If you often feel rushed, tired and anxious, you probably look forward to relaxing in bed at the end of a long day. What you might not realize is that your habits at bedtime might be the reason your day was so crappy in the first place.
From the quality of your sleep to how much sex you have, here’s how your nighttime routine could be sabotaging other areas of your life.
1. Resolving conflicts with your partner
The old adage “never go to bed angry” might not be so wise after all. Staying up to hash out an argument could not only cut into your sleep time but also leave you feeling too worked up to doze off.
A better alternative: “Agreeing to disagree for the time being,” said Sara Stanizai, a licensed therapist and owner of Prospect Therapy in Long Beach, California. “I guarantee you won’t solve anything if you’re exhausted and activated by anger, stress and hurt feelings.”
Rather, focus on calming yourself and getting rest; you’ll have a much more productive conversation in the morning.
2. Failing to follow a proper skin care routine ― or just using face wipes
There are few fates worse than waking up to a major breakout, especially the morning before a big meeting or date night. Yet more than half of Americans risk that outcome every day by going to bed without washing their faces.
Even if you don’t wear makeup, you still need to cleanse your skin of the sweat, oils and pollution that builds up throughout the day. “If you’re too tired or depressed to wash your face, something is up,” Stanizai said. “It might be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep, or your mood is out of sync.”
Fortunately, a proper skincare routine is just as good for your mental health as it is for your complexion. Set aside 10 minutes in the evening to take care of your face. Just be sure to toss your face wipes ― they actually make your skin worse.
3. Working out
Some of us can’t even be paid to work out. So if you’re one of the admirable few who exercises on a regular basis, you certainly shouldn’t quit. Just know that if you exercise too late in the evening, you might not get as much sleep as you need.
“Exercising is a healthy habit, but the timing of exercise is very important; exercising too late in the day can disrupt your sleep,” said Leslie Fischer, founder of Sustainable Slumber, a website dedicated to helping eco-minded people get a good night’s sleep. The reason, she says, is that it disrupts your circadian rhythm.
“If you exercise too late in the day, this is a tacit signal to our bodies that it is time to be awake and active. This can make it difficult to fall asleep at night,” Fischer said.
So if you can, schedule workouts for the afternoon instead. Even better, try working out in the morning for an added boost to your mood and productivity.
4. Lighting up
We don’t have to tell you how bad smoking is for your health; that’s your own personal choice. But if you’re going to do it, try to avoid lighting up close to bedtime.
Nicotine is a stimulant, Stanizai noted. Smoking before bed could make it difficult to fall asleep, which means you’ll feel groggy and irritable the next day if you don’t allow enough time before you hit the hay. “Give yourself at least two hours if you can,” she said.
5. Relying on a glass of wine to wind down
The same goes for your nightcap. “Alcohol may help you feel drowsy, but it actually negatively affects how you sleep,” said Dr. Dawn Dore-Stites, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Sleep Disorder Center at the University of Michigan.
Specifically, she said, alcohol affects how you cycle through sleep, causing you to wake up more often and experience less deep sleep. So instead of relying on alcohol, consider drinking herbal tea or warm milk to relax.
6. Checking out what Trump is up to on Twitter
A final scroll through your social media feed before bed might seem harmless, but catching up on those posts could make it tougher to get a restful night’s sleep.
“Research has shown that people experience hormonal changes in the brain when they look at social media,” said Beatrice Tauber Prior, a clinical psychologist and the founder of Harborside Wellbeing in Cornelius, North Carolina. “The brain signals the adrenal gland to secrete cortisol and adrenaline.”
Triggering the release of these “stress hormones” will boost your energy levels ― the last thing you want when going to bed. “In the long run, elevations of these hormones impair cognition and can increase depression and anxiety,” Prior said. You’re better off saving that status update for the morning.
7. Using your phone in bed, period
The blue light produced from screens such as your smartphone has been proven to keep you awake and contribute to the development of serious diseases such as obesity and breast cancer.
But if you need another compelling reason to keep your phone out of your bed, know that it’ll also help preserve your sex life. Staring into your phone’s screen instead of your lover’s eyes means you’re less likely to get busy on the regular.
“[Your bed] should be for sleep and sex, nothing else,” said Gabrielle Gray, a certified health coach and studio manager of the Maha Rose Center for Healing in Brooklyn, New York.
“When you’re in the habit of answering work emails under the sheets, you’re setting up the energetic intention that this is a place where work happens, rather than rest or sex,” she said.
Plus, according to Gray, you give your co-workers the green light to keep emailing you at 11:30 p.m. “If you’re super busy, you could set an ‘out of office’ message at night, letting people know when they can expect to hear from you the next day. They’ll still feel taken care of while you take the space you need to rest and have fun,” Gray said.
9. Eating late-night snacks
Late-night snackers might want to put down the Doritos. Regularly munching on something salty or sweet before bed means those calories are more likely to be stored as fat, rather than burned for energy. That’s a fast track to weight gain, which can cause bigger issues such as diabetes and other chronic diseases down the road.
But even in the short term, eating too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep. “When the body is working on digesting food, it’s not able to rest properly. This can lead to a night of poor-quality sleep plus digestive cycles that are thrown off the next day,” Gray said.
Instead, try to give yourself a few hours between eating and bedtime. And if you find that you’re ravenous after dinner, try adding more protein and healthy fats to your meal.
10. Neglecting your hair
If you’re a nighttime bather, taking the time to dry your hair after a shower might seem like a giant pain. But flopping into bed with wet hair only makes your morning routine tougher.
“Rubbing wet hair against a pillow while you toss and turn at night causes issues like breakage. It also means you’re likely to wake up with a wild, frizzy mess,” said Brandie Flores, a licensed stylist and senior district leader for Supercuts in the San Antonio, Texas, area.
And while that messy bun might have given you the perfect bedhead look for daytime, be sure to take it down before actually getting into bed. “Leaving that hair tie in causes a lot of tension on your hair overnight. That results in breakage and usually a kink in your hair the next day,” Flores said.
If you don’t want to leave your hair down, Flores recommends braiding it instead, which can give your hair a nice wave and cut down on styling time the next day.