3 Icky, Bad Habits That Put Your Health at Risk

Is it bad to fall asleep with the TV on?

This habit might mess with your shut-eye. A new Australian study found that watching TV before bed keeps kids and teens up later rather than lulling them to sleep. University of Pennsylvania research from 2009 revealed that the time people spent watching TV before bed was a key factor in when they hit the sack, which could lead to sleep deficits. Researchers at Ohio State University even found that hamsters exposed to TV-like light at night showed signs of depression. But don’t swap TV time for iPad or smartphone time. These devices are actually more stimulating to your brain. Using them close to bedtime can make it tougher to slip into slumber, says Michael Breus, a psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders.

However, if you swear that Seinfeld reruns help you snooze, you might not be wrong. “For certain people who have trouble ‘turning their brain off,’ watching TV, which is very passive, could allow them to relax and fall asleep,” says Breus. Just be sure to set a timer to turn the TV off so that a blaring infomercial doesn’t wake you up in the 
middle of the night.

How bad is it to drink water out of a bottle that you left in the car for weeks?

First, know that despite scary e-mail forwards from nervous relatives, you needn’t worry about disposable plastic water bottles leaching cancer-causing chemicals into the liquid, according to the American Cancer Society. Commercial water bottles often don’t contain concerning hormone-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) or phthalates either.

But any used bottle can harbor germs from saliva backwash, says Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona and coauthor of The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu. Surprisingly, “that’s not really a problem as long as you don’t share the bottle with other people,” he says, since your immune system has already dealt with whatever cold, flu, or other germs may be in your mouth. One exception: sports bottles that you’ve used your thumb or fingers to press shut. Bacteria such as E. coli or Staphylococcus on your hands can contaminate the nozzle when you press it down and then flourish in the warm, moist environment. “Then you’re going to stick that in your mouth? Not a good idea,” says Gerba.

Is it OK to drive in flip-flops?
Flip-flops have been blamed for some truly tragic traffic accidents—including one in New York in which a woman lost control and crashed into a church foyer, killing three people. Flip-flops can slip off and either get stuck under the brake and gas pedals or depress both pedals at the same time, says former police officer and certified traffic safety and crash expert John E. Langan. “Driving is the most dangerous activity the average person will do in his lifetime. Why would anyone want to make it even more dangerous by wearing the wrong shoes?” he says. So the next time you must get behind the wheel wearing flip-flops, just slip them off and set them on the seat next to you. “Driving barefoot is better than wearing flip-flops,” says William Van Tassel, manager of driver-training programs at AAA’s national office.