6 Things You Should Never Do Before Bed

Sleep. We all need it, but we don't all do it well. While most people equate good sleep with getting 8 consecutive hours, a University of California at San Diego paper on sleep research and aging reviewed date from 1.1 million people and determined that there is no statistical reason to sleep longer than 6 1/2 hours per night. In fact, the people who slept 6 1/2 hours a night lived longer than the ones who slept 8!

Not to panic, getting 8 hours a night won't kill you. However, it does bring into focus what's really important: Your sleep quality. A lack of the right kind of sleep can increase your risk of heart disease and cancer, aid in weight gain, and even increase your risk of death.

It's just as important to avoid doing the wrong things before going to bed as it is doing the right ones. Here are the 6 most important things to avoid at night for the best sleep possible, adapted from The Bulletproof Diet:

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1. Bright lights

For at least a half hour before going to bed, try to avoid bright lights. Dim your office lights if you absolutely must be working this close to bedtime, and kill the unhealthy flourescent ones. This includes all those iDevices, too, including your phone, iPod, and even television. Why? Because even 5 minutes of white light from a screen suppresses melatonin levels, by more than 50 percent. Translation? Melatonin, otherwise known as the sleep hormone, levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel less alert in the evening, and sleep becomes more inviting. If light is around, you'll have less of a natural inclination to hit the hay and stay sleeping.

SEE ALSO: 8 Biggest Sleep Myths

scary movie

2. Violence

Not all that surprising, scary things can mess with your mind before hitting the sheets. Watching graphic violence on TV might make it harder for you to fall and stay asleep.

woman night running

3. Exercise

You should not exercise for at least 2 hours before going to bed, unless you count restorative yoga and breathing exercises as exercise, says Asprey. Exercising in general, however, definitely helps sleep. A 2013 Sleep in America poll found that people who exercise at any time of day report sleeping better and feeling more rested than those who don't exercise.

RELATED: 10 Things That Happen When You Don't Get Enough Sleep

4. Caffeine

In general, don’t drink coffee after 2:00 p.m. or at least 8 hours before bedtime, whichever comes first. This will make sure you get all of the cognitive benefits of caffeine without sacrificing your sleep. Researchers at Michigan's Henry Ford Hospital's Sleep Disorders & Research Center and Wayne State College of Medicine found that caffeine consumed even six hours before bedtime resulted in significantly diminished sleep quality and sleep quantity. The best thing you can do? Keep track of your caffeine intake and sleep patterns to see how it affects you. 

5. Second wind

There is a window from 10:45 and 11:00 p.m. or so when you naturally get tired, that fluctuates based on season. According to Bulletproof Diet author Dave Asprey, if you don’t go to sleep then and choose to stay awake, you’ll get a cortisol-driven "second wind" that can keep you awake until 2:00 a.m. For some, that can be majorly detrimental to their overall productivity.  So what's the golden amount of sleep? Well, that's up for debate. One recent study found that sleeping 9 hours or more was just as harmful as sleeping 5 or less. Whereas cognitive performance peaked at about seven hours of sleep, according to date from Lumosity.

woman stressed

6. Stress

Perhaps the most common reason people report not being able to sleep is that they don’t know how to clear their minds and stop worrying. For that, Asprey suggests deep-breathing exercises like Art of Living, pranayama yoga, and meditation, which can do wonders for helping your brain shut down, recuperate, and prepare for the next day.

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