Let’s Talk Sleep: 6 Things Working Against Those Zzzs


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You probably already know that spending an hour with your phone before bedtime is a no-no (hello, blue light, and mental stimulation) and that you should never eat in bed (lest you deal with crumbs galore). However, there are some less obvious habits that might be conspiring against a good night’s sleep. Are you guilty of any of the following mistakes?

1. Not Keeping a Bedtime Ritual

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We naturally thrive with rituals, even if they might feel a bit rigid in the moment. This is true with your bedtime routine, too, and scientific proof supports it. Without a proper wind-down, your mind tends to race, and you may be prone to more tossing and turning.

Your routine should last about 30 minutes and can be completely customized to you. Maybe it’s a warm shower and skincare regimen followed by reading a chapter of your book. Or perhaps it’s a quick series of yoga poses and then some snuggles with your partner.

“A bedtime routine helps transition your mind and body from wake to sleep,” explains Terry Cralle, a certified clinical sleep educator, registered nurse, and sleep expert for the Better Sleep Council. “A good wind-down period can help ‘set the stage’ for a good night’s sleep. Even the structure and the repetitiveness of a pleasant routine can be a comforting, calming, and relaxing way to end your day.”

2. Working in Bed

Whether you’re scrolling through work emails before falling asleep or sitting in bed with your laptop trying to hit that looming deadline, working from bed is no bueno.

“Set a structured schedule and designate a place to work that doesn’t involve sitting on your bed,” urges Reena B. Patel, psychologist and author. “Create a workspace and have a ritual that begins and ends your work — especially if you have an office in your room. As tempting as it is, do not bring your laptop onto your bed.”

3. Sleeping on Dirty Sheets

Even if you do a bang-up job of washing your face every night and slathering your fave skincare products, it’s all for naught if your pillowcase and sheets are dirty.

“Debris and bacteria live on pillowcases and sheets, so it’s important to wash them at least weekly, if not more,” notes Dr. Shari Sperling, board-certified dermatologist. To make it easier, keep a spare set at-the-ready so you can swap in clean stuff while the others are in the wash. Not only is a dirty bedroom bad for your skin, but it can impact your overall sleep quality.

BTW, if you staunchly sit in the “anti-top sheet” camp, you may want to change your stance. A top sheet — which goes between you and your comforter — prevents sweat and dirt from transferring to your hard-to-wash comforter. As an alternative, though, you could opt for a duvet.

4. Skipping Exercise

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It might sound weird, but sleep and exercise are very closely linked. Not only can you get better exercise when you’ve got a good night’s rest, but science says exercise can actually improve your quality of sleep. No need to go overboard, either. Midday walks around the block, light yoga, weightlifting, and cardio are all great options.

“You will find that even small amounts of exercise improve sleep quality, and the improved sleep quality will lead to more energy, a better outlook, and ultimately more activity and exercise,” says Cralle. “If you can’t hit the gym at 6:00 a.m., don’t forgo exercise. Try later in the day, and if the evening is better, give that a try.”

Contrary to popular belief, Cralle says that many people can exercise in the evening hours without compromising their ability to fall asleep at bedtime.

5. Being Exposed to Artificial Light All Day

Ever noticed that you get naturally sleepy when night falls on a camping trip? Or how you’re not sleepy when sitting at home with all the lights turned on? Experiencing the natural rhythm of the sun is integral to our sleeping schedules. That said, try to keep blinds open during the day and artificial light to a minimum at night. Dr. Patel says, “The more you’re exposed to artificial light, the more at risk you are for depression and, as a result, poor quality sleep.”

6. A Subpar Sleep Environment

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You’ll notice an obvious and immediate improvement in the quality of your sleep when your bedroom is set up for success.

“Take a good look at your sleep environment. Is it serene, relaxing, and conducive to a good night’s sleep?” says Cralle. “Is the wall color and décor relaxing or stimulating? Are light sources adequately covered?”

If you’re not sure where to begin, start with the items that’ll have the biggest impact – like your mattress, pillow, and bedding. From there, create a clean, peaceful, clutter-free space that allows your mind to relax whenever you head into your bedroom. You can also tweak your lighting and set the mood with lavender candles or soothing sounds.

Even something as simple as making your bed in the morning or using an ultra-comfy comforter can make your space feel more inviting.

While we’re on the topic of sleep, take a peek at these 9 Facts About Sleep That May Shock You.

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