We’ve all got our vices. Some of us like the extra glass of wine in the evening, staying up late to binge watch television shows, or some other activity, that while enjoyable, is typically not in our best interests. Enjoying life’s little pleasures is essential to a balanced existence but it’s important to remember a few key points to ensure they don’t affect your overall health.
Beer, Wine, and Spirits
After a long workday, many of us find it relaxing to pop open a beer, mix a cocktail, or pour a glass of wine to help unwind and reduce stress. The general rule of thumb when consuming alcohol is to cut off all drinks at least 4 hours prior to bedtime and limit your intake to 1-2 drinks in the evening. This allows your body to enter the necessary sleep stages in a healthy and normal way. Too much alcohol limits your ability to enter REM sleep, the mentally curative stage, and can leave you with memory issues and a general fogginess the next day.
If you like to wait until the weekend to sip your favorite libations, it’s important to still try and keep these suggestions in mind. Whenever possible, maintain your good sleep hygiene habits, even on days off from work. The simple truth is that it can be difficult to catch up on sleep you missed and is often a recipe for an unpleasant Monday back at work.
Video Games, Movies, and TV Shows
We’re living in the golden age of media. Video games, movies, and especially television shows have never been more engaging, or well, addictive! It’s easy to get wrapped up in the suspense and lose track of time, exemplified by the term “binge-worthy” saturating recent pop-culture.
There’s no harm in plowing your way through another critically acclaimed drama, but keep a few guidelines in mind to protect your sleep and overall health. As many know, exposure to blue light yields unwanted consequences on our rest, because it tells our mind that it’s time to stay alert and awake. This can be helpful during the day when we need to be productive, but at night when we’re supposed to be entering sleep, it sends the wrong signal to our bodies. TV and video games can also get you too excited before bed, which is the opposite mood you want to be in when winding down for the night.
Try your best to turn off all the electronics one hour prior to bed. If you just have to get to that series finale or meet one more checkpoint in your video game, add a blue light filter to your screens. This can help you fall asleep within a reasonable amount of time.
Finding Time to Workout
Sometimes life is so full of challenges, stresses, and tribulations, finding time to exercise may seem nearly impossible. Unfortunately, avoiding exercise is a common vice these days, and we make excuses about not having the time or beneficial exercise being too strenuous. Resist the urge to think this way! The good news is that there are many ways to get your heart pumping in a short period of time, without feeling drained physically.
Going for brisk walks on your lunch break, taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work, or parking far away from the shops for some extra steps are all little ways to reap the rewards of exercise. Another way to squeeze in some activity is to do quick bursts of exercise during commercial breaks while you watch your favorite shows. Most hour-long shows have roughly 18-20 minutes of ads, which is a great amount of time to fit in some lunges, push-ups, sit-ups, or stretches. Just remember to save any strenuous activities for early in the day, and focus on light activity if you’re exercising close to bedtime.
Unbalanced diets are a common problem in the United States, with more than 1 in 3 adults considered overweight, and 1 in 6 children considered obese. Indulging in sugary treats is often a contributing factor to unhealthy lifestyles, and it can have a detrimental impact on sleep health too. The National Sleep Foundation notes that the more sugar you consume during the day, the more often you’ll wake up at night. Sugar has the power to pull you out of deep sleep, resulting in exhaustion the next day.
A few treats every now and then are perfectly acceptable. But if you’re eating ice cream or king-sized candy bars every night before bed, it’s going to sabotage your sleep. Instead of reaching for the chocolate, try to eat complex carbs like whole grains. If you just can’t live without that sugar pick-me-up, try and eat it earlier in the day, and cut out all treats by dinnertime. Your future self will thank you!
Vices are fine, as long as moderation and timing are taken into consideration. By making a little effort to cut out some of the big culprits, and exercising your vices during certain times of the day, you can feel better, sleep better, and ultimately live better.