Never Do These Things Before Going to Sleep



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Good Night Moon

We all know the benefits of a good night’s sleep: improved memory, better mood, increased productivity, and even a stronger immune system. Yet, according to the CDC, nearly 70 million Americans struggle with insomnia and other sleep disorders. While chronic insomnia is a serious medical issue that requires treatment, sometimes our own habits are the very culprits preventing us from catching some Z's.

Many of us sabotage our precious shut-eye with habits that keep us awake longer than a toddler on a sugar high. Here are 10 things you should avoid doing before turning in for the night.

Watching tv and using remote control

1. Watch TV

While a preferred pastime for many to unwind after a long workday, watching TV, especially binge-watching a show, is a major sleep disrupter. Sleep experts advise staying away from the boob tube for at least half an hour before going to bed. The main reason is that the blue light from the screen suppresses your body’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm.

"Once blue light hits the retina in your eyes, it sends a signal to your brain that it’s not actually nighttime and therefore not time to sleep," Dr. Aarti Grover, medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Tufts Medical Center, told USA Today.

On the other hand, research shows that reading a book before signing off for the day will not only help you fall asleep faster but also improve your overall sleep quality.

Midnight snack
Choreograph / iStock

2. Eat Late

Midnight snacks might seem like a good idea until you're tossing and turning all night. Your body needs time to digest food properly, and doing this while trying to sleep can lead to indigestion and acid reflux, which can wake you up during the night. Many studies show that people who eat late have more fragmented sleep and spend less time in the restorative stages of sleep. The rule of thumb is to finish munching at least two hours before going to bed to give your metabolism time to wind down too.

working from bed
Marjan_Apostolovic / iStock

3. Work

We've all been there – just one more email before bed, right? But turning your bedroom into an office is a fast track to a sleepless night. Working late into the night keeps your mind in a state of high alert, making it hard to wind down. 

When you're staring at spreadsheets or firing off emails right before bed, your brain doesn’t get the signal to switch off. The stress and stimulation from work can increase cortisol levels, a hormone that keeps you awake. So, keep work out of the bedroom and give your body time to relax.

Tirachard / iStock

4. Exercise

That jog before bed that helps you blow off steam? Save it for the morning. While exercise is beneficial, vigorous workouts close to bedtime can increase adrenaline levels and heart rate, making it harder to fall asleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends finishing intense exercise at least three hours before bed. 

Late night scrolling
Tirachard / iStock

5. Scroll Social Media

Yes, it’s tempting to wind down with some late-night scroll-a-thon, but it’s a one-way ticket to Sleeplessville. A poll of hospital employees

 and university students found that a staggering 70% use social media after getting into bed, with nearly 15% spending over an hour on it each night. 

The blue light from your screen tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime, disrupting your internal clock. Frequent social media use before bed also heightens anxiety and the fear of missing out (FOMO), further sabotaging your sleep.

Wirestock / Istock

6. Drink Alcohol

That "one last drink" might seem like a great idea until you're counting dancing sheep and cursing your life choices. While a nightcap might make you feel drowsy, it actually disrupts your sleep cycle, leaving you more hungover than refreshed as it messes with your REM sleep, the stage of sleep that helps you feel rested.

Studies have shown that even small amounts of alcohol before bed can lead to fragmented sleep and frequent awakenings throughout the night.  In other words, you'll wake up feeling groggy.

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7. Engage in Arguments

There’s a medical reason behind the old saying, "Never go to bed angry." Engaging in arguments  right before hitting the hay can crank up your stress levels and keep your mind racing when it should be winding down. 

Studies show that high stress levels and anxiety are major contributors to insomnia and poor sleep quality.  When you engage in arguments, your body responds by producing cortisol, the stress hormone, which can keep you alert and jittery. According to the American Psychological Association, cortisol levels typically drop at night to help your body relax, but stress can keep these levels high, making it difficult to fall asleep.

Your pre-sleep hours should be a time of relaxation, so no matter how tempting the argument is, you should better "sleep on it." 

drink water
:Miljan Živković/istockphoto

8. Drink Too Much Water

Hydration is important, but chugging too much water before bed can turn your night into a series of bathroom trips. Drinking excessive water right before hitting the sack can lead to nocturia, the fancy term for frequent nighttime urination.  

Young coffee lover sniffing hot drink at cozy home interior

9. Coffee After Dinner

You better pass on that post-dinner espresso, as it is actually a recipe for a restless night. Caffeine can linger in your system for up to six hours, blocking the sleep-inducing chemical adenosine and keeping you wired.

Shot of an adorable little girl and her father brushing their teeth together at home

10. Skip Your Routine

Humans are creatures of habit, and this holds especially true for sleep. Skipping your bedtime routine can throw off your body's internal clock and make it harder to fall asleep. Consistency in your pre-sleep activities signals your body that it's time to wind down and prepare for rest.