10 Things to Never Do After 10 p.m., According to a Dietitian
Posted by Augustus Cai on June 17th, 2021
Sleep is super important. It helps you feel focused, refreshed and less stressed throughout your day. Beyond feeling energized, getting adequate shut-eye is crucial for supporting healthy immunity, heart health and even weight loss. On the other hand, there can be undesired consequences for not getting enough. Unfortunately, good quality sleep can sometimes be hard to come by.
There are plenty of reasons why you might not be getting the best quality sleep or why you wake up feeling tired. Though some habits might seem harmless, they could be worth ditching before bed to help you unwind. Being able to fall asleep and be well-rested can help you feel more refreshed so you can have happier, more productive days. There are ten things you should never do after 10 p.m. (or right before your bedtime, if it's earlier).
1. Scroll Your Phone
The Sleep Foundation explains that our bodies have a natural 24-hour sleep-wake cycle that guides our hormone production. In the mornings, we make cortisol that wakes us up. As the sun fades into night, we produce melatonin that makes us feel ready for bed. That being said, fluorescent and LED lights found in most electronics emit blue light, which can delay and even inhibit melatonin production. This can make it harder to fall asleep and reduce the quality of sleep we have.
Even though we might know that screen time before bed is bad for sleep, it can be tempting to scroll in your downtime. Instead of turning to your phone or the TV late at night, try reading a book or writing in a journal. Doing an easy puzzle or doodling are other ways you can pass time without looking at a screen. These activities can help you wind down without the blue light that can come between you and a good night's rest.
2. Have a Nightcap
You don't have to completely cut out alcohol to get better sleep. In fact, there are even some health benefits associated with the occasional glass of wine. But, even though that glass of wine makes you feel drowsy, drinking too close to bedtime can lead to shallower sleep and tossing and turning through the night. Alcohol, especially in large quantities, can suppress our REM sleep cycle, which is the deep sleep that leaves us feeling most rested. Some studies suggest stopping drinking four hours before going to sleep. Instead of having that nightcap, switch to water or herbal tea to help you relax closer to bedtime.
To be clear, regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. It can help improve mood, lower chronic disease risk and improve longevity. That said, timing of exercise is important. Getting in a vigorous workout late at night increases stress hormones in the body and boosts blood flow, which is not the best for falling asleep quickly and sleeping soundly. This can leave you feeling even more drained the following day. Instead, try getting in a workout earlier in the day, even if it's a walk around the block after you wake up. On the other hand, stretching is a great way to move your body before bed. It is gentle and helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers relaxation.
4. Drink Coffee or Tea
Many of us are probably familiar with the "late night cram session" that turns into an all-nighter… but that is a habit worth leaving in school. Having anything caffeinated close to bedtime can keep you up for hours, cutting into precious sleep time. To be clear, it's the caffeine you need to watch out for, so decaf would be OK. The half-life of caffeine is about five hours, meaning that you'll be feeling the effects of that late afternoon 4pm cup of coffee until 9pm. Instead, choose herbal teas like chamomile, lavender or ginger.
5. Have a Big Meal
You definitely don't need to go to bed hungry, and there is nothing wrong with a nighttime snack. However, eating a big meal right before bed can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. A large meal that is high in calories causes your body temperature to rise as you digest. This increase in body temperature can inhibit your ability to fall asleep and have a restful night. Instead of a large nighttime meal, try to keep your meals and snacks filling and balanced throughout the day. This will help you have more energy throughout the day, too.
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6. Watch a Thriller
Similar to staying away from screens, scary or thrilling movies and shows before bed can make your brain feel wide awake so falling asleep is a tougher sell. Additionally, exciting, suspenseful shows are more likely to pull you in for more than one episode. Instead, keep your bedtime viewing light or scrap the screens before bed entirely.
7. Straying from Your Routine
Our circadian rhythm is a cycle, meaning the more consistent we are with our sleep routine the easier it is for our body to identify when to release sleep hormones and more. Practicing good sleep hygiene means having a consistent bedtime and wake up time, and giving ourselves plenty of time to wind down before bed. That said, some later nights or earlier mornings are inevitable. If you have strayed from your routine, take the next night to get back on track. The more consistent you are, the better your sleep will be.
8. Having a Serious Talk
Feeling stress, worry or conflict right before bed is a recipe to toss and turn. Sometimes after a long day, it can be hard to keep emotions in check, especially with people we are closest with (aka family members or those you live with). However, instead of having an argument or trying to make big decisions right before bed, try taking the night to sleep on it instead. If you need to get something off of your chest, write out your thoughts in a journal versus trying to have a serious talk right before calling it a night. After a night of good sleep, you will feel more rested and more equipped for important conversations.
With many more of us working from home instead of being in an office, it can be hard to set healthy boundaries with work. But working too much can have negative consequences for your health. New research even found that working more than 55 hours per week increased risk of heart disease, stroke and death. Take the time at night after dinner to relax and unwind, instead of tuning back in to your emails or work messages. Not only will you sleep better by cutting down on screen time, but also you will avoid any stressful memos or conversations right before bed.
10. Chugging a Bunch of Water
Staying hydrated is super important. It can help keep your brain healthy, improve your skin and flush out toxins in the body. But drinking too much right before bed can lead to having to get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, which disrupts sleep. Instead, try casually sipping and laying off the water close to bedtime. Spread your water intake throughout the day to make it easier to stay hydrated and avoid the late night bathroom trips.