30 Unhealthy Habits You Should Break Immediately, According to Science

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Some very common habits aren’t that good for us. Between interfering with your sleep and increasing your risk of deadly diseases, read on to find out what you probably should stop doing. There are a lot of health myths on the internet and articles of contrasting advice in media, but we tried to bring the best science-based information to you.

1. Don’t let your kid sleep with the lights on

Lights at night are a new thing for our bodies, which evolved to sleep when the sun goes down. Before sleeping, your body starts making melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. But lights, especially bright or blue-hued lights, can disrupt the production of melatonin in your body, making it harder to fall asleep.

Kids are especially sensitive to light disrupting their sleep because their eyes actually let in more light than adult eyes. Disrupted sleep is bad enough, but researchers have also found that exposure to lots of light at night might actually increase your risk of cancer. So use dimmed or red lights before bed and turn them off when you sleep.

2. Biting your nails could make you sick

Your hands are the dirtiest part of you — they touch everything: doorknobs, food, toilets, other people. The list goes on. Putting these dirty digits in your mouth could give you a cold or another illness, depending on what microbes are chilling on your fingers.

Plus, the area around your nails could get infected and you might harm your teeth. Biting most likely won’t cause long term damage to your nails, but it certainly isn’t healthy. Instead of biting your nails, try playing with a hair tie on your wrist or a ring on your finger as a more hygienic nervous tick.

3. Don’t (static) stretch before working out

If you’re warming up before a workout, don’t hold stretches. Pre-workout stretching temporarily weakens your muscle strength, impacting your performance and causing you to run more slowly or lift less effectively. Instead, for a warm-up, you can do high knees, squats, light biking, jumping jacks, arm circles, or another moderate intensity movement.

After your workout, you can do those static stretches that you hold for about 30 seconds or so. They might help you become more flexible, but science suggests they have no effect on whether or not you injure yourself while exercising. In fact, science is a little fuzzy on what stretching actually does and if it has any substantial long-term effect.

4. Sitting all day could be harmful to your health

Many of us spend nearly the whole day sitting — between the office (or school), the car, and the couch, there’s little physical activity. Some studies have linked the practice with health concerns like obesity, high blood sugar and blood pressure, death from cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.

While sitting for long periods of time hasn’t necessarily been proven to directly cause disease, a sedentary lifestyle does seem to be harmful and may affect your brain as well as your heart. However, exercising regularly appears to reduce the effects. While it’s hard to not sit when you have to work all day, try getting up and moving regularly or work in a standing position.

5. Don’t brush your teeth right after eating

It seems counterintuitive to brush your teeth before breakfast unless you’re in the habit of eating on the way, but it can be the best option. Brushing your teeth right after eating or drinking can be a harmful habit for your tooth enamel, especially if you ate something acidic.

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Acid isn’t good for the enamel on your teeth; it erodes the protective covering. As a result, brushing right after you eat can push the acid even further into your teeth. Plus, once the acid gets through the enamel, it starts eating at another layer on your teeth: the dentin. Wait at least 30 minutes after eating to brush your teeth.

6. Hitting the snooze button can ruin your mental health

It’s so easy to wake up to your alarm and simply press the snooze button. Those extra few minutes are so enticing. But if you’re already very tired, snoozing is the last thing you need. After snoozing the alarm, you will likely start a new sleep cycle, which will be interrupted once the alarm goes off again.

Sleep inertia, a groggy and tired state, affects you whenever you wake up, but snoozing just lengthens the time you’re afflicted. 20 minutes might turn into two to four hours. If, however, you don’t fully fall back to sleep after pressing snooze, it isn’t so bad for you.

7. Don’t sleep on your stomach

While we’re on the topic of sleep, you may as well know that sleeping on your stomach is terrible for your neck and back. Since you have to turn your neck to avoid suffocating while sleeping, your upper cervical vertebrae lock into place. This can give you neck problems and headaches.

Plus, your lower back is bent in a rather weird shape. As a result of the position, the cartilage in your neck and back wear down and might tear. After a long enough time, your bones might start to rub against each other and eventually you could develop osteoarthritis. However, plenty of people change their sleeping position throughout the night, so you might not stomach-sleep all night long.

8. Wearing contacts too long can lead to blindness

When you wear contacts, your eye is deprived of oxygen the entire time you have them in. To deal with this, your cornea grows new blood vessels, which can lead to inflammation and blindness. Usually, your cornea, the clear protective layer of your eye, has no blood vessels.

Just in case you want to avoid a little blindness, you should regularly replace your contact lenses. On top of that, make sure to take them out before going to sleep. Even wearing contacts all day every day can interfere with your cornea, so if you’re really paranoid about the blood vessels, just use glasses.

9. Don’t look at your computer screen for too long

While computers have brought great convenience and excessive amounts of information to our fingertips, they’ve also brought their screens. They aren’t bad except for the fact that we like to spend most of our waking hours looking at them. As a result, people can become plagued by computer vision syndrome.

Computer vision syndrome is characterized by dry eyes, eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision. To limit the effects of the computer screen, you can keep your computer over an arm’s length away from your eyes, wear blue-light limiting glasses, or take resting breaks, among other things. The 20-20-20 rule is recommended: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

10. Teeth whitening strips might be stripping proteins out of your teeth

Recently, a scientist bought some teeth off eBay so she could use them for an experiment. No, this isn’t a Twilight Zone episode. She wanted to know how teeth whitening strips affect teeth — other than the supposed whitening. She put some artificial saliva on the teeth and then proceeded to experiment.

She found that teeth had fewer proteins in them when they went through more whitening strips. The hydrogen peroxide in the strips was breaking down the protein’s chemical bonds. Your teeth can replenish these proteins in the dentin layer, but not the enamel. So it’s unclear whether or not these strips are doing lasting damage.

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