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Things to Never Do Before Bed, Say Experts

These common mistakes can interrupt your trip to dreamland.

Almost nothing feels better—or is more good for you—than a good night's sleep. So why do so many of us seem intent on preventing ourselves from getting there? World events, finances, family—these days, there's enough to keep you awake at night without adding these simple and common mistakes. These are five things you should never do just before bed. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.


Eat a Heavy Meal This Many Hours Before Bed

woman eating unhealthy food while watching TV at night.

Nutritionists generally advise allowing three hours between your evening meal and the time you hit the hay. That gives the body time to digest food, moving it out of the stomach and into the small intestines, and reducing the risk of heartburn or acid reflux, which can interrupt your sleep. Additionally, eating a full meal too close to bed signals your body to stay awake to get that digestion done, instead of easing into dreamland.]

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Totally Avoid Eating

But don't starve yourself if you're feeling snacky—low blood sugar and a rumbling tummy can keep you awake. In fact, experts say having a snack that pairs carbohydrates and protein may improve sleep quality. That's because protein produces L-tryptophan, a natural chemical that makes you drowsy, while carbohydrates transport L-tryptophan to the body's cells. Some good light snack options: Apple slices with peanut butter, rice cereal with low-fat milk, or a few crackers with cheese. 


Do Intense Exercise This Many Hours Before Bed

man walking for exercise at night walker

Experts used to advise against exercising at night if you wanted a good night's sleep. If this seems unworkable in today's 24-7 professional ecosystem, good news: Recent research published in the journal Sports Medicine found that vigorous P.M. exercise is O.K. as long as it's completed one hour before bed. In a meta-analysis of 23 studies, scientists discovered that evening exercise actually seemed to help people fall asleep faster and spend more time in deep sleep—as long as they observed that one-hour buffer.


Overindulge in Alcohol

drinking whiskey

A nightcap or two might make you feel relaxed, but it's not sleep medicine. In fact, overindulging in alcohol can prevent your body from reaching the deeper, more restful levels of REM sleep; booze keeps you in light snooze mode and makes you more likely to wake during the night. 

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Plug In Your Phone Next to Your Bed

Woman texting on smartphone

Keeping your phone next to your bed tempts you to check it, which excites your mind and can prevent you from drifting off. (At that hour, even Wayfair emails can be arousing.) "Checking your phone stimulates the brain so we are more active and awake," said Harneet Walia, MD, a sleep-disorders specialist with the Cleveland Clinic. "Even just a quick check can engage your brain and prolong sleep." What's more, researchers have found that blue light from phones may suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle. Mobile alert: Poor sleep ahead. Your best bet is to keep your phone on mute in another room. Now, to get through life at your healthiest, don't miss these First Signs You Have a Serious Illness.

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