How to Become a Morning Person
Creating a Sleep Sanctuary
Once I know when to sleep, we discuss where I sleep. A snooze-friendly bedroom is, you guessed it, dark (light suppresses the secretion of sleep-inducing melatonin) and quiet. It also needs to be cool to allow you to sleep comfortably. "The magic number for a sleep-friendly room is around 69 degrees Fahrenheit," Dr. Haward tells me. Before you sleep, your body temperature drops. As your brain releases melatonin, your body is chilling out -- literally. When the morning approaches, melatonin decreases and you start to wake up.My Bedtime Story
Dark is easy. I've always wanted one of those "I'm a movie star" sleep masks. Quiet and cool in a New York City apartment are a little trickier, so I check in with Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep. "Your brain constantly interprets stimuli, even while you sleep," Dr. Breus explains. "A white-noise machine can block any distractions and calm your brain." He suggests Brookstone's Tranquil Moments Sleep Sound Therapy System (brookstone.com, $129.95), with 12 soothing settings. Now for the tough part: the variable temperature in my apartment. Like many city dwellers, I live in a building where I can't regulate my heat, so I never know if it will be sweltering or subzero. Surprisingly Dr. Breus recommends a wool blanket as a remedy. "Wool is a fantastic insulator but also good for wicking away moisture and keeping you cool," he explains. I order a queen-size Natura Classic All Season Comforter ($223.20, naturaworld.com). Dark? Check. Quiet? Done. Cool? Let's hope so.Establishing a Relaxing Routine
The time has come to put my new sleep environment to the test. Dr. Haward recommends taking 30 minutes to prepare myself for sleep with a three-step plan: (1) Take a hot bath or shower (when you step out, your body temperature drops, which encourages sleep); (2) jot down a list of anything you're worried about to clear your mind; and (3) dim the lights and meditate, do some deep breathing or practice progressive relaxation, in which you slowly tense and then relax all your muscles from scalp to toes. And no more Late Show with David Letterman. Dr. Haward notes that televisions, cell phones, and computer screens all emit blue light, which has been shown to suppress melatonin production.My Bedtime Story
I'm skeptical when 11 p.m. rolls around. Since it's Saturday, I've been up for only 12 hours. I doubt that a hot bath and a diary entry will make me tired. Plus, I've heard these sleep-inducing suggestions before. Admittedly I haven't tried them; filling the tub takes forever, meditating seems dull, and I usually finish up work or watch TiVoed episodes of 30 Rock before I hit the sack. So long, Tina Fey.
First I hop into the shower and up the ante with a lavender body wash (a recent study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that the scent helped insomniacs sleep better). On to the worry list: "Dear worry diary, I'm worried about ...Deadline tomorrow. Meeting Wednesday. Dentist's appointment at noon. That I will never become a morning person...." Okay, enough of that. Time to flex my zen muscle. My older, wiser, and less frazzled sister has been touting the benefits of meditation for years, so I dig through my sock drawer until I find the how-to CD she gave me. I pop it in. Ten minutes later I feel relaaaaaaxed, and, hey, it's 11:30! Lights out, sound machine on.
The crashing waves are soothing and the comforter is cozy without feeling stifling, but I'm not even on the outskirts of the land of nod. I toss. I turn over. I'm thirsty. I think back to what Dr. Haward said to do if I couldn't fall asleep: "After 30 minutes, get up and engage in a quiet activity. Don't flip on bright overhead lights; use a soft table lamp instead." Twenty minutes into a crossword puzzle in my dimly lit living room, my eyelids droop. Hooray! Oops. I mean, shhhh! Time for bed.
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