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8 Things you shouldn't do after midnight

Most of us have experienced trouble sleeping at one time or another. The lack of quality sleep affects our energy, emotional balance and health. So, here are eight things you shouldn’t do after midnight to sleep better.

Mental Health By Ariba KhaliqJul 22, 2015

Things to do and no-to-do at night

The only two healthy things that should be done at night are to sleep and to “sleep with someone”. All other things are unhealthy. How well you sleep at night affects your mood and energy levels the next day. Midnight may sound like an enticing time to eat, drink and have fun, but these things along with others shouldn’t be done after midnight should you want to sleep better. Here’s why.

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Nicotine interferes with your sleep and can make you stay awake for hours. Smoking a cigarette after midnight will not end there because when you stay awake for another hour or so, you end up indulging in more unhealthy habits. Smoking disrupts basic structure of sleep called sleep architecture – the pattern of sleep stages that occur during the night. A study found that smokers take slightly longer to fall asleep (called the sleep latency), sleep less and have less deep sleep (called slow wave sleep).

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Drinking alcohol

Go on drink to your heart’s content if you want to puke all night and wake up with a terrible headache the morning after. The more you drink, the worse your hangover and sleep quality will be. After a couple of drinks close to bedtime, you tend to go straight into deep sleep, missing out on the usual first stage of sleep, called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

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Having caffeine

Stimulants are one of the many causes of insomnia. Caffeine is one such stimulant that should be avoided in the evening and thereafter. Having coffee or energy drinks after midnight means driving your sleep away deliberately by prolonging sleep latency, shortening total sleep time by increasing in-light sleep and shortening deep sleep time, as well as more frequent awakenings.

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Eating sugary snacks

They shouldn’t be had even during the day. But, consuming them at night adds up to your calories and doesn’t give your body a chance to torch them up because you’ll eventually sleep. Now you know where all that weight comes from. And again, weight gain may make you lose more sleep. Such a vicious cycle! Also, sugary foods can cause a big increase in blood glucose levels. This produces excess energy for the body and hence causes restlessness.

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Consuming spicy foods

Of course, it’s a movie night, and you want to spend it loading up on nachos with salsa sauce and your favourite spicy Chinese noodle box. But, eating spicy food late in the evening and after can be harsh on the gastrointestinal tract. It can aggravate gastrointestinal ulcers and cause acid reflux.

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Drinking water and other beverages

Phyllis Zee, associate director of the Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology and professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine says that having water or other beverages less than an hour before bedtime can be harmful. While it is important to stay hydrated, moderation should be preferred during later hours. Your body should have enough time to void that fluid before bed. Drinking too much water before heading to bed will cause you to wake up to visit the washroom; sometimes, several times. There’s nothing more irritating than that because you really will have to make efforts to fall asleep again.

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Watching TV

Chances are that the re-runs of your favourite TV series or a movie marathon is up and you’ll end up sleeping only in the early hours. That’s a big no-no. Whether it is email, a video game, the Web, or TV, electronic devices rev up your brain, increasing electrical activity—the exact opposite of what should be happening before sleep.

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Thinking about work

Leave work to office. Losing your sleep over it doesn’t help; it will only add up to your insomnia. Relax during the night so that you can handle work issues better the next day. You can spend time with family and friends to buffer against stress.

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