8 Common Sleep Mistakes That Are Costing You Z's, According to a Sleep Consultant
#3 is a real game-changer.
Before I gave Eight Sleep's innovative, temperature-regulating mattress a one-night trial this weekend, I had a sleep consultation to delve into some of the factors that could be negatively affecting my sleep quality. I met with Dr. Andrea López-Yianilos, a New York City-based licensed psychologist specializing in sleep, who walked me through some of the sleep missteps I (and plenty of others) often make. From eating too close to bedtime to scrolling Instagram late at night, here are 8 bad habits that could be costing you sleep.
Not sure which factors may be affecting your sleep and which you can keep without losing z's? Dr. López-Yianilos recommends eliminating all of these sleep-destroying habits to start, then slowly reintroduce one-by-one any habits that you feel you can't live without. By adding back one habit at a time, you'll be able to determine if that behavior is harming your sleep or not. And remember, sleep fitness takes training and practice, so don't worry if you take a misstep every now and then.
You've probably heard it before, but the blue light emitted from your phone, tv screen, or tablet may be making it harder for you to fall asleep. Dr. López-Yianilos says the best solution is to shut down the screen and do something else (read a book, relax with a podcast) during the hour leading up to bed. But if really can't bear to put the phone down, try turning on the "Night Shift" mode on iPhone, which shifts the colors of your display to the warmer end of the color spectrum. There are also removable blue-light-blocking filters for computer monitors or laptop screens. Finally, you can invest in a pair of stylish blue-light-blocking glasses.
We all know that drinking caffeine before bed can result in a restless night, but alcohol can, too. Sure, that glass of wine can make you feel drowsy, but if you drink it right before bed, it can affect the quality of your sleep. "When alcohol metabolizes, you get dehydrated," Dr. López-Yianilos explains, "So you'll have more fitful sleep."
Similarly, eating a big meal right before bed can affect your metabolism, in turn impacting your sleep quality. Instead, schedule meals at least three to four hours before bedtime, and if you get hungry late at night, stick to a small yet filling snack, like nut butter on a cracker, Dr. López-Yianilos says.
As much as possible, only use your bed for the three S's: sleeping, sex, and when your sick. This way, your brain will associate your bed with sleeping. When you do work, eat, or watch tv in your bed, you start to associate your bed with being awake rather than being asleep, making it harder to fall asleep when bedtime rolls around.
If you've ever had an intense cardio workout in the afternoon and fallen asleep the moment your head hit the pillow at night, then you already know the positive effect exercise can have on your sleep. Thirty minute of cardio per day can help you get better sleep.
One caveat: just avoid working out too close to bedtime. Exercise raises your body temperature, Dr. López-Yianilos explains, but your body temperature should naturally dip as you get ready to sleep.
Especially if you live in a city or have a streetlight outside your window, light pollution could be hindering your sleep without you even knowing it. Invest in a set of blackout curtains or pair blackout roller shades with stylish curtains that match your decor style.
Mattresses are pricey, but if you're sleeping on an old mattress that keeps you up at night, you're not investing in your sleep or health. Look for a mattress that not only feels comfortable, but that offers features to support your best sleep possible. Nowadays, there are even temperature-regulating mattresses designed for those who sleep hot and chemical-free options ideal for those with allergies.
Have noisy neighbors, chirping birds outside your window, or construction next door? If you can't control the noises outside, getting in the habit of wearing ear plugs or investing in a sound machine can help. Our senior editor Brandi Broxson swears by this $45 sound machine, which successfully drowns out the sounds of the city outside her window.
If you wake up at 7 a.m. on weekdays and let yourself sleep in until 11 a.m. on weekends, it will be near impossible to stick to a consistent bedtime all week long. Instead, commit to the same wake up time all seven days of the week. "Your bedtime will shift to where it needs to be," Dr. López-Yianilos says.