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Evening Habits That Are Messing With Your Sleep

Getting enough sleep at night certainly isn’t easy—but it’s not impossible, either. Fixing the following five common mistakes will help you get on the track to better zzz’s.

Mistake #1 That afternoon coffee break

Some 78 percent of Americans consume caffeine on the regular. And sipping coffee or tea with your breakfast can be a great way to feel more alert as you begin to tackle your to-do list. But another cup later in the afternoon—or worse yet, after dinner—can have serious, negative effects on your sleep, making it harder to drift off. In fact, having caffeine six hours before turning in could cost you an hour of sleep. In other words, having an afternoon coffee might make you sleep worse that night, which may make you want more coffee the following afternoon, and so on. Nip the negative cycle in the bud now and you’ll likely feel more energized.

Mistake #2 Drinking alcohol before bed

Having a few drinks before bed may help you fall asleep faster, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll sleep well. When you go to bed tipsy, your body goes straight into deep sleep, missing out on restorative REM sleep. You’re also more likely to wake up, both because of the disrupted sleep rhythms, and because alcohol makes you more likely to need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Mistake #3 Leaving the lights on

You know that you sleep best in a dark room, but if you leave all the lights on right up until bedtime, you could be sending your body mixed messages. Evening light exposure can delay your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that triggers sleepiness and plays a role in setting your body’s internal sleep clock. Help your body to prepare for bedtime by using dimmers if you have them. Or, after dinner, turn off as many of the bright, overhead lights in the house as you can and use softer lamplight instead, when possible.