Oh, the power of a good night’s sleep. A whole gamut of benefits can come from getting enough rest, but for many of us, hitting the sack can be challenging. There’s plenty of advice out there about what to do to get to sleep — but what about what not to do?
Here are eight pre-bedtime activities that could be hurting your chance at a good night’s sleep.
Related: What’s Your Sleep IQ?
No, you don’t get to ditch your yoga mat or running shoes all together. Exercise is a vital activity for your health—and can actually contribute to getting better quality sleep. The problem, though, is that exercising within three hours of bedtime can raise your body temperature, and make dozing off more difficult. Breaking a sweat, then, is best left for earlier in the day.
Related: 7 Tips to Improve Sleep
2. Watch TV or surf the web
Studies have shown that pre-slumber screen time can impede your body’s ability to fall asleep. The likely culprit? Well, the bright lights of these screens can hinder the development of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep. So close that laptop and turn off that TV about an hour before bed.
3. Take a hot shower or bath
Like exercise, hot showers and baths can actually help you fall asleep. The problem, however, comes when taking one too close to the time you plan on hitting the sack. Being overheated or sweating can make it difficult to sleep. Let your body cool down before heading off to bed.
4. Drink too many fluids
Caffeine and alcohol both make it difficult to get a good night’s rest. But drinking a lot of any liquid within the last hour or two before you go to bed will lead to those dreaded late night bathroom trips—and further disrupt your slumber. You shouldn’t go to bed thirsty, however, as you’ll likely wake up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water. Balance is key here.
Whatever the work or school-related issue, it can certainly wait until morning. Focusing on work stimulates your brain and can cause unneeded stress—pretty much the opposite of what you want to feel if you’re trying to fall asleep!
6. Read engrossing stories
You’re reading a really interesting novel and you tell yourself, “Oh, just one more page!” Suddenly, it’s 2 a.m. and you have to be awake in four hours. Yep, reading a captivating book, essay or novel before bed will make it difficult to get to sleep. Perhaps you can remedy the problem by finding the most boring thing imaginable to read?!
7. Cuddle with your pets
As a child, I always wanted my beloved pet chihuahua to sleep in my twin bed. And then came the reality: it’s amazing how much space a 6 pound creature can take up—and how grumpy chihuahuas can be when you disturb their slumber. The point is, sleeping with a pet in your bed can seriously disturb your sleep.
Related: Should My Pet Sleep in My Bed?
8. Have serious conversations
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “don’t go to bed angry.” As it turns out, it’s totally accurate! Research has shown that sleeping directly after a fight or traumatic experience will effectively preserve your emotions until you awaken. The human body is averse to falling asleep in dangerous situations — it’s a defense mechanism. Thus, you’ll have a much harder time falling asleep after a big blowout. It’s best to resolve conflicts before you hit the sack.