Many of us treat our beds as a hangout spot, a home office, or as a place to lie awake for hours on end, worrying when we'll fall asleep. But these are all things you shouldn't do in bed, regardless of how comfy, productive, or "normal" it may feel.
If you want to drift off quickly, and get a good night's sleep, your bed should remain a place for rest — and not much else. "Your bedroom should be treated as a sleep sanctuary, as our bodies are creatures of habit when it comes to both sleep routines and environments," Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach and co-founder of Tuck, tells Bustle.
If you keep all activities (besides sleep and sex) out of your bedroom or away from your bed, you may notice that you sleep better. And this is especially true if you add in a relaxing bedtime routine. "A bedtime routine can make all the difference in your sleep," Catherine Darley, ND, of The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine, Inc., tells Bustle. "Take 30 to 60 minutes to get into a relaxed, parasympathetic state before bed."
This might include winding down with a good book, processing your thoughts from the day, taking a warm bath, or giving meditation a try. Once you climb into bed, it should feel as if you have nothing left to do, but sleep.
Here are a few things to avoid once in bed, according to sleep experts.
1Looking At Any Type Of Screen
If you want to get a good night's sleep, avoid looking at any type of screen — laptop, phone, etc. — once you've gotten into bed.
"Using your phone or computer when in bed stimulates the mind, effectively acting as a signal to keep you awake," Martin Reed, certified clinical sleep health expert and founder of Insomnia Coach, tells Bustle.
But that's not the only reason to avoid them. "Electronic devices with backlit displays emit blue light, and this can suppress the release of melatonin — an important sleep hormone that helps regulate our sleep/wake cycle," Reed says.
To replace the habit of scrolling through your phone, try reading a book until you fall asleep.
2Watching Movies Or TV
So many people curl up to watch a movie before bed. But if you often struggle to fall asleep, this habit may be the reason why.
"Although you may find watching TV in bed to be relaxing, when you do this you are training your mind that the bed is a place to watch TV rather than a place exclusively for sleep," Reed says. "In addition, if you fall asleep with the TV on, volume changes and sound variations during the night can disrupt your sleep — even if you don’t remember the TV disturbing your sleep during the night."
If you can, "keep the TV out of the bedroom," Reed says. Or, at the very least, sit in a chair while you watch, as this will help to preserve your bed as a place for sleep.
3Watching The Clock
If you get into bed and immediately start glancing at the time or wondering when you'll fall asleep, try to stop watching the clock.
"Unfortunately, when we have easy access to the time during the night, we can be tempted to keep checking the time — especially when we are finding it hard to fall asleep (or fall back to sleep)," Reed says. "When we do this, we can increase the power of sleep-related anxiety [...] As soon as we worry about sleep, we immediately make sleep more difficult — because worry activates the body’s arousal system."
Instead, set your alarm and then forget about it. Or better yet, move your phone out of reach, so you won't be tempted to reach for it in the middle of the night.
4Arguing With Your Partner
It doesn't matter if you're arguing side-by-side or over the phone — it's never a good idea to have heavy or heated conversations right before bed.
"Save those conversations for earlier in the day," clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky, tells Bustle. "If you have to have the conversation, leave the bedroom to do it. It is important to leave the bed and bedroom area free of conflict and associated with sleep and relaxation — so make sure your pillow talk is just that."
5Scrolling Through Social Media
It can be so tempting to relax in bed while scrolling through social media. But when you really think about it, social media is often anything but relaxing.
As Dr. Odessky says, "Tough emails or social media posts will keep [you] awake, worried about the next day at work or the next potential global crisis."
You might also stumble upon something that makes you angry, or get caught up in a heated conversation — neither of which will be conducive to sleep.
6Checking Your Email
Similarly, don't fall into the habit of firing off work emails from the comfort of your bed. "Unfortunately, the more time we spend in our beds working, the more our brains begin to think that our beds are a place to be alert and productive," Ginger Houghton, LMSW, CAADC, a therapist specializing in sleep issues, tells Bustle. "This can lead to issues falling asleep at night or staying asleep."
7Forcing Yourself To Fall Asleep
If you tend to climb into bed, only to spend hours tossing and turning and trying to fall asleep, you may be doing yourself a huge disservice.
As Reed says, "The fact of the matter is, we cannot control sleep. We cannot make ourselves fall asleep within a certain amount of time, and we cannot make ourselves sleep for a certain amount of time."
Sleep will come when it's ready, so forcing it or worrying about it will only makes things worse. "All we can do is set the stage for sleep and give it the best chance possible," Reed says. "The best thing to do is to get into bed, relax, and simply see what happens."
8Listening To Music
Believe it or not, listening to music isn't the best bedtime habit, however relaxing it may seem. "Music causes dopamine spikes in the brain, which, although can elevate mood, can also elevate the heart-rate and body temperature, taking you further away from the state needed to get to sleep," Dr. Kat Lederle, a sleep therapist at 92 Dental, tells Bustle. If you need some background noise try a white noise machine, or turn on a fan.
9Having A Bedtime Snack
If you're hungry, then by all means have a snack. But if you can, try not to eat too close to bedtime. "In an ideal world, you don’t want to consume food within two hours of getting in bed," Fish says. "After eating, your digestive system has to work break down the food [consumed, which] makes it difficult for you to truly relax and get to sleep."
10Compiling A To-Do List
It's great to spend a portion of your evening planning for the day ahead. You might write to-do lists, or prep your lunch, or choose an outfit.
But what you don't want to do is fret over these things once you're already in bed. "For some people, this is a daily task, but it is counterintuitive to resting your brain," Fish says.
11Reviewing The Day In Your Head
"Don’t do any kind of thinking in bed," Dr. Darley says. Don't review your day, think about the tough conversations your had, or obsess over what went wrong.
Since this can increase your anxiety and make it difficult to sleep, try replacing these negative thoughts with something more positive. As Dr. Darley says, "A calming statement like, 'I already thought about that today, and will have time tomorrow. Now’s time to rest and sleep' can help."
Basically, your bed should be for sleep (and sex) and that's pretty much it. It may not feel like a big deal to check work emails, have deep conversations, or listen to music after getting into bed, but it all may be disrupting your sleep.