You wear the same pajamas year-round
What you wear matters, even while you sleep. Your body temperature plays a part in your sleep cycle—a slight drop in temperature is what induces sleep, says Raj Dasgupta, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. That means being too hot or too cold can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. Silk is ideal, according to Sleep.org, because it keeps you warm when you’re cold and cool when you’re hot. If silk is too pricey, try breathable cotton in the warmer months and cozy flannel during the cold. These innocent habits are completely ruining your sleep quality, too.
You sleep in the wrong position
If you try your hardest to sleep on your back because you heard it won’t give you wrinkles, you might end up with bags under your eyes instead. Sleep posture affects sleep quality and people should stick to what they naturally gravitate toward, says Steven Park, MD, on webmd.com. But certain conditions do call for a specific sleeping position that might not be natural but could still help you sleep better. Side sleeping is a good choice for people who snore or have a medical condition that requires the airways remain open, for example. Here are the best sleep positions for 11 common health problems.
You've had the same mattress for years (or, uh, decades)
A well-loved mattress can leave you with an achy back and too few snoozing hours. The National Sleep Foundation recommends replacing your mattress about every eight years. If you’ve lost track of time, check for worn or sagging spots in the middle or at the edges; these signal it’s time for a change. Try more little changes that will help you sleep better in just one day.
You leave dishes on your nightstand
We’ve all snacked or sipped a drink in bed, but leaving the remnants nearby is just asking for trouble. Critters like cockroaches are drawn to the smallest of crumbs, so consistently sleeping beside an empty bowl of popcorn or empty glass of wine could entice visitors while you slumber, Paul Bello, exterminator and owner of PJB Pest Management Consulting told huffingtonpost.com. Plus, late-night snacks can trigger heartburn, which will keep you up. “I’m not telling you to go to bed hungry, just snack throughout the day or earlier in the night,” says Dr. Dasgupta. Eating late at night can also mess with your metabolism and your health.
Your phone is your "lullaby"
It might seem like a quick game of Candy Crush or some social media browsing would put you to sleep, but it actually does the exact opposite. Research shows that the blue wavelength light from LED-based devices like phones, tablets, and laptops increases the release of cortisol in the brain (making you more alert) while inhibiting the production of melatonin (the hormone that lulls us to sleep). In fact, Harvard researchers found that people who read an e-book before bed took an extra 10 minutes to fall asleep and released half the amount of melatonin than those who read a paperback book. “I always joke that I’ll tell my patients to read a book before bed, then realize that they’re not going to pick up an old novel of Moby Dick but instead take out their tablet, which is counterproductive to transitioning to sleep,” says Dr. Dasgupta. Don't miss more "harmless" habits that could cause insomnia.
You sleep with your contact lenses in
Unless your lenses are approved for overnight use, you should always remove them before bed. Regularly sleeping in contact lenses can increase the risk of eye infection, pain, light sensitivity, corneal ulcers, and even loss of vision, according to medicaldaily.com.
You never replace your pillows
Pillows are filled with more than feathers or polyester stuffing—they’re also landmines of dust, dust mites, and dead skin that can double the weight of a pillow in three years, according to Good Housekeeping. Wash pillows in the washing machine regularly over the course of its lifespan, and replace about every two years, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you fold your pillow in half and it doesn’t spring back into shape, it’s time to replace. Waking up with a crick in your neck is another good sign.
Your sleep schedule is nonexistent
Sleeping in on Saturday feels refreshing at the time, but it can sabotage the rest of your week. “Next thing you know, you get ‘Sunday insomnia,’ which leads to a sleep debt during the rest of the week that you can’t make up. Then it’s a vicious cycle,” says Dr. Dasgupta. Try your hardest to stick to a regular sleep and wake time that allows you to get seven to eight hours of shuteye, even on the weekend.
You sleep with your phone
If you can’t seem to separate from your phone, even at night, you might want to try harder. Your phone is dirtier than a toilet seat, covered in dirt, dust, and bacteria—not something you want to roll over on during the night. Not to mention, text messages or phone calls can wake you up in the middle of the night and leave you short on sleep.
You rely on a sleep aid (without a doctor's recommendation)
“Sleep aids are a big mistake,” says Dr. Dasgupta. Not only will you wake up groggy if you take them too late and don’t get the necessary six to eight hours of sleep they induce, you could also develop “rebound insomnia” when you stop taking them, and they can actually be a health hazard for people who have breathing problems or sleep apnea because they depress the respiratory drive, he says. “If you really think you need one, discuss it with your physician,” he says. Here are more sleep myths doctors wish you would ignore.