Plus, the one daytime essential to keep off of your nightstand.
leather headboard
Credit: Pernille Loof

A staggering number of Americans don't sleep well-one in three of us, in fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-and that boils down to bad things for everyone. "Sleep is so important to proper brain functioning," explains Catherine Jackson, licensed clinical psychologist and neurotherapist. "When we do not get enough quality sleep, [we are] more susceptible to stress, with a compromised immune system and at an increased risk for inflammation. A lack of sleep also impacts our ability to focus and concentrate."

Worse, you may unknowingly be doing things that are causing poor sleep, from scrolling through Instagram while you're under the covers to eating spicy foods just before bed. So, to snooze soundly tonight, make sure you're not doing one of these before-bedtime no-nos.

Drink Caffeine

You know not to guzzle a cup of coffee before bed, but some surprising foods contain caffeine-and enough of it-to disrupt your sleep. For example, chocolate, mocha-flavored ice cream, and non-cola sodas contain caffeine. "Having caffeine at night may disrupt our ability to fall asleep, sleep duration, and sleep quality," says Jackson. Cut off caffeine consumption at least six hours before bed, she recommends, to sleep soundly.

Eat Spicy Food

Spicy food is hot and it can make your body temperature rise, too-and that elevated temperature can disrupt your sleep cycle, Jackson says. What's more, spicy foods can bring on vivid dreams. "You don't have to avoid spicy food altogether. But when you eat it, consider having it for lunch instead of at dinnertime," Jackson advises.

Log Serious Screen Time

You know that it's bad to be on your phone right before bed. But, "it is worth noting the effects of screens do not simply apply to mobile phones," says Jackson, who recommends you "discontinue use of computers, video games, tablets, mobile phones, and even TVs two hours before bed. The blue light from these devices can sabotage sleep because they throw off our circadian rhythms and tell our brains to stay awake." Keep these devices off of your nightstand and, if you can, the bedroom entirely.

Eat a Meal

According to Jackson, eating just before bed can lead to uncomfortable body responses-such as heartburn and indigestion-that may keep you up as you wait for the issues to settle. She recommends eating at least two hours before bed to prevent insomnia.

Catch Up on Work

Starting a new project, answering late-night emails, and researching ideas before bed won't help you catch Zs. "When we engage in such activities, it gets our brains-and sometimes our creative juices-going," says Jackson. "These thoughts can be hard to turn off once the ball is rolling and, in turn, they impair your ability to fall asleep." When you can, stick to a strict work schedule that ends hours before bedtime, she advises.

Hit the Gym

When you can't hit the gym in the morning, you might sneak in a workout at night. But burning calories before bedtime "can have an adverse impact on your sleep cycle," says Jackson. "When we exercise, it releases chemicals in our brains that keep us alert." If you must work out at night, try to do so at least three hours before bed, she says.

Fight with Your Partner

No one wants to go to bed angry. But it behooves more than just your relationship to work it out before you hit the hay. "When we sleep, our brains store and re-organize information," Jackson says, adding that negative information-like that of a fight with our partner-"becomes more difficult to forget." What's more, "your brain is still thinking about and processing the anger as you sleep," Jackson says, "and you may wake up still angry. This does not make for a good night's sleep nor quality sleep."


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