Sleep is a crucial part of our overall health. It’s during sleep that our bodies repair and build muscle after a workout, our brains consolidate the new information we’ve learned and store our memories, and our hormones, heart rate, and virtually all of our systems slow down and stabilize. When we don’t get enough, or quality, sleep there are many repercussions above and beyond just being exhausted, like a weakened immune system as well as changes in metabolism and insulin resistance. You may think you know all the things you need to do before bed for a good night’s sleep, but here are 12 things to avoid doing right before bed.

Watching TV

For many of us, the late evening after cooking dinner, cleaning up, and getting the kids to bed is the time we can finally catch up on our favorite TV shows. By this time of night you’re already exhausted and may find yourself falling asleep in front of the TV. Then, when you crawl into bed, you’re suddenly wide awake. What gives? Watching TV right before bed (or worse, having a TV on all night) can be quite disruptive to a good night’s sleep. This happens for a couple of reasons. The first is that the blue light that is emitted by your TV affects the amount of the sleep regulating hormone melatonin that our bodies produce, making you less likely to be sleepy.

Not only are your hormones affected, but your mindset is as well. Your body and brain need time to wind down at the end of the day. If you’re watching TV right up until the moment you want to fall asleep, you don’t give yourself time to do that, especially your brain. You may still be thinking about what happened to that perp after Olivia Benson arrested him since this episode of Law and Order: SVU ended on a cliffhanger or who will be eliminated next week on Project Runway.

Using your phone or computer

Raise your hand if you sleep with your phone right beside you in the middle of the night and use it right up until the moment you go to sleep. Now, put your hand down and move your phone out of your bedroom. Using your phone or a computer right before bed is disruptive in many ways. Like watching TV, using your phone or computer for any reason right before bed gives your brain a lot to think about and digest. This isn’t particularly conducive to falling asleep peacefully.

Just like televisions, smartphones and computers also emit melatonin disrupting blue light. Some of these devices now have a “blue light shade” that you can apply at night, similar to the effect of amber lenses researchers have used to demonstrate that blocking out blue light leads to significantly improved sleep. If this blue light shade technology isn’t enabled on your device and you truly must use it right before bed, you may want to try decreasing the brightness of the display.

Reading a thriller

A great alternative to watching TV or staring at your phone right before bed is to read, but a lot of that depends on what you’re reading. While reading a trashy romance novel, self-help book, or memoir might be a good way to wind down at the end of the day, it’s going to be a lot harder to rest after reading a thriller in which the main character is running for her life or finds herself in a parallel world unlike our own. This is in part due to narrative empathy. While reading, we begin to associate and empathize with the lead characters, feeling what they feel. The emotions and physiological responses you have to a book you’re reading can persist even after you’ve closed the book and are preparing for sleep.

Rather than helping you to relax, thrillers and similar kinds of books can increase your heart rate and brain activity, keeping you from having a restful night’s sleep.

Checking work email

Some people like to check their work email right before bed to know what they’ll be walking into the next day at work. Do you know what else it can do? Make you feel stressed about the day ahead. When you’re stressed, it’s harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Trade checking work email late at night for checking it first thing in the morning before you head out the door. After all, there isn’t much you can do the night before work that you can’t do the next day. If you really must check work email at night, try to do so at least an hour before it’s time for you to go to bed.


You’ve probably heard the sage wisdom that you should never go to bed angry. In most cases, this advice is meant to reflect that you should resolve issues with friends, family, and significant others before going to sleep each night. In fact, having difficult conversations or arguing at night can not only do more harm than good in your relationship, it can negatively impact your sleep as well. People are generally optimistic about the time that will be required to resolve a dispute. This is in part because when we feel we are in the right or have a solution, we assume the other party will be quick to acquiesce (this is known as the false consensus effect).

Unfortunately, the other party may feel this way about his or her position as well, leaving you to argue your case for much longer than you anticipated. Not only can this lead to going to bed later, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually come to a solution before you go to sleep. Relationships are complicated and often the problems in them can’t be solved with a single conversation. Now your heart rate is pounding, maybe you’ve also been crying, and your head is spinning with questions about what is going to happen to the relationship. None of that is conducive to a good night’s sleep. Save those heavy conversations for the daylight hours when you’ll have lots of time to get to a resolution.

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