If you’ve ever spent minutes, hours even, lying in bed wide awake in the middle of the night tossing and turning, you know that it’s an actual nightmare—no exaggeration. And worse, for many people, it’s a recurring nightmare. So as a chronically tired society, it’s no wonder we’re all trying to step up our sleep game these days with things like gifts for better sleep, techy sleep gadgets galore, and all the dreamy bedding and luxury mattresses money can buy.
Another thing that’s equally as crucial to getting the quality shut-eye you’re craving every night: eliminating common sleep mistakes from your routine. Thankfully, this year, we learned a thing or two from sleep pros about what not to do for better sleep.
Ahead, learn the top five sleep mistakes we absolutely refuse to let ruin our slumber in 2022. Here’s to clocking in eight delicious hours of zzzs every night—next year and beyond.
1. Staying in bed when you can’t fall asleep
According to a sleep expert, staying in bed when you can’t fall asleep tops the list of sleep mistakes you can make. Many people think that, by staying in bed tossing and turning, they’ll eventually doze off. But the opposite is true. “We’re classically conditioning our brains to understand that in bed is where insomnia happens,” Rebecca Robbins, PhD, associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, previously told Well+Good. “It’s not a place where we drift off to sleep, but instead where we toss and turn.”
Instead, when you feel the impending doom of yet another sleepless night taking form, Dr. Robbins advises getting out of bed and doing something mindless (i.e., read something boring, tidy up your space, put away laundry) to help reset your brain. Once you feel tired, then you can return to bed and try again. Just be sure to avoid screens during this time, which can affect your sleep as well.
2. Not sticking to a bedtime routine
Another of the cardinal sleep mistakes: not having a proper bedtime routine. They’re not just for kids, my friends. Adults, too, can significantly benefit from a pre-sleep ritual. Here’s why: “Our circadian rhythms—an important process for regulating sleep—love regularity,” Jennifer Kanady, PhD, the senior clinical development lead for sleep at Big Health (aka a sleep doc), previously told Well+Good. “Establishing a consistent routine helps our brains learn when it is time to sleep.”
Bedtime rituals will look different for everyone as we all have different pre-sleep wind-down styles. So do some experimenting to see what works best for you. But as a starting point, Dr. Kanady offers up three key elements of a good bedtime routine: doing something that relaxes you, avoiding screens (laptops, phones, tablets, etc.), and creating an optimal sleep environment that is dark, cool, and quiet.
3. Stressing out over not getting enough sleep
Besides being an amazing actor and incredible new mom, another thing to admire about Emma Roberts is her mindset around sleep. Her simple trick for combating sleep deprivation is just being okay with not getting enough sleep instead of stressing out about it the next day and night. Although this easy mindset shift isn’t enough to make up for a full night’s rest, it can help better manage the occasional sleepless night (like when you’re up with a newborn, for instance) because as sleep psychologist Joshua Tal, PhD says: “The more you worry about sleep loss [from the previous night], the more likely sleep is to evade you the next night, too.”
4. Not using sleep-friendly lighting
Setting up your environment with the best type of lighting is important for promoting better sleep. According to Michael Grandner, PhD, Casper sleep advisor and director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, red light is the best light. So, if you have a night light in your bedroom, ensure it’s lit with a red light bulb. As for the rest of the lighting in your home, Grandner recommends yellow or orange-tinted bulbs that are not as bright as regular LED light bulbs. Bonus points if they can be dimmed.
5. Going to sleep angry
Anger activates our fight-or-flight response, making it challenging to feel naturally sleepy when it comes time for bed. The result: you’ll wake up feeling more tired rather than bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Thankfully, there are things you can do to calm yourself down and mitigate the effects of going to sleep angry such as going for a walk, reading, listening to a podcast, doing something to get out of your head and into your body, as well as tabling difficult topics for the next day. Whatever’s making you angry, it’s just not worth losing sleep over, literally.
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