Sleep—or our nation’s collective lack of it—is a hot topic these days. The pharmaceuticals market is flooded with new and improved medications designed to get us the shut-eye we need, and there's no shortage of headlines linking our insomnia to everything from obesity to acne. The truth is, we’re spending an awful lot of time in our beds doing everything but sleeping, and that’s exactly where the problem lies. If you want to experience a truly restful night’s sleep, avoid doing these six things in bed.
6 Things You Should Never Do In Bed
Raise your hand if you’re guilty as charged.
For many of us, falling asleep while watching TV is as much of a nighttime ritual as brushing our teeth. And while it may seem that the flickering light and low drone of a sitcom paves the way to dreamland, it’s most likely having the opposite effect. According to sleep specialist W. Christopher Winter, M.D., that same screen glow we find so comforting is actually stimulating our brains and stunting the secretion of melatonin—a hormone necessary for a healthy and full night’s sleep. Even worse, if the programming you watch is particularly intense or violent, you run the risk of sleeping even more restlessly. The bottom line: turn off the television at least an hour before bed in order to give your brain a chance to wind down.
Most of us keep our phones—and all of the communication options they offer—within easy reach at all times. And bedtime is no exception. The temptation is strong to check work email, text messages, or Facebook just one more time before turning in for the night, but it’s a temptation that should be avoided. Eric Kezirian, MD, a sleep expert at the University of Southern California, notes that electronic devices give off a certain amount of light—especially in an otherwise dark room. He says, “Their use in the evening can interfere with the body’s awareness of night and day, making it more difficult to fall asleep.” This blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength and actually disrupts a person’s internal clock, known as their circadian rhythm. Your best bet is to put your phone to bed for the night—not take it to bed with you.
A late-night snack or romantic breakfast in bed might seem like a good idea, but there are many potential consequences. Exterminator Paul Bello of PJB Pest Management Consulting warns that even trace amounts of crumbs between the sheets can attract creepy crawlies such as ants, flies, and even cockroaches. Forensic entomologist and senior scientific assistant at the American Museum of Natural History agrees. “Sweet foods such as soda, fruit juices, cupcakes, and cookies could attract ants and certain flies, including house flies, blue bottle flies, and green bottle flies,” he says.
As if the threat of inviting bugs to sleep with you wasn’t bad enough, there’s also the risk of falling asleep without flossing and brushing your teeth. Elmbrook Family Dental says to imagine the party of leftover food particles and bacteria that will wreak havoc when your mouth shuts for eight hours while you sleep.Related: 5 Types Of Snacks You Should Stop Buying Right Now
For so many of us, bedtime is the only chance we get to connect with our partner at the end of a busy day. Ideally, we engage in a positive way, but after a particularly stressful day, it’s tempting to try and hash it out to clear the air before going to sleep. But relationship expert Bonnie Eaker Weil suggests doing the opposite. “Putting your argument on hold and trying to get rid of negative emotions before bed is actually better for conflict resolution and your overall bond,” she says. Rather than starting a fight with your partner, try cuddling instead. Cuddling releases endorphins that will ease tension and help you sleep better. Chances are, after a good night’s sleep, you won’t be nearly as angry that your husband ignored the full dishwasher again or that your girlfriend forgot to pay the water bill, and you'll be able to talk about it more calmly and rationally in the morning.Related: 8 Habits Of Happily Married Couples
While working from bed may make you feel more productive, Lauren Stack, a productivity coach, tells the The Wall Street Journal that the opposite it true: “Many think it will make them more productive. More often, though, it gives people an excuse to procrastinate during the workday.” Plus, working from bed can make you start associating your bed with work and therefore worsening insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
The question of whether or not it’s healthy for us to share a bed with our pets is a hotly contested one, and the answer, of course, is largely personal. However, according to the National Sleep Foundation, one of the biggest concerns for people who share a bed with an animal is potential sleep disruption due to the animal moving, making noises, and taking up precious space. In an ideal world, our pets would snooze quietly on a designated area of the bed, but that’s simply not how it usually works. Pets can also impact our sleep if we have allergies or asthma—even if we’re not directly allergic to pet dander. If your pet is a sound sleeper, then sharing a bed with your dog or cat might not be an issue, but if you’re suffering from lack of sleep or insomnia, definitely consider giving your pets their own beds and reclaiming yours as your own.