Sleep Secrets: How to Get a Good Night's Rest

Drink warm milk, not alchohol; keep a sleep diary.

Feb. 21, 2011 — -- Is there anything worse than tossing and turning when you really need some sleep?

Ten percent of Americans have chronic sleep problems, and up to 35 percent have occasional difficulty with sleep, according to the University of Pennsylvania Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program.

But there are some simple things you can do to make it easier to settle down for the night. The new issue of "Prevention" magazine has some great sleep solutions, and the magazine's editor-in-chief, Diane Salvatore, visited "GMA" to talk about them.

Keep to a Set Schedule

The trick is to go to bed every night at the same time and get up at the same time – even on the weekends, Salvatore said. What that does is set your biological sleep clock. It's simple and it really works, she said.

Maintain Sleep Diary

This is the right way to become a sleep detective, so you can find out why you're not getting the right sleep, Salvatore said. The first thing you should do is write down the obvious stuff – when you go to sleep and wake up, and also what you did in the hours before you went to sleep.

Ask yourself: what you were watching on TV? Were you having an argument? Were you on e-mail? Analyze your diary for two weeks to see if there's a pattern, she said. If you want to get a jump start, go to and print out a work sheet and it will describe some of the tell-tale signs you should be looking for.

Avoid Bedtime Exercise

That's right. Exercise before bed is not good because it makes your body warm, which is not conducive to sleep, Salvatore added.

Avoid Alcohol

This may be bad news for those who like their nightcaps. True, a stiff drink will knock you out, but it will keep you waking up all through the night because your body's attempts to metabolize the alcohol will play havoc with your body temperature, hormones and REM sleep, Salvatore added. Instead, you should drink milk before bed. It's metabolizes into melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

If you are going to drink alcohol, drink it two hours before you go to bed, she said.

Chamomile and Other Relaxing Teas

Chamomile is a healing herb and it activates the back of your brain that tells the body to go to sleep. Other relaxing drinks contain melatonin, and some have tryptophan – the amino acid that's found in turkey.

White Noise

Some people become distracted by the slightest noise, such as a branch on the window. White noise helps block those distractions and make it easier for you to sleep, Salvatore said.

Block Light

Evolutionarily speaking, the body is trained to wake up when there is light, so even when your eyes are closed, any light in your room – from a digital read-out, for example – can enter your eyeball and tell the brain to wake up, Salvatore said. The darker your room can be, the sounder you will sleep, she added.

Still No Sleep?

If you are doing all of these things and you can't sleep, or if you're getting seven to eight hours of sleep but you're still waking up exhausted, you could have a problem such as sleep apnea, Salvatore said. That will need a professional diagnosis and possibly medication or behavioral therapy, she added.

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