3 “Harmless” Habits That Cause Insomnia

Insomnia and poor sleep are impacting many people right now. Tossing and turning occasionally is very normal, especially after the last year. But chronic insomnia can take a toll. Insomnia can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression and reduce your overall quality of life. 

When we experience trouble sleeping, we are often told to try to go to bed early or sleep late when we can. The message is clear: get as much sleep as much as possible or at least try to. When it comes to sleep, what we think are “harmless” habits might be hurting our sleep more than we think.

If you struggle with falling or staying asleep at night, your behaviors play a bigger role in contributing to insomnia than you realize. Let’s look at three “harmless” habits that cause insomnia, so you can make some changes and get the sleep you need.

1. Lying in Bed, Trying to Sleep

You might be scratching your head with this habit. After all, isn’t this exactly what you’re supposed to do?

You should give yourself about 10-15 minutes to fall asleep while lying in bed. If you’re not able to sleep, your mind can start to race. You might worry about not sleeping, which can lead to thinking about how tired you’ll be tomorrow, things you need to do, as well as many other possibilities. Essentially, you could work yourself up to the point of feeling anxious or panicked. 

If you can’t fall asleep within a few minutes, get out of bed. Find a quiet activity to do until you start to feel tired and go back to bed to try again. 

2. Reading or Watching TV in Bed

Many people have a book on their nightstand or a TV in their bedroom. But your bed should only be used only for sleeping. Your brain needs to associate the bed with sleep—not with where you read, watch TV, or scroll through your phone. 

If you have a habit of consuming content before you fall asleep, your brain will adapt to that. You’ll think your bedroom is the place where you look at Instagram or watch your favorite show, rather than getting the rest you need. 

If you want to watch TV, read, or do anything else before bed, do it in a different room, or at least a different place other than your bed. Scroll through your phone in the living room, read a book in the den, or watch television in the basement. Decide to go into your room and climb into bed solely when you’re ready to sleep and don’t spend time in bed doing other things.

3. Going to Sleep Too Early

It’s easy to think that you should go to bed early to get enough sleep each night. But that isn’t necessarily the case. If you try to go to bed too early, you will end up lying in bed and this can play a role in insomnia. 

Making an effort to go to sleep early circles back to the first habit we touched on. When you’re not fully tired and your body isn’t ready for sleep, it encourages “sleep effort.” You’re more likely to lie in bed and start overthinking. 

Listen to your body when it comes to when you should sleep. When you’re tired, get into bed. If you end up getting less sleep tonight, try to do your best not to worry about it. You may be tired tomorrow, but eventually, you will build up sleep drive—the innate need your body has for sleep—and you will be able to fall asleep more easily in time.

Our daily habits can certainly impact the way we sleep. If you regularly do any of these things and you’re struggling with insomnia, they might be causing it. Thankfully, these habits are easy to change. With a bit of effort, you can fight back against your poor sleep quality and get the rest you deserve. And if you want to find out more about cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i), contact our office for a consultation.

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