Simple ways to guarantee a good night's sleep

October 9, 2015

Having a hard time falling asleep may seem like no big deal when compared to, say, heart disease. But insomnia raises the risk of depression, makes you more sensitive to pain, compromises concentration and memory, and significantly increases the risk of accidents while driving.

There's even evidence that poor sleep wreaks havoc with hormones that control appetite and metabolism, and may be partly responsible for the current obesity epidemic. To prevent insomnia and guarantee a good night's sleep, follow this advice.

Stick to a sleep schedule. That means going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time in the morning, even on weekends. Think of it as training your body to fall asleep.

Clear clutter. If you have bills stacked on the nightstand or laundry waiting to be folded, your bedroom is hardly an oasis for sleep. Clear the clutter or move it to another room.

Banish TV and computer. Use the bedroom for sleeping and intimate time with your partner. Don't read in it, eat in it or work in it. As soon as you enter the room at night, your body will know it's time for sleep.

Get exercise. It helps lower stress hormones. Just don't exercise in the evening as it can keep you awake. End your workout at least six hours before bedtime.

Sip chamomile tea. That's why it's called "Sleepy Time" tea.

Cover your eyes. Find eye masks in the drugstore. They work wonders for banishing light.

Cool your bedroom. Open windows, turn on a fan or run the air conditioner. Reducing your body temperature signals your brain to release the sleep hormone melatonin.

Read poetry. The cadences of the lines and the images the words invoke can be calming. Better yet, listen to poetry on tape or CD — it's like hearing a bedtime story.

Make a list. Before you get into bed, make a list of everything that's on your mind so you won't have to lie awake worrying about it.

Listen to white noise. Turn on a fan, tune the radio between stations or buy a white-noise machine.

Spray your pillow. Lavender is known for its calming effects.

Try progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with your feet and working up to your eyes, tense and relax one group of muscles at a time. This forces every muscle in your body to relax.

Sleep in your underwear. You'll feel cooler and sleep better.

Wear earplugs. Especially if you sleep with someone (or a pet) who snores.

See a therapist. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help with insomnia by teaching you techniques to overcome it. The more you learn about insomnia, the better you can address it.

Skip the martini. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but will keep you awake as the effects wear off. If you want a drink, have it in the late afternoon or early evening.

Ditch the cigs. Nicotine is a central nervous system stimulant, which means it keeps you awake. Even just being around cigarette smoke before bedtime can prevent you from falling or staying asleep.

Deal with allergies. Sneezing your head off because of seasonal allergens can keep you up at night. The worse the allergies, the longer it takes to fall asleep, and the more sleeping pills you need to stay asleep.

Take a short nap. Long naps will keep you up at night, but short naps could make a positive difference. One study found that a short nap after lunch improved sleep quality and reduced the time it took to fall asleep.

Try one or more of these remedies and try to get some long-awaited sleep.  Night.

Simple ways to guarantee a good night's sleep
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