Sleep. We know it, we love it, we don’t get enough of it. But why? As it turns out, it’s often largely our fault. Here, nine common sleep mistakes you might be making that are keeping you from feeling rested and ready to tackle the day.
9 Common Sleep Mistakes That Could Be Causing Your Dark Circles
1. You’re Eating Sweets and Spicy Food
We love dessert (we're not monsters), but indulging in sweets too close to bedtime could be detrimental. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that foods high in saturated fat and sugar are associated with lighter, less restorative sleep with more interruptions. Oh, and avoid eating spicy foods before you hit the hay. They often cause acid reflux, which is exacerbated if you lie down too soon after eating. (Sorry, nachos. Not tonight.)
2. You’re Not Eating at the Right Time
Even if you avoid spicy foods and excess sugar, if you’re eating them too close to bedtime, let’s face it: Your sleep is going to be impacted. A good rule of thumb is to stop eating three hours before bed. If you absolutely must eat later, opt for a lighter meal that’s lower in saturated fat and sugar.
3. You Have More Than a Couple Glasses of Wine
We know the benefits of drinking a glass or two of red wine before bed. But any more than two glasses can actually mess with your sleep cycle. A little alcohol might make it easier to fall asleep, but it will also decrease the quality of your snooze by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Indulge in a glass or two around dinnertime so your body can metabolize it well before you turn in for the night.
4. You Hydrate Too Close to Bedtime
Drinking enough water is crucial—total no-brainer. But it’s also important to time when you’re sipping. As in, don’t wait until 10 p.m. to drink the majority of your eight daily glasses. Chugging water before bed will probably make you wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and, as a result, mess with your sleep cycle.
5. You Don’t Have a Routine
Some nights, you’re in bed by 10 p.m. and ready for a productive nine hours. Others, you drag yourself to bed at 1 a.m. and hope the barista makes your latte extra strong the next morning. It can be tough to set a sleep routine and stick with it, but it’s super important. And according to sleep scientist Matthew Walker, sleeping until noon on the weekends won't actually make up for a week of bad nights. "Sleep is not like the bank, so you can't accumulate a debt and then try and pay it off at a later point in time," he told NPR. "So the brain has no capacity to get back that lost sleep that you've been lumbering it with during the week in terms of a debt." Sad but true.
6. You Look at Your Phone in Bed
Bad news for your bedtime Instagram sesh: Staring at your iPhone before bed (or even worse, in bed) could seriously mess with your shut-eye. Studies—like this one from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute—have shown that the blue and white light emitted from screens prevents your brain from releasing melatonin, a hormone that readies your body for sleep (uh-oh). To make the transition easier, remove all temptation by keeping your phone and charger far away from your bed (or, better yet, in another room). Kate’s Europe photos will still be there in the morning.
7. You Take Hot Showers Right Before Bed
Taking a piping hot shower, slipping into your coziest PJs and nose-diving into bed sounds pretty blissful, but the first step could actually work against you, the National Sleep Foundation tells us. To fall asleep, your body needs to lower its temperature, and a hot shower or bath causes your body temp to rise. If you can’t give up your nightly steam, do it at least two hours before bedtime. If not, keep that water closer to warm than scalding, OK?
8. You Hit Snooze Too Often
We’re totally guilty of this one. And yes, it will take some getting used to, but training yourself to actually get up when your alarm goes off is so worth it. Why? Every time you hit snooze and drift back to sleep, you start a new sleep cycle that will be interrupted in a few minutes anyway. Since that cycle will end before it’s truly finished, chances are you’ll feel even more tired when you wake up for good. Hey, snooze? We need to break up.
9. Your Room Is Too Warm
You don’t have to go to bed shivering, but your body prepares itself for sleep by cooling down, so it’s a bad idea to go to bed in an overly warm room. Aim to keep your room temperature between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit—it will naturally aid in the sleep process. One way to do this? Go to bed with the door open. In a recent study, scientists observed a group of healthy young adults sleeping over a period of five nights. Those who kept the bedroom door open reported a better and longer night’s sleep than those who slept with the door closed, partially because the open door allows for better ventilation. Thanks, science!