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A Health Writer Confesses: "I (Finally) Did It My Way"

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4. Kiss Conan Goodnight...

To squeeze in all that exercise around my work schedule and my family's morning routines, I have to be up by 6 a.m. So to get the eight hours I'm always telling people they need, I have to be in bed by 10 p.m. What about Dave? And Jay? And Conan? I don't think I have a choice.

"Make bedtime a priority -- like homework is for your kids," says Joyce Walsleben, PhD, former director of New York University's sleep center and author of A Woman's Guide to Sleep: Guaranteed Solutions for a Good Night's Rest (Three Rivers Press, 2001). Okay. So the next night, I start winding down at 9 p.m. by taking a bath and settling in with a good book. Doctor's orders, I tell myself, as I resist the urge to throw in one last load of laundry or scan my e-mail. I feel anxious and guilty at first, but after a few nights, I'm not falling hopelessly behind on anything.

Walsleben also suggests that I limit caffeine, so I keep my morning cups of green tea but skip my afternoon chai latte. This not only makes it easier to get to sleep by 10 p.m., which is good, but also makes me want to fall asleep at two in the afternoon, which is not good. One day, desperate to clear my foggy brain, I take the dogs for a brisk 20-minute walk. It works! I used to think that such a short bout of exercise was a waste, but now the little hit of endorphins peps me up.

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