There’s no way around the fact that sleep is absolutely essential.
We’re not only talking about your ability to build muscle, lose weight, or dominate a transformation challenge…we’re talking about your ability to live a long, vibrant, and healthy life.
Human beings have evolved over millennia, and as much as things change, one thing has remained constant -- the importance of sleep cannot be overlooked.
Unfortunately, modern living continues to offer endless ways to undermine and subvert our ability to regularly get quality sleep.
Here are 10 ways you may be sabotaging your sleep schedule.
#1 Blue Light Exposure Before Bed
Blue light is very short, high energy waves that are emitted by numerous electronic devices, including smartphones, tablets, computers, and other LED-containing devices. Exposure to blue light during the day improves alertness and wakefulness. As evening approaches, though, blue light exposure disrupts production of melatonin -- the hormone that sets our circadian rhythm and governs the sleep-wake cycle.
In addition to disrupting the body’s natural rhythm, research has also found that it can stimulate the brain and increase cortisol production, both of which can impair sleep quality. Furthermore, excessive exposure to blue light has also been found to damage the eyes.[1,2]
The takeaway here is to limit (as much as possible) your exposure to blue light in the evening. This will help you to mentally and physically “unplug” before bed, setting the stage for a peaceful and restorative night’s sleep. If you “must” be on an electronic device in the evening, there are a wide variety of blue light blocking apps available for you to use.
#2 Not Getting Sunlight After Waking
While blue light isn’t great for going to sleep, they are fantastic for keeping you awake and alert during the day. UV rays (the kind of light emitted from the sun) are even more powerful than blue light, and exposure to bright light shortly after waking is critical to setting your circadian rhythm, which ultimately helps you to fall asleep at the appropriate time.
Not exposing your body to sunshine not only hurts your ability to fully wake up and get going during the day, it also stunts your body’s innate ability to produce vitamin D -- an essential vitamin/prohormone that impacts immune function, mood, bone health, and hormone production.
#3 Not Having a Consistent Bedtime
Our bodies crave consistency -- maintaining regular sleep/wake times, meal times, workout schedules, etc. These help to “program” the mind and body to ready itself for the tasks ahead.
Going to bed when you “feel” like it is akin to “winging” your workout schedule. In both cases, you may achieve your goal, but over the long term, you’ll likely end up missing more than making.
Scheduling your bedtime (and workouts) just like you do doctor appointments, dinner reservations, and meetings eliminates the guesswork and goes a long way to ensuring that you actually accomplish what you plan to.
#4 Caffeine After Lunch
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that increases mental energy, alertness, and motivation. It’s great for a morning pick-me-up or pre-workout supplement. The same things that make it excel in the early part of the day are the exact same things that can make it a terrible choice (for most people) in the afternoon/evening.
Caffeine has a half-life ~5.5 hours, which means if you consume 200mg of caffeine (the average caffeine content of an energy drink) at 3PM, there’s still ~100mg in your body at 9PM (when most people should be getting ready for bed).
The takeaway here is that the average individual would be better served by restricting their caffeine take after lunchtime so that they can get a quality night’s sleep.
Alcohol is a depressant, and it may seem like having something that makes you feel more relaxed and/or tired before bed is a good idea. However, the truth is that alcohol actually reduces sleep quality, specifically REM sleep -- one of the most important phases of your nightly repose.
Having the occasional drink is fine (if you enjoy in moderation and have an otherwise healthy lifestyle), that being said, if you are going to drink, do so responsibly. Alcohol is NOT a sleep aid.
#6 Not Having a Bedtime Routine
Trying to go from fully awake to relaxed (and soon asleep) is rough.
We’ve already mentioned how maintaining a consistent bedtime can improve your sleep, so too can having a consistent bedtime routine (or pre-sleep “ritual”). This provides a powerful signal to your mind and body that it’s time to “power down” for the evening and get ready for bed.
In addition to establishing (and adhering to) a consistent bedtime, the following pre-bed habits can also be helpful in unwinding and unloading the stressful events of the day:
- Making a to-do list
- Taking a warm bath/shower
- Stretching/light yoga
- Listening to calming music
- Avoiding electronics (blue light)
- Having a cup of herbal tea
#7 Staying Hydrated
Hydration is essential to optimal performance, recovery, and overall health and wellness (after all the human body is mostly water). Observational studies indicate that higher rates of dehydration are associated with shorter sleep duration. However, other studies that control for dehydration and adequate hydration in otherwise healthy individuals found no significant negative impact on sleep quality.
