In Search of Sleep

10 Ways to Sleep Better Tonight

Dr. Smith tells his patients to practice good sleep hygiene. The following 10 healthy habits can both increase the quantity and improve the quality of your sleep. They're as beneficial to your health as brushing and flossing.

  • Create a bedtime ritual centered around going to sleep at about the same time every night. It works for kids and for adults too!
  • Don't smoke. Smokers tend to sleep lightly, have reduced amounts of REM sleep, and wake after three or four hours because of nicotine withdrawal.
  • Skip the nightcap. Drinking alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but it actually prevents you from falling into a deep rest.
  • Watch caffeine. Avoid coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and some pain relievers (check the label) at least two hours before bed (and some experts say none after noon).
  • Exercise during the day. It helps you sleep better at night. Just don't work out close to bedtime, because you can't sleep during an adrenaline rush.
  • Don't sleep on a full or empty tummy. Try a light, bland snack such as crackers or decaf herbal tea.
  • Wear loose cotton clothes to bed. They may not be the sexiest, but comfort is key.
  • Keep your bedroom cool. Neil Kline, sleep specialist and representative of the American Sleep Association (sleepassociation.org), recommends choosing a temperature close to 70 degrees F. that feels cool to you.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet, Kline says. This means you should banish the bedroom TV. "If you need noise, try a fan," he suggests.
  • Relax and clear your mind for 15 minutes before bed. Read, do a crossword puzzle, or take a bath. Dealing with laundry, bills, or dishes before lying down is not conducive to sleep!

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