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6 simple rules to a good night’s sleep


Feeling a little off-kilter from losing an hour of sleep over the weekend? We grilled experts to get their best advice for a truly super snooze.

sleeping away

Is it just us, or is everyone a little off-kilter from losing an hour of sleep over the weekend?

To ensure that we get a good night’s sleep tonight, we grilled experts to get their best advice for a truly super snooze. It turns out that sleep doesn’t start the minute your head hits the pillow — it’s a gradual process that begins hours before.

Here’s what to do before you actually turn off the lights:

6 Hours Before Bed…
* Cut out caffeine. “We often think of caffeine as keeping us from falling asleep, however, caffeine can also interrupt our sleep,” says Nidhi Undevia, MD, medical director of the Sleep Program at Loyola University Health System. So even if you don’t get a big rush from caffeine the same way others do, it’s best to skip that post-dinner espresso if you have to be up early (and alert) tomorrow.

4-6 Hours Before Bed…
* No more alcohol! “Alcohol is a sedative and we often think that this will help us fall asleep, however, in the middle of the night, we begin to withdraw from alcohol and this can interrupt sleep,” says Undevia.

2-3 Hours Before Bed…
* No more exercise. According to Undevia, what you’ve long been told is absolutely true — exercise stimulates us and can make it harder to fall asleep. Your blood is pumping, your heart rate is up and your body is generally in “go” mode rather than “slow” mode. Try to do your workouts in the afternoon and save the evening for more gentle practices, such as yoga or meditation.

1-2 Hours Before Bed…
* Have a glass of warm milk an hour before bed (the tryptophan is relaxing), then cut off fluids. Otherwise, your bladder is likely to wake you up from a sound sleep, says Tracey Marks, MD, author of Master Your Sleep: Proven Methods Simplified.

* Turn off your BlackBerry and computer — at this point, looking at work-related emails is counterproductive. You’re too tired to do much about them, but they will amp up your brain and keep you wired.

* Take a warm bath. According to Marks, the warming of your skin is followed by a drop in core body temperature that triggers sleep.

30 Minutes Before Bed…
* Do something calming: Read a book, listen to music, meditate or simply get in bed and breathe deeply, or practice progressive muscle relaxation (contract your muscles, head to toe, then slowly relax them).

At Bedtime…
* Adjust thermostat to 68 to 74 degrees, and turn off the lights and TV. Darkness triggers the release of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. Even if your eyes are closed, light from a TV screen or computer monitor gets through, so it’s best to power off your computer completely if it’s in your bedroom. If it’s impossible to make your room completely dark, invest in an eye cover.

*  Can’t fall asleep? If, after 30 minutes, you’re still awake, don’t stay in bed. Move to another room and engage in a relaxing activity (reading, listening to music, meditating) then return to bed. If you’re still amped up, write down your thoughts, which can help quiet whatever is bouncing around in your brain.

What helps you fall asleep?

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