7 Bad Habits to Break for Better Sleep

Medically reviewed in February 2021

Doing the toss-and-turn samba in bed lately? Nix these 7 bad habits for a more peaceful slumber.

  1. Avoid caffeine after lunch. Caffeine lingers in your system for up to 12 hours, so that after-lunch coffee can leave you wide-eyed at bedtime. Switch to decaf after midmorning, and try chamomile tea or warm milk in the evening. Both will help you get your ZZZs.
     
  2. Downsize those big dinners. Large dinners take hours to digest, making it hard to fall asleep. Make lunch your main meal of the day, and limit dinner to fewer than 500 calories. While you're at it, skip spicy foods and MSG for less heartburn, indigestion, and too-vivid dreams.
     
  3. Work out early. Regular workouts can help you sleep better, but exercising within 3 to 4 hours of bedtime can actually mess with sleep. Shoot for morning, afternoon, or early evening workouts.
     
  4. Skip the nightcap. Alcohol is not only one of the more prominent bad habits, but it also pulls a bait-and-switch when it comes to sleep. It makes you drowsy so you nod off, then it makes you wakeful and restless throughout the night. Skip alcohol within 2 hours of bedtime.
     
  5. Turn off the TV. Glowing screens from electronics, such as TV, computers, and even your e-reader, signal your brain to stay alert. Power down an hour before bed.
     
  6. Kick the habit. Like caffeine and alcohol, nicotine is a stimulant. What, you need another reason?
     
  7. Don't work in bed. The stress of going over spreadsheets and other work-related tasks makes it hard to fall asleep. If you work on your laptop, you're getting a double-whammy of stimulation because you're in bed and in front of a glowing screen. Use the bedroom for sex and sleep only.

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