A good night’s sleep doesn’t just boost your mood—it also improves your looks. Yet only 25 percent of Americans get the recommended eight hours per night. We compiled the most common mistakes, so you can learn how to get the most—and the best—rest possible.
Watching TV before bed
You may not feel that active when you’re being a couch potato or surfing the Web in the hour before bed, but the fake light from your screen tricks your mind into thinking it’s not time to sleep yet. Funnily enough, the only stimulating thing doctors do recommend before bed is sex—though it’s arousing, it ultimately makes most people tired.
Checking the time
Don’t give in! Checking to see how much longer you’ve got until your alarm goes off just amps up anxiety. Keep the clock far enough away from the bed so you can’t see it without making a conscious decision to get up, walk over, and look.
Talking on the phone
Though checking in with friends and family might be as habitual as the rest of your bedtime routine, talking on the phone can be harmful to your quality of sleep. A recent study found that those who spoke on the phone for a prolonged period of time before bed took longer to reach deep sleep (the most important kind, by the way) and had shorter bouts of it.
Sleeping in a warm room
A room that’s too warm won’t leave you as rested as you might think. Chill out: Any temperature above 68 degrees doesn’t send your brain the right signal to fall into a deep sleep.
Leaving the lights on
The glow from digital clocks, laptops, and blinking BlackBerrys can amount to a fair amount of light—and can be a serious disturbance to melatonin levels (the hormone that helps you fall, and stay, asleep). Need more proof? Before Thomas Edison created the light bulb in 1879, people slept an average of ten hours a night.
Coffee, tea, and Diet Coke may be your answer to the mid-afternoon slump, but you’d be surprised at how long caffeine stays in your system. Doctors recommend only noncaffeinated beverages for the eight hours before bed.
Smoking. At all.
Another of the many reasons to quit: Smoking makes your sleep suck. A recent study found smokers had a higher level of brain activity during sleep than nonsmokers, leaving them less rested come morning. At the very least, have your last cigarette more than four hours before your head hits the pillow.
Having a cocktail
We may sound like killjoys, but for a really restful night’s sleep, stay away from alcohol, period. That glass or two of wine that helps you drift off could make you toss and turn when the alcohol eventually leaves your bloodstream and you become more alert.
Slinky pajamas aren’t just sexy; they help you sleep better, too. A recent study found that sleeping in tight, body-shaping garments interferes with circadian rhythms enough to decrease melatonin levels and increase body temperature—the exact opposite of what causes sleep.
Sleeping on your stomach or side
You know those cheek indents you get from your pillowcase? Dermatologists say that years of smooshing your face into a piece of fabric like that will cause those lines to stick around—forever. Sleep on your back to prevent the problem.
Going to bed with makeup on
There are many reasons that Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale, but that Beauty didn’t wake up with a face full of zits after sleeping in her makeup for a hundred years is beyond us. Washing your face before bed rids the skin of a day’s worth of oil buildup and helps prevent clogged pores, which lead to blemishes and blackheads. If you’re seriously lazy, stash some wet cloth wipes in your bedside table so you have no excuse not to come clean. (We love Neutrogena Make-Up Remover Cleansing Towelettes.)
Skipping anti-aging products
The slight increase in body temperature that happens when you sleep actually revs up the absorption of skin-care ingredients. Take advantage of that fact. Nighttime slathering with super ingredients such as retinol and glycerin allows your skin to put them to their best use.
Not brushing and flossing
We all cringe at the thought of going to the dentist, but we’re willing to bet that dentists cringe even more at the thought of us not brushing and flossing before bed. A day’s worth of gunk on your teeth is tantamount to a serious bacteria party in your mouth—cue an aftermath of cavities, tooth decay, and bad breath.