Even worse than keeping a smartphone nearby are those late-night computer sessions. Again, your circadian rhythms are based on light, and the blue light that's put out by computer screens makes your body think it's still daytime. That keeps it from producing melatonin -- the sleep-inducing antioxidant that the tart cherry juice contains.
As the people who make F.lux explain, "During the day, computer screens look good -- they're designed to look like the sun. But, at 9 p.m., 10 p.m. or 3 a.m., you probably shouldn't be looking at the sun." That's why they made F.lux, a free app for Windows, Linux (including Ubuntu), and Mac OS X, that adjusts your screen colors to look less like sunlight.
They claim that it helps you sleep better, it causes less eyestrain, and it makes your computer look better, too. What's not to like?
Finally, we come to perhaps the most thorough way to fix your personal sleep problems: The Zeo Personal Sleep Coach ($199). It's an alarm clock and wireless headband that monitors and records your sleep patterns. It tells you how much sleep you're getting, including deep, light and REM sleep. Then its online apps and email coaching help you analyze your lifestyle to find out what helps you sleep better, and what's keeping you up at night.
I compared the Zeo's results to the sophisticated sleep evaluation from a Pleasant Hill, Calif., clinic -- the Bay Sleep clinic -- and found the results were fairly accurate, with a few exceptions. The Zeo added an extra 10 minutes to my total sleep time, for instance, and slightly under-estimated the amount of time that I spent in deep sleep.
The biggest differences were that Zeo over-estimated my REM sleep, putting it at 31 percent of the time that I spent asleep instead of 22 percent, and it counted only two instead of 16 awakenings. The reason for the awakening discrepancy is that the clinic counts any wake time of three seconds, while Zeo only counts awakenings of two minutes or longer.
After using Zeo for two months, I adjusted the time that I eat (earlier by an hour), and switched to using a thinner pillow and a sleep mask. Not only has this helped me gain an average of an hour more sleep every night, I also wake up less during the night.
Jared Spurbeck contributed to this story.