Did you know that March is National Sleep Awareness Month? That's right—there's a month dedicated to crawling in bed and catching up on Zzz's. Eager to celebrate? Us, too. But before you pull out your matching PJs, cue up Netflix, and set an alarm on your iPhone, make sure you're not making these common sleep mistakes.
Cuddling with your phone
You've likely heard this sleep "no no" over and over again. But do you know the science behind it? Artificial blue light that's emitted from our phones, televisions, and laptops suppresses our body's ability to secrete the sleep hormone melatonin and negatively influences our circadian rhythm.
Researchers at Harvard conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light. Blue light suppressed melatonin for nearly twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours versus 1.5 hours). While completely shutting down and staying away from electronics a few hours before bed is the ideal, you can also try activating the "night shift" setting on your iPhone, or installing an app on your phone or computer, to filter out blue light at nighttime.
There's a time and a place for cute pajamas or sexy lingerie, but sleeping while wearing them may do more harm than good. According to a 2012 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, only 12 percent of Americans sleep naked. But this 12 percent is onto something!
Before we can fall asleep, our body must lower its core temperature. Clothing can get in the way of this natural process. In other words, those cozy sweatpants make our bodies work harder to lower itself to the ideal temperature. As a result, it may take longer for sleep to come.
Sleeping naked with a partner, especially with skin-to-skin contact, releases the hormone oxytocin—commonly referred to as "the love hormone." Oxytocin reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to trigger our sympathetic nervous system and keep our body in "fight-or-flight" mode. Needless to say, it's tough to sleep when we're stressed. Try sleeping in the nude to cool down your body, enhance the warm and fuzzies, and successfully doze off.
Caffeine has negative effects on sleep—no surprise there. The Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for healthy adults. One cup of coffee has 95 milligrams of caffeine per cup, so enjoying a few cups per day can cause you to quickly reach this limit.
Though coffee is the star of the caffeine show, it's easy to forget the many other foods high in caffeine. Do you enjoy a scoop of coffee ice cream post-dinner? Popular brands may have up to 90 milligrams of caffeine per cup. Speaking of dessert, a Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate bar has 31 milligrams (about the same amount as can of soda). Energy bars are another caffeine culprit. For example, some Clif Bars contain 45 milligrams of caffeine. If you pop Midol to help with PMS cramps, you should know brands like Pamprin pack 65 milligrams of caffeine in each tablet. Plus, the company recommends taking two at once to effectively relieve symptoms.
The amount of caffeine you're consuming can easily add up, which could take a toll on your sleep. So while being mindful of sugar content and calories is important, don't forget to check out the amount of caffeine listed on nutrition labels, too.
What better way to celebrate National Sleep Awareness Month than...well...sleeping? Follow these tips to sleep more soundly and wake up ready to live your day to the fullest.