It takes more than logging seven to nine hours to ensure a good night’s sleep. What you do—and don’t do—at bedtime and even in the hours before you turn in can affect how you look and feel when your alarm buzzes in the a.m. These seven common mistakes could be robbing you of precious zzz’s.
Just say no to that after-dinner cappuccino. While you’re at it, skip the 4:00pm java run, as well. It takes around six hours for just half of the caffeine that you drink to disappear from your body. Plus, you become less efficient at processing caffeine with age, so even if you drank it without a problem when you were younger, it might be more likely to keep you up now.
It may not keep you up, but if you sleep with your contacts in, you could be depriving your eyes of a needed break—and a healthy dose of oxygen. Even extended-wear lenses, which are designed to be worn overnight, can increase your risk of eye infection if you regularly sleep with them in.
Having a drink or two might make you feel drowsy, but the sleep that you get after you imbibe isn’t high-quality. Drinking alcohol before bed tends to result in sleep patterns that more closely resemble a resting state, rather than deep, restorative sleep. The result: waking up bleary-eyed and possibly with a headache.
If you worry that exercise will rob you of sleep, don’t. People who get the recommended amount of exercise are 65 percent less likely to feel drowsy during the day. That may be because exercisers fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and have higher-quality shut-eye than non-exercisers. Just be sure to exercise at the right time (read: no intense sweat sessions in the late evening if they keep you wound up).
That TV in the bedroom, that cell phone on your bedside table, and that laptop in your bed can do more than distract you from the business of sleeping: Those gadgets may actually keep you awake. Not only does the buzz of incoming alerts keep your brain on high alert, but the bright light that screens emit can block the production of the chemical melatonin that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.
A small bedtime snack is typically harmless, but eating a big meal—or a giant ice cream sundae—just before you turn in could leave you tossing and turning as your body works to digest it. For one thing, if you suffer from heartburn or indigestion, gravity is your friend when it comes to managing symptoms. Lying down, on the other hand, can encourage stomach acids to bubble back up your esophagus.
Regular bedtimes aren’t just important for children. Having a regular sleep schedule—both during the week and on weekends—could increase both the quantity and quality of your sleep. Even though it’s tempting to “catch up” by sleeping later when you can, doing so can throw your body’s internal clock out of whack, making it harder to sleep the next night.