6 tips for living a sleep-friendly lifestyle

The quality of your sleep is closely related to the quality of your waking hours. Live happily and actively, and sleep will come more easily. Here are some tips for enjoying a better night's rest.

6 tips for living a sleep-friendly lifestyle

Take a walk after lunch, then read the paper on the patio

  • Exercise cuts stress, and getting exercise in the sun can help keep your body's circadian rhythms calibrated.
  • You need about two hours of daily exposure to bright sunlight to help your body stay in sync.
  • If you can't get outdoors, consider buying a light box — a fixture that radiates light that mimics the brightness and wavelengths of natural sunlight.

Make herbal tea or water your drink of choice after lunchtime

  • Nix coffee as well as other caffeine sources like chocolate; colas and other soft drinks; and black, green, or white tea.
  • Even small amounts of caffeine may keep you up late, and older people may be more sensitive to it.
  • Caffeine blocks a brain chemical called adenosine that helps us feel drowsy and fall asleep, and the effect may last longer in older people, whose livers don't filter caffeine as effectively.
  • Instead, sip some chamomile tea, which contains ingredients proven to calm the nervous system and, at bedtime, can induce sleep.

Instead of an evening cocktail, have a glass of wine with an early supper

  • Drinking before bed may help you fall asleep, but as the alcohol wears off, you're likely to have light, easily broken sleep.
  • If you enjoy a drink, have one with supper a few hours before bed.

Schedule worry time during the day, in the kitchen!

  • We're not kidding. If your mind is accustomed to revving up sleep-robbing anxiety in bed, retrain your brain by moving your worry session to another place and time.
  • Try midmorning at the kitchen table — pour a mug of chamomile tea (a natural soother) with honey, grab a notebook and pen, and write out your worries. This will clear your mind and break the association between bed, night, and worry.

Try tai chi on the lawn

  • In China, people rise at dawn to perform this series of ancient, gentle, dancelike movements in local parks.
  • The sleep bonus: Tai chi beat a low-impact exercise class for improving sleep in a study of 118 women and men ages 60 to 92 conducted at the Oregon Research Institute.
  • People who did tai chi three times a week for six months fell asleep 18 minutes faster and slept 48 minutes longer each night than other exercisers.

Drink more water during the day and less in the evening

  • If you have diabetes, an enlarged prostate, incontinence, or even garden-variety "tiny bladder syndrome" (the bladder shrinks with age), you may get up frequently to urinate, then have trouble falling back to sleep.
  • Try drinking more water during the day so you don't feel thirsty in the hour or so before you turn in. That way, you may ensure fewer slumber interruptions without risking dehydration.
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