10 “Harmless” Nighttime Habits That Are Secretly Ruining Your Sleep


We know the importance of habits. Many people try to cultivate good ones, like eating healthier, reading more, or sleeping more.

Unfortunately, sometimes we unwittingly set ourselves up for failure, especially when it comes to sleep. What we don’t always realize is that some of the things we do before bed could actually be making our Zzzs worse.

We reached out to several experts to find out which of our seemingly harmless nighttime habits aren’t conducive to a restful night’s sleep. Here’s what to avoid:

1. Procrastination at bedtime

We all have busy lives and sometimes we just can’t finish our to-do lists during the day. In order to compensate for this, we will try to play catch-up at night.

This has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and can lead to poor overall sleep quality, according to Dr. Ashwini Nadkarni, associate psychiatrist and instructor at Harvard Medical School.

“So many people will spend the last few minutes of the day ‘catching up’, not only on work chores, but also on household needs,” Nadkarni told HuffPost.

“For example, the last 30 minutes before bed, people can write lists of chores they need to do around the house, obligations they need to fulfill on behalf of their children, or respond to work emails they they may have missed,” she continued. “It may feel like a version of relaxation when in reality it may elicit nighttime ruminations and a level of excitement about further planning for the next day, which impacts sleep latency. and overall sleep quality.

2. Drink alcohol before bed

We know that having your favorite booze might seem like the perfect way to wind down after a long day, but it might also be the reason you can’t stay asleep.

Chelsie Rohrscheib, sleep expert and neuroscientist at Wesper, an at-home tool for diagnosing sleep disorders and improving sleep, said that although alcohol is initially sedating, it becomes problematic as it is metabolized and broken down into new products. chemicals by the liver.

“When alcohol is broken down, it turns into a chemical that affects the brain’s sleep centers and prevents deep sleep and REM sleep, making the second half of your night more restless and causing frequent awakenings,” a she declared.

Also, alcohol can cause increased urination, so you will have to get up often to go to the bathroom. Rohrscheib recommended drinking your last alcoholic drink at least three or four hours before you go to bed.

3. Interact with technology

Although we know we shouldn’t, it’s so hard to resist the urge to take a phone, iPad, or laptop to bed. However, Dr. Alex Dimitriu, a dual board-certified physician in psychiatry and sleep medicine, urges people to give it a try.

Dimitriu explained that the screens are both glowing with blue light and interactive, which promotes waking up.

“I ask all my patients to ‘tech off at 10’, ideally no screens one to two hours before bedtime,” he said. “Reading is so much more conducive to good sleep than interacting with a smartphone until the last moment of waking. In addition to helping you fall asleep earlier, avoiding interactive or exciting stimuli before bed also helps deepen sleep throughout the night, as your brain begins to slow down before sleep.

That also includes watching TV in bed, added Martin Reed, a certified clinical sleep health educator. “When we watch TV in bed, we can train ourselves to make the bed a place to watch TV — rather than a place just for sleeping,” Reed said. “Also, watching TV at night can lead to binge watching – especially when watching Netflix shows which tend to automatically play a new episode as soon as an episode ends – delaying bedtime and reducing the sleeping time.”

Finally, if you can’t avoid screens altogether, Dr. Deepti Agarwal, director of interventional and integrative pain management at Case Integrative Health, recommended investing in a good pair of blue-light blocking glasses.

“If glasses aren’t your style, there are also plenty of screen protectors or phone apps that block blue light. Then you can enjoy your favorite relaxation show and avoid any negative influence on your sleep,” she said.

Westend61 via Getty Images

If you haven’t already, it’s time to ditch your habit of phoning at night.

4. Doomscrolling

The act of doomscrolling refers to the constant scrolling of bad news on social media. But before doomscrolling, people watched hours and hours of TV news. Both doomscrolling and doomwatching are harmful to your mental health, but they can also affect your sleep.

Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright, sleep experts and authors of “Generation Sleepless,” both said that watching the news two hours before bedtime is a big sleep stealer.

“Today’s terrifying news cycle is a good example of a habit that can make it much harder to fall asleep,” they both said in an email. “If we go directly from the intense emotional stimulation of a breaking news story and all the worries it triggers in our already overactive minds, to lying in bed and trying to sleep, we are likely to stay awake at the place.”

5. Evening workouts

It is generally recommended to avoid vigorous exercise at least 90 minutes before bedtime. While many people choose to have a late-night workout routine as a way to “wear out,” these workouts can create a restless night’s sleep, according to Stephen Light, a Certified Sleep Science Coach.

“Avoid workouts that make you sweat an hour before bedtime,” he says. “It could be cardio, heavy lifting or high intensity interval training. Instead, opt for workouts like pilates, yoga, or a nighttime walk if you feel the need to expend some extra energy. Workouts that focus on easing muscle tension can help you avoid soreness that can keep you awake in discomfort.

6. Not having a relaxation routine

Sleeping well requires a prelude, which means creating a relaxation and bedtime routine. Carley Prendergast, certified sleep science coach and sleep expert, says relaxation routines are important in the process of preparing the mind and body for relaxation and optimal sleep.

“Finding a relaxing routine will help the brain produce melatonin, which will eventually induce sleep,” she said. “One might consider establishing the routine of going to bed at around the same time every night. This can help establish the circadian rhythm – the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Other calming activities might include taking a hot bath, skin care, reading a book, etc.

Reading before bed is a great relaxation routine.

Radovanovic96 via Getty Images

Reading before bed is a great relaxation routine.

7. Eat foods high in sugar

It’s best to avoid foods that quickly raise your blood sugar before bedtime, Rohrscheib said.

“When your blood sugar rises rapidly, it causes blood sugar to drop once it’s removed from your system,” she said. “A drop in blood sugar often leads to low blood sugar, which can wake you up in the middle of the night. If you need a snack before bed, opt for low-glycemic foods, like oats, which will keep your blood sugar stable throughout the night.

8. Keep the temperature too hot

It may be tempting to turn up the heat or turn off the air conditioning, but warm temperatures can affect the quality of your sleep. The brain and body need a slight drop in temperature to initiate and maintain sleep.

According to Rohrscheib, “When we’re too hot, our bodies have to work harder to cool us down and keep us cool, and it’s very disruptive to sleep. Try to keep your bedroom temperature between 66 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. During the months summer, use fans, slit windows, or use cooling technologies like a cooling pad to reduce the risk of overheating.

9. Spending too much time in bed

The time we allot to sleep should be similar to our average nighttime sleep duration, Reed said. This means that if you usually sleep around seven hours a night, it’s best not to spend more than seven and a half or eight hours in bed.

“A lot of people who have trouble sleeping spend too much time sleeping trying to get more sleep,” he said. “It seems logical – after all, if you spend more time in bed, you have more opportunities to sleep.”

But spending more time in bed if you already have trouble sleeping can be counterproductive.

“If you’re already having trouble sleeping, spending more time in bed will just result in more time awake in bed rather than more time sleeping,” Reed said. “This leads to more tossing and turning during the night, and more worry, stress and anxiety related to being awake in bed. Over time, this creates an association between bed, worry and wakefulness – rather than sleep and relaxation.This makes it harder to sleep.

10. Use your bedroom as an office

Finally, doubling your bedroom as an office space could contribute to your sleepless nights.

“When we use our bedroom as an office, we create an association with wakefulness,” said Morgan Adams, holistic sleep coach for women. “Our beds should be a signal to sleep, so working in our beds weakens this association. If you’ve been working from your bed all day, it might be harder for you to fall asleep, as you might have trouble turning off your “active brain”.



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