrenaline and endorphins which rev you up, making it harder to fall asleep,” he explains. This doesn’t give you a free pass to get out of exercise though. When done earlier in the day—say before 5 p.m.—working out is one of the best ways to beat insomnia. It’s all in the timing, he says. Not sure if your schedule is working for you? Check out these 8 signs you’re headed for an awful night of sleep.