6 Realistic Rules for Better Sleep
3 Tips to Fall Asleep FasterPlay a bedtime story.
The next time you wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back to sleep, ignore the prevailing wisdom about getting out of bed to read by dim light. Dr. Shives recommends a new strategy: Quiet your churning mind with an audiobook, preloaded on your phone or music player and at the ready, bedside. Plug in your earbuds, press "Play," and cover the display to block the glow. The story shouldn't be too stimulating, so choose a biography or your favorite book from childhood instead of, say, Fifty Shades of Grey. In 15 to 20 minutes the narrative should soothe you to sleep, Dr. Shives says. If TV has always been a snoozing aid for you, follow Breus's trick: Use a TV with a sleep timer and set it to switch off after 30 minutes.Think before you drink.
It's generally a good idea to cut out coffee, soda, and energy drinks seven to eight hours before bedtime. But the half-life of caffeine affects everyone differently. Download Caffeine Zone 2 Lite (free at the iTunes App Store), developed by Penn State researchers, to help you predict the hour at which caffeine will still deliver a kick without stealing sleep. Also be aware that a nightcap can be as disastrous for your slumber as an after-dinner cappuccino. Under the influence, you snooze in seconds. Problem is, you'll wake up four or five hours later. And healthy women are much more susceptible to the "sleepus interruptus" effects of overimbibing, according to a recent University of Michigan study. "The best rule: Have your last drink three hours before you turn in," Breus says.Score better sleep.
You log your workouts, so why not your zzz's? A spate of new sleeptracking devices with mobile apps, including Zeo Sleep Manager and Lark, allow you to monitor such habits as the time at which you fall asleep and get up, how much light versus deep sleep you're getting, and the number of times you awaken during the night. We like the Renew SleepClock ($200, us.gear4.com; Renew SleepClock app, free, iTunes App Store) because you don't have to wear anything on your body to use it; your movements and breathing rates are detected and monitored through your iPhone, which rests on the SleepClock's docking station on your nightstand. "None of these devices are diagnostic, so they're not going to tell you if you have sleep apnea or insomnia," Breus says. "But they give you information about your sleep and make you think about how you can improve it." For instance, an app can help you notice a pattern, like how your slumber improves on days you exercise. Or you may be surprised to learn, as one FITNESS editor did, that you're getting a lot less sleep than you think.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2012.
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