Being too cautious about the sun
The risks of skin cancer, premature skin aging, and burns are all good reasons to avoid rubbing tanning oil all over yourself before hitting the beach. However, the sun’s bad reputation fails to paint a complete picture, often lacking reference to its essential role in human health as a vitamin D booster.
This essential vitamin fosters calcium absorption, aids bone strength, and reduces depression, among other health benefits, and it’s produced right in the body when bare skin is exposed to the sunlight’s UVB rays. Sunscreen may block this reaction, so it’s important to get at least a short amount of unprotected exposure each day. Keep it to around 10 minutes during the summer (you can go longer in the winter), and your body will thank you.
Taking the USDA eating guidelines literally
The recent updates to the USDA dietary guidelines were applauded for reducing recommended sodium- and sugar-consumption levels. That's good! Ultimately, though, the guidelines are still heavily influenced by the agriculture industry, which is good for lobbyists' wallets, but maybe not so great for your health if you find yourself struggling to figure out what exactly to do when the government tells you that cholesterol in food doesn't raise blood cholesterol levels, but you should still avoid cholesterol. (Hint: it means eat fewer hot dogs.)
Catching up on sleep
It seems like a simple-enough math problem. The sluggish effects of skimming an hour or two of sleep off each night to binge-watch Making a Murderer or have that extra drink at the bar can be mitigated by "catching up on sleep" over the weekend, right?
Well, the snoozefest will certainly help you feel better in the following days, but it won’t cancel out a sleep debt (tally of the hours you’ve been missing from your regular schedule) in the long run, and chronic sleep deprivation leads to serious health problems down the road. Recovery sleep is best achieved by adding an hour or two each night for a few weeks to a few months, then letting your body return to a more natural rhythm. Finding a schedule and sticking to it is the best way to maximize the health benefits from sleep.
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Joni Sweet is still trying to make peace with the 1.5 million dust mites probably living in her bed. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.