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, MD, 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 TV at least an hour before bed in order to give your brain a chance to wind down.
CHECKING YOUR INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT
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 e-mail, 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 her circadian rhythm. Your best bet is to put your phone to bed for the night—not take it to bed with you.
EATING A LATE NIGHT SNACK
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. A 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 8 hours while you sleep.
HAVING A HEATED DISCUSSION
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.
CATCHING UP ON WORK
While working from bed may make you feel more productive, Lauren Stack, a productivity coach, tells 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 worsen insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation.