If you're searching for the elusive good night's sleep, you've probably already tried a few old standbys. Maybe you swear by a warm bath or regular exercise or a calming cup of chamomile tea. Hopefully you've already committed to leaving your cell phone outside your bedroom.
Want to reap more and better sleep -- and ward off stroke, obesity, diabetes, memory loss, cancer and early death in the process? Here's what not to do.
4:30 p.m. -- Chug some coffee.
It might seem like a good way to power through the next few hours of your 12-hour workday, but because it takes eight to 10 hours for your body to process the majority of that caffeine, your late-afternoon java is likely to do more harm than good.
9:00 p.m. -- Load up on the protein.
Sure, it's important for exercise recovery, but be wary of postponing dinner too long, or your body is likely to still be digesting your meal when it's supposed to be asleep. Protein is particularly tough to break down, and may therefore keep you up even later.
9:30 p.m. -- Get totally stressed.
As you're cleaning up after dinner, whatever you do, don't freak out when you catch a glimpse of the clock. It's tempting to stress about how to get enough sleep, but it won't get you to the Land of Nod any faster. In fact, the more you stress about sleep, the harder it will become to eventually drift off.
10:00 p.m. -- Decide a nightcap is the only way to relax.
You'd figure it might take the edge off, and alcohol can indeed make falling asleep easier. But as it wears off throughout the night, it's likely to disrupt your sleep later.
10:05 p.m. -- Turn on the TV.
You'll want to find something with plenty of sirens and gunshots, to trigger your own natural stress response to the fictional drama. And make sure to bask in the boob tube's blue glow -- all that light late at night will tell your brain it's not bedtime yet.
11:00 p.m. -- Turn up the heat.
Nobody likes stepping into chilly clothes in the morning, but cranking up the thermostat before you climb into bed isn't the solution. That's because a cooler bedroom is actually more conducive to sleep. Experts believe the sweet spot is between about 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
11:05 p.m. -- Pull up Netflix to continue the TV binge in bed.
The glowing screen will only further confuse your brain by limiting production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.
11:07 p.m. -- Whistle to Fido to join you.
11:35 p.m. -- Think about the awful meeting you had to sit through at work.
Or how nervous you're going to be during your presentation tomorrow, whether or not you sound boring in your Match.com profile, the sorry state of your bank account and the failing health of your aging grandmother. Hopping into bed without giving our minds ample time to unwind can dredge up some of the anxieties of the day we haven't worked through yet. But with your head on the pillow is not the time, as racing thoughts make it nearly impossible to fall asleep.
11:55 p.m. -- When you can't seem to fall asleep, continue to lie there and stress.
Experts say staying put and willing yourself to drift off only builds more anxiety associated to being in bed. It sounds counterproductive, but your best bet is to get out of bed to do something more relaxing. Just make sure it's not too stimulating and doesn't involve any bright lights.
6:55 a.m. -- Hit snooze.
Yes, you'll get a few additional minutes of sleep. But the alarm disrupts your natural sleep cycle, and likely during the crucial REM stage. Essentially, those five extra minutes are doing more harm than good.
Are you guilty of any of these? Tell us how you're cleaning up your sleep hygiene in the comments below.