That being said, staying hydrated throughout the day won’t hurt your sleep duration or quality. If anything, it would only serve to improve it. You may want to avoid consuming too many fluids (>8oz) in the hour or two before bed as this will likely cause you to wake up frequently in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
#8 Evening Exercise
Regular exercise is fantastic for both the body and mind. It improves energy expenditure, boosts mood, reduces stress, and helps build muscle and strength.
However, vigorous exercise (e.g. HIIT workouts, resistance training, interval training, etc.) an hour or two before bed may make it more difficult to fall asleep. The reason for this is that hard workouts raise cortisol (stress) levels.
If you want to (or can only) exercise in the evening, try to do so a couple of hours before bed (2-3) and make sure not to include caffeine as part of your pre workout supplement (see tip #4 above for more information).
#9 Pre-Bed Snacks
For the longest time, it was believed that eating before bed (or even after 6PM) would “automatically” lead to fat gain. The reality is that so long as calories are controlled (i.e. within your calorie goals for the day), you will stay on track with your goals -- muscle gain, fat loss, etc.
That being said, having certain foods before bed may impair your ability to sleep soundly. This includes food (and drinks) containing higher amounts of[5,6]:
- Saturated fat (i.e. fried foods, baked goods, etc.)
Furthermore, larger meals are also known to have an adverse effect on sleep quality/duration (on average) compared to smaller meals. This is due to a number of factors, including GI upset and elevated body temperatures (thermogenesis).
If you are low on calories and/or prefer to having a light snack before bed to keep hunger in check and support overnight muscle recovery, one of our favorite options is to have a protein shake using one of our top-rated protein powders, such as 1UP Whey Protein, 1UP Clear Protein, or 1UP Vegan Protein.
#10 Long Naps During the Day
Naps during the day can be a great way to recharge, enhance recovery, improve productivity, and boost memory retention.[7,8]
However, napping too long can make it harder to wake up from your nap, leaving you feeling groggy instead of energized. It may also make it harder to fall asleep at your typical bedtime.
Ideally, you want your nap to last no longer than 30-45 minutes.
Sleep is fundamental. There are no two ways about it.
Check the list above and see if you’re doing one (or more) things that may be stopping you from getting the deep, restful sleep you need to get results and live your best life.
In addition to the above lifestyle habits, it may also be helpful on occasion to use a nighttime relaxation and recovery aid, such as Recharge PM or Beauty Dream PM, both of which contain natural ingredients to promote stress reduction, relaxation and greater quality sleep.
- Zhao ZC, Zhou Y, Tan G, Li J. Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes. Int J Ophthalmol. 2018 Dec 18;11(12):1999-2003. doi: 10.18240/ijo.2018.12.20. PMID: 30588436; PMCID: PMC6288536.
- Tosini G, Ferguson I, Tsubota K. Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology. Mol Vis. 2016 Jan 24;22:61-72. PMID: 26900325; PMCID: PMC4734149.
- Rosinger AY, Chang AM, Buxton OM, Li J, Wu S, Gao X. Short sleep duration is associated with inadequate hydration: cross-cultural evidence from US and Chinese adults. Sleep. 2019 Feb 1;42(2). doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsy210. PMID: 30395316.
- Aristotelous P, Aphamis G, Sakkas GK, Andreou E, Pantzaris M, Kyprianou T, Hadjigeorgiou GM, Manconi M, Giannaki CD. Effects of controlled dehydration on sleep quality and quantity: A polysomnographic study in healthy young adults. J Sleep Res. 2019 Jun;28(3):e12662. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12662. Epub 2018 Feb 7. PMID: 29411452.
- Marie-Pierre, S.-O., Amy, R., Ari, S., & Roy, C. A. (2023). Fiber and Saturated Fat Are Associated with Sleep Arousals and Slow Wave Sleep. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(01), 19–24. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.5384
- Chung N, Bin YS, Cistulli PA, Chow CM. Does the Proximity of Meals to Bedtime Influence the Sleep of Young Adults? A Cross-Sectional Survey of University Students. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Apr 14;17(8):2677. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17082677. PMID: 32295235; PMCID: PMC7215804.
- Lastella M, Halson SL, Vitale JA, Memon AR, Vincent GE. To Nap or Not to Nap? A Systematic Review Evaluating Napping Behavior in Athletes and the Impact on Various Measures of Athletic Performance. Nat Sci Sleep. 2021 Jun 24;13:841-862. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S315556. PMID: 34194254; PMCID: PMC8238550.
- Weir, K. (2016, July 2). The science of naps. Monitor on Psychology, 47(7). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/07-08/naps