Stick to a regular schedule. "Routine is so important," says Maas. "You have one biological clock--not one for the workweek and one for the weekend. You need to synchronize it and go to sleep around the same time every day." Changing up your snooze schedule confuses your brain's sleep center and promotes restless nights.
Keep things cool. When you nod off, your core body temperature drops by about a degree and a half, says Lankford. Encourage the process by setting your bedroom thermostat to around 68°F. If you still feel hot at night, you could be smothering yourself under a comforter that's too warm, so switch to a lighter one. Another trick: Take a hot bath before bed. As your body cools, it transitions more easily into sleep mode once you lie down.
Don't be afraid of the dark. Artificial light messes with your internal clock and acts as a stimulant, inhibiting the flow of melatonin. "An hour before bed, turn off your iPad or computer, and don't text or watch TV," says Harris. And by all means, stop watching the clock! Not only do digital versions give off a melatonin-disrupting glow, but watching 20 minutes tick by can lead to more hours of sleepless anxiety.
Exercise earlier. Working out soothes insomnia-fueling stress and eventually lowers your body's built-in thermostat, a necessary presleep step, explains Robert Oexman, D.C., director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri. Just finish off your cardio at least four hours before bed--any later and your body temp will still be too high, keeping you awake.
Try some pillow talk. If adopting the sleep-hygiene guidelines above doesn't leave you well rested, you may want to look into cognitive behavioral therapy, in which you learn to challenge, then change, your negative sleep-related thoughts, says Harris. Acupuncture, massage, meditation, or simply taking a series of slow, deep breaths before bed may also help soothe you into sleep. If your insomnia sticks around for more than three weeks, seek out a doctor who is trained in sleep medicine.
Getting Enough Hours?
Visit WomensHealthMag.com/Sleep to find out and read more tips on scoring a good night's sleep.
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