6 Common Sleep Habits That Are Actually Pretty Bad For You, According To Experts
Admit it: There are some parts of your bedtime routine that might not exactly be the best things ever to promote a totally restful sleep. Maybe the last thing you do each night is scroll through Instagram for a solid 45 minutes, or perhaps you love drinking a Diet Coke with your 10 p.m. crossword puzzle. You might not think much of these common sleep habits, like your delicious after-dinner espresso, or your tendency to sometimes (OK, a lot of the time) fall asleep with the lights on, but some of them are actually pretty bad for you, and they could explain why you never seem to feel as well-rested as you should.
Now, how much sleep you need to actually feel "well-rested" sort of varies from person to person depending on a bunch of different factors, but according to the Cleveland Clinic, you should be aiming for about seven to eight hours a night. However, if you're constantly missing the mark on that, the medical center explains, it can lead to things like mood swings and lack of focus in the short-term, and potentially "more long-term and serious health problems," like high blood pressure, heart failure, or even depression.
And yes, believe it or not, these issues can start with little habits that you think are OK for you right now, but could actually be doing more serious harm to your body in the long-term. The good news is, once you know which habits have to go, it's pretty easy to figure out some simple alternatives to work with. Here are a few common sleep habits that are often worse for you than you realize.
1. Going To Bed When You Aren't Tired
According to Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, going to bed at 8:30 p.m. every night "may sound like a great idea in theory," but "it could also mean that you will be twisting and turning for 90 minutes," he tells Elite Daily.
Heading to bed when you actually feel tired — not when you think you should be going to sleep, even if you're still a bit wired at 11:30 p.m. — is much easier on the mind and body, Backe says. So, if you find yourself with some extra time in the evenings before you feel sleepy, try to focus only on relaxing with things like meditation and reading — even if you stay up late doing these things. Trust me, at some point, you will get sleepy.
2. Falling Asleep With The TV On
Yeah, we’ve all done it from time to time, but according to Backe, you're going to want to nix this habit fast if you do it on the reg. "Your brain may still be picking up the stimulation from the screen, even after you've fallen asleep," he tells Elite Daily. And if that's the case, he explains, then you might not ever be falling into the deepest REM periods of your sleep cycle, which are what really ensure you wake up feeling well-rested the next morning.
Try ditching all electronic screens (yes, even your phone) for the hour before you head to bed, and yes, go ahead and replace that Instagram scrolling time with a few pages of your latest novel.
3. Hitting The Snooze Button
Again, Backe tells Elite Daily, we're all guilty of it, but it's still not the best habit to get into when your alarm goes off each morning.
The few minutes of extra sleep you get when you hit that snooze button may feel good, he says, but the entire point of the snooze is that it doesn’t actually allow your mind and body to fall back asleep. "The sleep you get when you hit snooze is low-level unconsciousness, and is not conducive to your overall productivity for the rest of the day," says Backe.
Of course, old habits die hard, and this one can be a real doozy to stop, because it's just too freaking easy to tap that "snooze" button every single morning. With that in mind, focus on taking baby steps: Try just one day a week, at first, of getting up with your alarm, no snooze, and see how you feel. Pretty soon, that might become your new habit, you know?
4. Sleeping With Too Many Pillows
You might think there's no such thing as too many pillows, but according to Alissia Zenhausern, a naturopathic doctor with NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, it's definitely possible. "Make sure your neck remains in a neutral position [while you sleep], as too many pillows can cause you to snore," she tells Elite Daily. Now, since snoring is pretty common, you might assume this isn't really a big deal, but snoring also means you're disrupting otherwise healthy breathing patterns while you sleep.
FYI, Zenhausern says, not having enough pillows can lead to the same issue. If you know you've got some pillow issues between the sheets, take Zenhausern's advice and try to figure out a position that feels most comfortable for you overall, while still maintaining a neutral position for your neck.
5. Sleeping With Your Fur Babies
Look guys, I am all for some adorable bedtime snuggles with pets — especially when people Snapchat me said adorable bedtime snuggles — and you can live your own lives and make your own decisions, but according to Zenhausern, snoozing with your pupper next to you probably isn't doing your sleep schedule any favors. "Although you love your pets and they love you," she tells Elite Daily, "they are often preventing you from getting adequate restful sleep."
Part of this, she explains, is because you aren't able to remain in neutral sleeping positions throughout the night with a giant fluff-ball next to you, and it could cause you to wake up with back or neck pain, which is never good. Save yourself the trouble, and find a cozy little bed for your favorite fur-baby.
6. Your Afternoon Cup Of Coffee
If you're someone who's partial to a 2 p.m. coffee more often than not to help you through the second half of the day, then you might low-key be in denial about how much this seemingly small habit is actually affecting your sleep. Ellen Wermter, a nurse practitioner at Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, tells Elite Daily she has many patients who tell her that caffeine "doesn't affect them" late in the day, but in reality, she says, it always affects, to some degree, the level of rest your body is actually able to get later on that night.
"Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that blocks adenosine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel sleepy," Wermter tells Elite Daily. "The half-life of caffeine is typically around five hours, so after five hours, you still have half the amount of caffeine you originally consumed [in your body]." In other words, even if you don't think caffeine affects you very much, you're better off assuming that it does, and that it will interfere with your ability to sleep at night.
Try to keep your coffee runs to the morning hours, Wermter recommends, and in the afternoon, switch the caffeine out for seltzer with lemon, or some decaffeinated herbal tea — or hey, even decaf coffee, if it's just that delectable taste you have trouble parting ways with.