In our quest for a better night’s sleep, we’ve curbed our afternoon coffee habit, tried getting more exercise and started leaving our phones outside of our bedrooms. Still, a truly restful slumber occasionally proves elusive, which is why we reached out to two sleep experts, Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell, MD, and Dr. Shelby Harris, PsyD., for four things they’d never to before bed, from keeping their sleep space too warm to having a drink too close to bedtime.
We Asked 2 Sleep Experts What They Would *Never* Do Before Bed (and, Uh, We Have Some Things to Work On)
Meet the Experts
- Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell, MD, CCSH, is a board-certified pediatrician and sleep specialist. Dr. Holliday-Bell received her bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, her master's degree in biotechnology from Rush University and her medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also has a certification in clinical sleep health from the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists. Having previously suffered from insomnia herself, she understands the transformative power of good quality sleep and also works with the wellness brand NEOM Organics.
- Dr. Shelby Harris, PsyD., is the director of sleep health at Sleepopolis, a website dedicated to disseminating comprehensive sleep-industry information. A licensed clinical psychologist specializing in behavioral sleep medicine, she treats a wide variety of sleep disorders, including insomnia, nightmares and narcolepsy, with a focus on non-pharmacological interventions. She is board-certified in behavioral sleep medicine by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia: Get a Good Night’s Sleep Without Relying on Medication.
1. Have a Glass of Wine Within 4 Hours of Bedtime
OK…guilty. While the jury is still out on whether even moderate drinking has health benefits, there’s no denying the appeal of a glass of wine or two as you unwind after a long day. Still, Dr. Holliday-Bell stresses that if you are going to imbibe, doing so within four hours of trying to fall asleep could be detrimental to your quality of sleep. “Many people use alcohol as a night cap because of its initial sedative properties,” she explains. “And while it does tend to make you sleepy initially, it breaks down fairly quickly and after that time becomes stimulating. This leads to broken, poor-quality sleep and early morning wakings. The more you drink and the closer to your bedtime that you drink it, the more it affects your sleep.”
2. Fail to Properly Unwind Before Bed
Both of our experts say that a calming, unwinding routine before bed is essential. Dr. Holliday-Bell tells us, “Regularly engaging in a relaxing and soothing bedtime routine is essential to help you unwind from the stress of the day and fall asleep.” This relaxation time can look however you want it to, with one caveat: Your phone (or tablet or computer) should not be involved. “I always make time for at least ten to 20 minutes minimum to wind down without screens,” Harris tells us, while Dr. Holliday-Bell echoes, “Electronics emit mostly the blue wavelength of light, which is the wavelength that has the strongest alerting influence on your circadian rhythm,” referring to the processes that help you fall asleep and night and wake up in the morning.
3. Keep Your Bedroom Too Warm
Did you know that a too-warm bedroom can interfere with your sleep? According to Dr. Holliday-Bell, your body temperature has to drop between one and three degrees “in order to facilitate the transition to and maintenance of sleep. If your bedroom space is too warm, it can interfere with this process. It is recommended to keep your sleep space between 62 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit to achieve the optimal drop in body temperature.” Harris agrees, telling us, “I love having a cool room for sleep at night, and I always make sure to have my fan on to help keep my room cool—even in the winter.”
4. Plan to Make Up for a Poor Night’s Sleep by Snoozing
For whatever reason you were tossing and turning all night. Surely pushing your alarm back will make up for it, right? Not necessarily. While one or two snoozes might help you feel more rested, Harris warns against compensating for a bad night by sleeping in more than an hour the next morning. “Keeping on schedule helps me keep sleep problems from popping up routinely,” she adds. The same goes for the weekends, too. Sleep scientist Matthew Walker told NPR that 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.” Basically, sleeping in doesn’t reset your internal clock. Instead, all it does is hinder your sleep cycle, which benefits from regularity.