You probably know you shouldn’t gulp down two cups of coffee right before going to bed. (Please, tell us you know that!) But did you know it’s also a bad idea to catch up on Zs over the weekend? Or that certain foods should make it onto your before-bedtime “no-no” list?
Yes, there are a number of seemingly innocuous things that can mess around with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, and we partnered with Sleep Number to investigate. Here’s what you might be doing wrong:
1. Using your iPhone as your alarm.
If you’re using your phone to serve as your wakeup call (and there’s a good chance that you are since 63 percent of smartphone users keep their devices near them when they sleep), it can interfere with getting enough rest. For one, it makes it tempting to check email, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or some other form of social media. And, for another, keeping a phone close makes you hypervigilant -- the feeling of being constantly “on guard” -- which is detrimental to getting good-quality sleep.
2. Checking email or surfing the Internet in bed.
We’re not done complaining about devices, just yet. Let’s also talk about their light-emitting screens, which are the last things many of us see at night. The glow from our devices is made up of more “short-wavelength enriched” blue light than natural light. Blue light, more than any other wavelength, has been shown to disrupt circadian rhythms -- to reset our internal clocks -- and delay the release that magical, sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. And don’t let the “Night Shift” feature on today’s newest iOS devices deceive you. Though the switch from disruptive blue light to mellower yellow light will put less strain on your eyes, it’s important to remember that any light source is going to have an effect on your sleep.
3. Eating oranges, garlic or tomatoes at night.
Some foods are more likely than others to cause stomach acid to back up into your esophagus -- which is a lengthy way of saying that they can cause “heartburn.” Tomatoes, coffee (yes, even decaf), grapefruit, garlic, onions and -- sigh -- chocolate are all well-known offenders and should be avoided in the evenings if you have frequent heartburn and don’t want it keeping you up.
4. Sleeping with your pet.
In general, scientific studies have found that having a dog, cat, potbellied pig or baby goat is good for us. After all, a pet can help lower blood pressure, decrease stress and reduce anxiety. But, if you are a poor sleeper and share your bed with a furry friend, there’s a good chance that your sleeping arrangement is the problem. In a study of 300 patients who went to the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center for a consultation, 53 percent of the participants who were pet owners admitted that their animals disturbed them in some way in the night. Woof.
5. Sleeping in on the weekends.
As good as it feels to linger in bed until late on a “Lazy Sunday,” doing so can throw our inner clocks out of whack. It’s much better to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day -- even through the weekends. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, keeping a regular schedule has been found to increase both the amount of sleep and the quality of sleep you get each night.
6. Using the wrong laundry detergent.
If you find yourself waking up in the night repeatedly scratching, sneezing and rubbing your eyes, you could be allergic to the laundry detergent you washed your sheets and pillowcases in -- the one that smells like a lavender field in the south of France. Try switching to a formula of detergent and fabric softener that’s free of scent and dyes and see if that leads to fewer wheezy wakeups.
7. Winding down with wine or whiskey.
Alcohol, a sedative, may help you fall asleep -- but it doesn’t help you stay asleep. Too much wine, beer or liquor can be detrimental to your REM sleep, the deepest sleep stage, which happens in large part during the second half of the night. If you find yourself restless and waking repeatedly in the early hours of the morning, the culprit might be just your “nightcap.”
8. Keeping your bedroom nice and toasty.
Doctors have two words of advice for people who like to sleep with their bedrooms warm and cozy: Cool it. Seriously, they want you to turn down your thermostats. Studies have found that the best temperatures for sleeping are between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This range helps cool your core body temperature which, in turn, helps trigger your Zs.