You have no set bedtime
It may be decades since you had a stories-and-warm-milk routine, but “we never really outgrow a wind-down period,” says Carney. Breus has long recommended patients start a “power-down hour”: Set an alarm for 60 minutes before you plan to go to sleep. Spend the first 20 minutes finishing up any must-dos (walking the dog, firing off a few last emails) and the next 20 minutes on sleep hygiene (showering, brushing teeth, pajamas). For the final 20 minutes, do something relaxing like meditation, gentle yoga, or reading a book. Then lights out. Don’t ignore these signs you’re headed for a rough night’s sleep.
You underestimate how much caffeine you consume
It’s no secret that caffeine can keep you awake, but many people mistakenly think the stimulant drug has no effect on them, says Breus. In fact, caffeine has a half-life of eight to 10 hours (meaning that eight hours after your last grande latte, half of the caffeine is still in your system), so drinking too much too late in the day may inadvertently be arresting your sleep. What’s more, caffeine metabolism slows as we get older. Your body can’t process caffeine as efficiently in your forties as it did in your twenties, so the same amount that didn’t bother you then could have an effect now. Here are other surprising ways caffeine affects your health.
Your approach to insomnia is all wrong
Breus says a big part of insomnia rehab is coaching patients to reframe negative or incorrect perceptions of sleep. “Addressing this catastrophic thinking can help relieve anxiety so sleep becomes just a physical act, not an emotional one,” he says. Plus, believing you slept well—even if you didn’t—may improve brain function the next day, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. Researchers asked 164 participants how they’d slept the previous night, then hooked them up to a sham machine that purportedly revealed to scientists their REM sleep. People who were told they had above-average REM sleep performed better on cognitive and attention tasks than those who were told their REM sleep was below average, regardless of how they’d actually slept.