When we don’t take care of our bodies, the brain can’t do its job. Experts recommend at least seven to nine hours of sleep at night for most people. Those who regularly get fewer than six hours of sleep are at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and many other serious health conditions. 

You might be sabotaging your sleep without even knowing it. These are some of the top 5 ways you might be hurting your sleep and your body’s ability to perform at its best:

Poor mattress choice

If you’re waking up to a body full of aches and pains, you might need to take a look at what you’re climbing out of. Think of your mattress as another piece of health equipment that should fit your needs. Firmness is a personal preference, so there’s no universal best option. However, mattresses do have a lifespan and foam and springs can wear down and become incredibly uncomfortable, no matter your sleep style.

The fix: Try to replace your mattress every 7 years (10 at most), and periodically rotate it.

Eating too much, too close to bedtime

There is nothing wrong with a little bedtime snack, but if you’re taking in large meals before bedtime, you’re not doing your sleep any favours. Eating large, heavy meals at night can take four or more hours to digest, so it’s likely that your body will still be working hard to break down your nightly nibbles while you’re trying to shut down. This may also cause you to experience acid reflux and heartburn, which are both far from soothing. Drinking too many liquids close to bedtime can also cause you to wake up throughout the night and disrupt your sleep.

The fix: Try eating smaller meals earlier in the evening, and incorporating foods that help promote sleep, like those high in magnesium (almonds, spinach), potassium (bananas, kiwis) and melatonin (tart cherry juice). Try avoiding drinks a couple hours before bedtime, especially diuretics like caffeine and alcohol.

Distractions & screen time

A quick bedtime scroll through social media is a habit you need to lay to rest. Screens emit light from the blue spectrum, which causes your body to ease up its production of melatonin (the hormone your body produces to help you sleep). So, while you’re checking in on what’s going on, you’re accidently telling your body that it’s not yet bedtime.

The fix: Shut down all screens at least an hour before you’re planning to go to bed, and make sure you turn off or silence any electronics that will be in your bedroom while you sleep. If you need to be looking at screens, dim the light settings, use a screen shield that will filter out the blue light or try blue light blocking glasses.

Not sticking to a regular sleep schedule & sleeping in on weekends

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we fall behind on sleep and it's tempting to ty to catch up by sleeping late. The problem is, it doesn’t work. Sleeping late on weekends is like giving yourself jet lag. It tends to confuse your internal clock and makes it even harder to bounce back from the original deficit.

The fix: Try to adopt a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. The more regular your schedule, the easier it is for your body to fall into a restful sleeping pattern.

Not getting enough light during the day

Light exposure in the morning – especially sunlight – shuts off the melatonin production in your body and resets your circadian rhythm. This naturally gets your body into a sleep-wake schedule. The natural sunlight makes you feel alert in the morning and sets you up to fall asleep easily at night.

The fix: Try adding in a little outside time in your morning routine. It can be as simple as standing outside with your dog or eating breakfast near a window.