A woman on her phone in bed, representing an activity she should avoid before bed.

Before bedtime no-nos: Stuff to avoid that won’t help you sleep

Some people can climb into bed, hit the pillow, and be out like a light. Others wake up every morning chipper as a robin singing to the sun. And some people go through most of their days feeling relatively well-rested. If this doesn’t seem to describe you very well, you might want to consider whether or not you might have any less-than-helpful bedtime habits.

Things to consider and avoid before bed

Here are just a few no-no’s you may want to cut out of your bedtime routine to get better rest. Getting enough sleep is very important to your general health.

You can’t expect to go from sixty to zero

While it could be great if we all just had a simple “ON/OFF” switch, you can’t just jump into bed and expect to fall asleep right away if you’ve been amped up. Maybe you were just working, or cleaning, or posting online, but it’s far easier to ease into sleep if you have a bit more of a routine that sets up your mind and body to know that it’s time to catch some zzzs. Instead, before you climb into bed, you might want to read a book, take a warm bath, or listen to a favorite relaxing album. Anything that tells your body a little more clearly, “next stop, snoozing.”

Don’t go to bed at different times every night

Certainly life can sometimes get in the way of this, whether it’s kids or a can’t-stop-won’t-stop binge-worthy TV that’s keeping you from going to bed at the same time every night. But when you go to bed at different times every night, your body’s regular rhythms of sleep can be thrown off, which can make it harder for you to get to sleep with ease on the regular. If you’re able to get into the habit of going to bed and then waking up at the same times every day, it can help your body get into a more regular rhythm – so that when you do lay down to sleep, you body will be ready. (Keep in mind that trying to avoid late-in-the-day naps that could throw off your regular bedtime can be a helpful assist here.)

Do shut off your screens already

We know, we know – you’re reading this on a screen right now! We all rely on our screens for so much, but one thing they don’t necessarily help with is bedtime. Try to avoid them long before you want to go to bed. The type of short-wavelength blue light that screens emit, and the way these devices keep you mentally engaged, can keep your brain going when it should be slowing – so this is a big no-no. You may want to try to incorporate some better screentime choices into the mix at bedtime to break yourself of the habit. Switching your phone into a nighttime setting that limits short-wavelength blue light in the evening hours, shutting it off before getting into bed, or even leaving it to charge overnight somewhere other than in your bedroom can all be hugely helpful choices.

Don’t drink or have a heavy meal right before bed

A small bedtime snack is one thing, but a big meal before bedtime isn’t the best choice for good slumber. You also want to limit  alcohol and caffeine in the hours before you sleep too, as neither will help you get the best and most restorative sleep that you can get.

Don’t exercise late in the day

After a really great workout, chances are you feel energized, revved up, and ready to conquer the world. You don’t necessarily want to feel this way right before bed, because it can keep you awake. Make sure that you get in your workouts a few hours before bedtime – and save all that conquering the world for the daytime hours.

Don’t use your bedroom for anything other than bedroom stuff

Your bedroom should be a place for sleep, sex – and really not much else. If you get in the habit of watching TV, working on a computer, or eating meals in your bedroom, you’ll start to associate those things with that place. So try to avoid those things before bed, because if you limit it to just sleep and sex, you’ll know that your bedroom is reserved for just those activities, and your body will follow your brain’s lead and be able to relax accordingly.

Habits are never easy to change, so some of these may present a challenge. But for most people, it’s not impossible to build better bedtime habits. So see if you can’t avoid some of these no-nos. You’ll likely start sleeping better, and feel really good – and really relaxed – about bedtime.

Read more
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Insomnia.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, October 15 2016. Retrieved June 11 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167.
  • “Blue light has a dark side.” Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard University, December 30 2017. Retrieved June 11 2018. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side.
  • “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved February 11 2019. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/support/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need.
  • “Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep.” Healthy Sleep. Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, December 18 2007. Retrieved February 11 2019. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips.

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