Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on August 22, 2021
In general, hitting the gym helps you sleep better and get to sleep quicker. But when you work out, your body makes more cortisol. That’s a hormone that helps make you more alert. That’s good when you’re trying to wake up for work. But it’s not so good when you’re trying to get to sleep. If you must exercise in the evening, try to finish at least 3 hours before bed.
Packing Lunch -- at Night
Then you can just grab it from the fridge on your way out the door tomorrow. It saves time and stress in the morning, and it guarantees decent nutrition to get you through the day.
That cheesesteak in the wee hours isn’t a recipe for a restful night’s sleep. You’re more likely to wake rested and ready for the day with a lighter dinner -- less fat, salt, and calories -- several hours before bed. If you’re hungry later, snack lightly on easy-to-digest foods like toast or yogurt.
Ignoring Your Teeth
If you don’t brush and floss in the evening, you might notice a thicker coating (bacteria) on your teeth in the morning. Swishing with mouthwash also might help prevent this buildup of bacteria. In just a day or two, it starts to harden into a cement-like “tarter” that can lead to cavities and gum disease. Only your dentist can remove tartar.
Staying Up Late
Not only does it sap your energy, but it can trigger your body to make more cortisol. It can also make you crave more high-fat, high-sugar foods the next day. That’s why you tend to have more body fat if you sleep less than 6 hours a night. That extra body fat makes you more likely to get things like diabetes and heart disease. So if you have to be up for work, it helps to go to bed early enough to get at least 8 hours of sleep.
At first, it might make you sleepy. But after a few hours, it has the opposite effect. And the quality of sleep you do get may not be as good. Plus, it makes you pee more, which means more up and down to the bathroom. All this might leave you dragging the next day. Consider keeping it to 1 to 2 drinks per day, and try not to drink in the 3 hours before bedtime.
A Late Jolt of Caffeine
It’s in tea, coffee, chocolate, and many energy drinks. Even in normal amounts, it can make it harder to fall asleep or make the sleep you get less effective, especially as you get older. Even if you have caffeine 6 to 8 hours before bedtime, it could give you that unrested feeling the next day.
Washing Your Face
You don’t want to overwash your face or scrub it too hard, especially if you have dry skin. But you should wash off the dirt, grime, sweat, and makeup at the end of the day. By keeping germs off your face, you’ll keep pimples away and you might even prevent eye infections. Plus your moisturizer, if you use one, will work better.
A nap of any length in the late afternoon or evening can lead to an unfortunate cycle that disrupts your normal sleep routine and makes it hard to get up in the morning.
Your Busy Mind
It can be hard to relax when your mind is racing with the million things you need to do. But if you take just a few minutes to organize your thoughts, you can create a mini-plan for the next day -- a “to-do” list, if you will. It will help you lessen your stress level the next morning by giving you a ready-made guide for how to attack the day.
Being Digital After Dark
Too much artificial light after the sun goes down can mess up your internal clock. The “blue light” given off by your smartphone, laptop, and other electronics can cut down the amount of melatonin that your body makes, which can make winding down difficult. Specialized glasses or screens can filter out the light, and some devices have “nightshift” settings that help remove it. But the best solution is to put the electronics down early.
Get a Sleep Routine
Ease the path to bedtime with a soothing evening routine. Read a book or listen to calming music. A hot bath or shower can promote sleepiness, as can some light stretching. Avoid difficult or stressful discussions late in the evening, which can trigger hormones that keep you up.
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American Academy of Dermatology: “What causes our skin to age?” “Face washing 101,” “10 skin care habits that can worsen acne.”
American Academy of Sleep Medicine: “Sleep and Caffeine.”
American Dental Association: “Mouthwash (Mouthrinse),” “Home Oral Care.”
American Diabetes Association: “Top Tips and Ideas for Packing a Healthy Lunch.”
Baylor University: “Can Writing Your ‘To-Do’s’ Help You to Doze? Baylor Study Suggests Jotting Down Tasks Can Speed the Trip to Dreamland.”
Consumer Reports: “Sleep Better By Using a Blue Light Filter on Your Phone or Computer.”
Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine: “Sleep and Disease Risk,” “Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep.”
Electronic Physician: “The clinical evaluation of Vi-one chlorhexidine mouthwash on plaque-induced gingivitis: A double-blind randomized clinical trial.”
Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Clinical Evidence of the Efficacy of a Mouthwash Containing Propolis for the Control of Plaque and Gingivitis: A Phase II Study.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “Blue light has a dark side.”
Johns Hopkins School Bloomberg School of Public Health: “Lunch.”