For the next two minutes (or however long it takes you to read this story), we have one goal: Seek and slay the bad habits that sabotage your sleep. If you’re ready to stop doing the wrong things and start resting easier, think about addressing these eight common sleep mishaps.
1. Binge-watching TV at night
We’re not saying you shouldn’t watch TV. But spending hours devouring episode after episode can have a negative impact on your sleep. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed that frequent binge-watchers have poorer sleep quality and more symptoms of insomnia. It’s not clear yet whether that’s due to the excitement caused by the shows (thanks Narcos!), or the bingeing itself. Instead of watching the action, make your own: Research shows having sex before sleep can help you fall asleep, likely because of the relaxing, feel-good hormones that orgasms produce.
2. Hitting up the happy hour
Tossing back a few too many drinks often results in tossing and turning in bed. Why? Because good sleep and alcohol don’t mix. According to a Finnish study, just one cocktail compromised the quality of participants’ sleep by reducing the cardiovascular relaxation that healthy sleep induces. And having multiple drinks can decrease sleep quality by as much as 39 percent. By all means, hit the bar with your friends, but consider having a non-alcoholic drink for better rest.
3. Drinking afternoon lattes
Alcohol isn’t the only beverage busting your sleep goals. Caffeinated drinks, like coffee, soda, and energy drinks, can also make sleep more difficult. Research shows that people who consumed caffeine six hours before bed reported more sleep disturbance than those who didn’t have caffeine.
4. Switching up your bedtime
We know life happens, and sometimes you have to stay up way later than planned. But there are health benefits to keeping the same sleep schedule throughout the week. You’re basically training your mind and body to anticipate and prepare for daily events, like digesting food and being alert for work, and that’s a good thing because our bodies like consistency. It’s equally important to maintain that schedule as you age. A study from Duke University revealed that “people with irregular sleep patterns weighed more, had higher blood sugar, higher blood pressure, and a higher projected risk of having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years, than those who slept and woke at the same times every day,” according to a recent report.
5. Playing catch up on sleep
Bad news: You can’t make up for missed sleep—period. Research from the University of Colorado Boulder reveals that people who try to recover lost zzz’s by sleeping in on the weekend gain few, if any, benefits. A better idea would be to use those precious weekend hours for exercise, particularly in the morning or early afternoon sunlight, which helps regulate your circadian rhythms and has been shown to help with falling asleep and sleep quality.
6. Not setting the scene
Like Goldilocks, you need a bedroom that feels “just right” for quality shut-eye. The best room temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, experts say. That may sound cool, but this temperature range can help lower your body temperature, which cues your body to sleep. Also, make sure you use room-darkening curtains to block light — a Stanford study showed that exposure to outdoor lighting is also associated with poorer sleep quality.
7. Eating too much junk food
Need more motivation to eat healthy? People who ate meals high in fiber and low in saturated fats—think lots of veggies and lean meats—showed some improvement in sleep quality and duration in one study. Experts believe these diets may help regulate blood sugar, which is a key for sleeping better.
8. Being glued to your phone
Texting, scrolling, and DM’ing until you turn out the lights (so you can be ahead in the morning!) are not doing your sleep any favors. In fact, it takes people longer to fall asleep and sleep quality suffers when they use devices, like cell phones at night, research shows. Experts say the impact of blue light from screens may reduce the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Make sure to power down in the hours before bed. And feel powerful in the morning.