health

"Most people don't even realise they're doing it": 6 bad sleeping habits to break with.

Look, we all know that scrolling through Instagram for 45 minutes and dousing our sleepy eyes in some AGGRESSIVE BLUE LIGHT isn't exactly ideal for a good night's sleep. Nor is drinking Coke with dinner. Or falling asleep with all the lights on, watching Mad Men for the seventh time.

But while these little sleeping habits might seem like NBD (omg get off our backs!) - they could actually be doing some serious long-term harm to your overall health.

Watch: Here's how long your power nap should *really* last. Post continues below.


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While short-term effects of disrupted sleep include things like mood swings and lack of focus, these bad habits can have a run-on effect for the wellbeing of future you. And the outlook ain't great, friends.

We're talking things like high blood pressure, diabetes, memory loss and heart failure - just to name a few.

So, y'know - it could be time to start figuring out some alternatives.

Here, we've rounded up six of the most common bad sleeping habits and what you can do about them.

1. Teeth grinding.

Do you grind your teeth at night? You might, you know. Most people don't even realise they're doing it. But if you're waking up in the morning with a sore jaw or headache, or wondering why your teeth are looking kinda small and jagged as of late, then please take a seat. 

Yes, you might be part of the five per cent of the Australian population who grinds their teeth.

Just to give you a rundown, teeth grinding (also known as bruxism, if you want to get fancy) is the involuntary clenching, grinding and gnashing of the teeth that usually happens during sleep. Cute!

"There are several causes of night time teeth grinding, including stress and anxiety," explains cosmetic dentist Dr Aodhan Docherty from About Smiles

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"We can all relate to this at the moment with COVID-19 and the current lockdowns happening, and I am currently seeing an increase in teeth grinding because of this. Medications are also a big factor in grinding, with some causing it as a side effect."

While stress, anxiety and certain medications can trigger teeth grinding, apparently breathing issues are also a common contributor.

"Breathing issues and airway blockages are a big factor at play [in teeth grinding], so seeing an ear nose and throat (ENT) doctor is often very important."

"Regardless of the cause, the end result is worn down teeth which become shorter and more chipped with age, and they can eventually become very sensitive as the enamel layer is ground down."

Image: Getty

"It's usually a very slow process, so most people do not notice it for years until there are symptoms such as jaw pain, neck pain, headaches and migraines, or signs such as a change in appearance of the teeth."

So, what exactly can be done to stop teeth grinding? 

Well, first you need to identify the problem and address the most likely cause in order to prevent more serious damage. 

"Stress reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation are some great options to improve stress levels. However, if it is still affecting your life, then big changes sometimes need to be made."

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"Often we can never truly stop it, so we [can] make a plastic guard that clips onto the teeth, which is softer than the teeth - so this gets ground down instead of the teeth being ground down. Another option is muscle relaxant injections (anti-wrinkle injections) into the jaw muscles."

"Many would have heard of anti-wrinkle injections for 'jaw sculpting'. Well, it is essentially used in the same muscles to relax the muscles and reduce the tension and pressure, without impacting day-to-day activities."

So, if you’re already noticing the effects of teeth grinding, it might be worth hitting up your dentist to discuss which option might be best for you.

"If the cause is medication-related, I would recommend speaking to your GP about alternatives, or if it is breathing- related, seeing an ENT doctor."

2. Increased screen time.

How much time do you spend scrolling through TikTok or Instagram at night? Go on, we won't tell.

If you're anything like us, your phone is rarely out of sight, and either sits right next to you, or under your pillow. But while it might sound like a pretty harmless habit, slipping into bed and staring at your phone for 30 minutes can actually mess with your overall health.

"There’s a lot of evidence now that the blue light emitted from screens such as tablets, phones and televisions may stimulate the brain and affect melatonin levels, the natural hormones we all produce to help us fall asleep, delaying sleep onset," said GP Dr Imaan Joshi from Skin Essentials

Image: Getty

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Not only does the blue light suppress melatonin, but staring at a phone keeps your mind psychologically engaged, stimulating your brain and delaying REM sleep. Which is... not good.

"For this reason, as part of sleep hygiene, it’s recommended that we switch off all screens an hour or so before bedtime."

If you're really struggling to switch off before bed, try putting your phone in a different room or using a good old fashion alarm clock (remember them?!).

3. Eating big or heavy meals close to bedtime.

W-wo-woah! Slow down there, sport. While a small snack before bedtime is fine, wolfing down large amounts of food before going horizontal is probably not the best idea.

"Eating a big meal may cause possible problems if you’re headed to bed soon after in terms of heartburn, as your body is trying to digest a big meal while you’re horizontal and may lead to disrupted sleep," explains Dr Joshi.

Not only will it make it harder for you to fall asleep, but eating heavy meals too late can also result in acid reflux - which does exactly nothing for your teeth.

"Acid reflux is quite common, and I often see the net result of the acids on the teeth. The wear is a little different to grinding (chipped and flat), rather, it is shiny and smooth with little 'cupped out' areas on the biting surfaces," said Dr Docherty.

Yikes.

4. Irregular sleep schedule.

Ahh - how good's a weekend sleep in? Apparently not great, sad face.

According to recent studies, those who don't have a regular bedtime or wake up schedule are at a higher risk of metabolic disorders and chronic health concerns such as diabetes. 

"Irregular sleep schedule can affect sleep quality. Instead of sleeping in on weekends, from a sleep point of view it’s best to stick to a regular sleep routine," recommends Dr Joshi.

So, while weekend recovery sleep might sound like a good thing to reverse loss of sleep, getting different amounts of sleep every night can affect you more in the long-run.

5. Consuming too much caffeine or alcohol before bed. 

If you're someone who enjoys a 2pm coffee or are partial to a glass (or two) of wine with dinner, you might not know just how much this small habit can affect your sleep. 

While we all know that caffeine makes you more alert and awake, the effects of caffeine linger long after the initial stimulating jolt you feel after consuming it. 

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This means that even if you fall asleep easily after drinking caffeine late in the day, it could still be impacting your sleep stages at night without you even knowing. 

How cheeky!

The same goes for alcohol. "Consuming too much alcohol can paradoxically affect sleep quality," confirms Dr Joshi.

While different people may have different sensitivities, experts generally recommend you should stop drinking caffeine around eight hours before bed, and alcohol three hours before.

6. Strenuous exercise before bed.

While moderate-intensity exercise in the evening generally won't impact your sleep, banging out a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class or getting stuck into some heavy weight lifting an hour before bed means you'll take longer to fall asleep and have poorer sleep quality through the night.

"It depends on the type of exercise. Very vigorous exercise may elevate the core body temperature, which may take several hours to return to normal. This, in turn, may delay ability to fall asleep and affect sleep quality."

Everyone is different, though. So, do whatever works best for you!

Sweet dreams, friends.

Are you guilty of the above sleeping habits? Share with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Getty

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