Can’t sleep? Nine Things Not To Do Before Bedtime

How many times have you tossed and turned in bed and just can't sleep? Have you ever wondered if you might be doing something wrong, something that is preventing you from getting the sleep you so need? Here is a short list of things that you should watch out for so you can enjoy a good night’s rest. This list will help you realize what you might be doing wrong, and if you get until the end of the list, we are sure you’ll sleep like a baby tonight.


1. Do not sleep at different times each day

Do you have a habit of dozing off at 10 p.m. on one night and 3 a.m. the next? This could be the reason you can't sleep. Erratic sleep timings on a daily basis can cause sleep to be erratic as well and ruin it.

Try to plan your days in a way that you sleep within a one-hour window each night and wake up the same way next morning. Sleeping at very different times over long periods, like weeks or months, can permanently damage your sleep quality.

2. Do not interact with screens before bedtime

We now live at a time where we have bright tube lights in each room and various screens, be they TV, computer, Kindles or smart phones, staring back at us at all times. Have you ever noticed how texting at night in the dark gives you a ghostly glow? That blue light is an artificial light. Can't sleep? These artificial light sources trick the brain into thinking it’s still daytime, thus keeping us awake, even if it is 11 p.m.

This is especially true for children. The video below talks about how children on devices before bedtime sleep less than children who don't have devices near them.​

By carefully toning down the amount of visual stimulus you come across, especially by shutting off all electrical devices at least one hour before bedtime and using low-intensity night lights, you can say goodbye to can't sleep and say hello to can sleep!  

Still can't sleep? Use an application like f.lux which reduces the amount of bad blue light coming from your devices. How much bad blue light can f.lux remove? Check out this f.luxometer by typing in your preferred device that you use at night.

3. Do not do different things each night before sleeping

Doing varied things before bedtime, for example, playing video games two days a week, watching football a day after, going for a late night drink on the weekends and reading a book the rest of the days could be ruining your sleep.

Night time rituals, small recurring things you do before going to bed each day can prepare your brain for sleep. If your brain is ready, the rest of your body will follow, ensuring you fall asleep faster and better. Reading a book each night (it’s easy on the eyes), or taking a walk each night can train your brain to get drowsy before bedtime.

Remember when you were a kid your mom probably used to put you to sleep by singing you a lullaby each night? Or reading a book to you? She did it because she knew that by hearing her voice or her sing, your brain realized it’s sleepy time, sending you into a deep slumber. Her voice was the trigger. It signalled it's sleepy time. before getting into bed may have been a couple of actions as part of sleepy time ritual - brush your teeth, get dressed into your pajamas, say goodnight to dad and so on. 

Create and embed your own triggers and rituals to encourage a good night's sleep.

4. Do not drink or smoke before turning in for the night

We love a good drink or a cigarette after a long day just as much as you do. However, these pleasurable habits might lead to sleep-related downfall. Alcoholic drinks, some fresh brewed coffee or cigarettes all mess with your neurochemicals, which can damage your sleep cycle and trick your brain into staying up.

Staying off all these substances, and instead consuming some bananas, milk or peanuts can help a lot as these substances tend to induce sleep. They may not be as good as a cigarette, but we think we’d rather sleep than smoke.

5. Do not use your bed for something other than sleeping

Your bed is meant for sleeping and sleeping only. Studying, listening to music, texting people or reading on the bed might be comfortable, but it confuses your brain as to what a bed is for.

If you use your bed only for sleeping and nothing else, every time you go to bed, your head automatically assumes it’s time to sleep and prepares your mind and body for a good night’s rest. Again it's another trigger. Your mind connects the bed to the activity of sleeping, and so prompts it.

6. Do not sleep on a poor-quality or allergen-ridden mattress

Poor quality mattress

Discomfort caused by a bad bed can clearly push sleep away. Mattresses with bumps or dips in them, mattresses made of poor material, bed frames that make too much noise when you move, mattresses which heat up too much or have a nylon or synthetic material covering can all make you the sleeper uncomfortable.

Got a bed with bumps and dips inside? Have a read of my post called the 6 Reasons To Replace My Old Mattress.

Make it a priority to buy a good bed, nice pillows, and comfortable blankets. This investment can go a long way toward sound sleep and great mornings.

Allergen-ridden mattress

What you need to consider here is another type of discomfort - a mattress or bedding that makes you sneeze, wheeze, cough, scratch or get a headache. This is because there is something in your mattress that you are allergic to or just makes you uncomfortable.

This can include scratching yourself silly because of dust mites, bed bugs or because you shouldn't be sleeping on a wool, latex or topper made from synthetic materials.

can't sleep - dust mite bites
Dust mite bites. Image source.

This can include mattresses made with 100% synthetic materials that give off gases as well as harmful toxins and chemicals and affect your breathing or give you that headache. Did you know there are 7 Health Hazards Inside Your New Mattress You Should Have Known About?

3 things you need in a mattress

When you are shopping for your next mattress, keep these 3 things in mind to optimize your sleep:

  1. Comfort
  2. High-quality materials (all about what's inside your mattress)
  3. Affordability.

The trick is to balance or reach a compromise on all 3 to get your perfect mattress.

This blog is all about mattresses that are higher quality than your average mattress that are affordable as well. Make sure to look around!

7. Do not watch a scary movie right before bed

It’s tempting to watch scary movies in the middle of the night for that added fear factor. Alas, doing so might make result in a scary meeting with the boogeyman instead of a pleasant drowsy meeting with the Sandman.

This is something I do and I always regret. It all started with that movie "Silence of Lambs"!​

Horror movies can trigger anxiety in you that can carry itself until the time you sleep and disrupt it. This may put your body into fight or flight mode, which would make it impossible to sleep. What’s worse it may even prompt nightmares and make sleep a scarier proposition.

Watch, or preferably read something light or funny before sleep. Meditation is another known way to reach more fulfilling sleep.

8. Do not exercise or listen to loud music before bed

Thanks to busy schedules, many choose to work out in the evenings or at night. This simply pumps your body up for more activity, which directly conflicts with sleep, which is a relaxation undertaking. Loud music has the same effect on the mind and simply gets your body ready for more action.

Working out in the mornings, or at least 4 hours before sleep, or trading that for some light yoga or relaxing instrumental music can work wonders on your sleep cycle.

9. Do not sleep in temperatures too hot or too cold

Regulating the temperature around you as you sleep is key to getting a healthy dose of shut-eye. If you are too warm, your body sweats a lot, and if it is too cold, it shivers. Both of these bodily functions can make it impossible to rest.

The optimum way to sleep would be to sleep in an environment that is a little colder, and wrap yourself in a blanket that makes the temperature just right.

If You Can't Sleep, Change What You Are Doing Now

Which of the nine Sleep Stoppers are keeping you awake at night? How will you change up what you're doing now to get a better sleep? 

Sleep is sometimes the most coveted experiences for a person, and also the most easily obtainable. Small little things that you do can hinder your ability to go into a deep slumber each night.

So take care of these points before you get to bed at night.