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How to Sleep Better in 10 Steps

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    How to Sleep Better: Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day

    The moment you wake up

    "Setting a regular wake time is the most effective way to improve sleep," says Nikodemas McNulty, ND, of Bastyr University, California, in San Diego. By waking up at the same time every day, you'll also train yourself to go to bed at the same time every night. Your body will start to release sleep hormones at the same time every night, making you feel tired. This is called "setting your circadian rhythm."

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    How to Sleep Better: Exercise Earlier

    In the morning or early afternoon

    People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week—or a little more than 20 minutes daily, concludes a study published in Mental Health and Physical Activity. When researchers sampled more than 2,600 men and women ages 18–85, they found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. People also said they felt less sleepy during the day, compared to those with less physical activity.

    The secret here is timing. "Intense exercise releases adrenaline, which can interfere with sleep, so high-intensity exercise is best done in the mornings or early afternoons," says McNulty. "But mild- to moderate-intensity exercise can be done at any time."

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    How to Sleep Better: Cut the Caffeine

    Six hours before bed

    Whether your vice is coffee, energy drinks, soda, or chocolate, stop the caffeine six hours prior to bed, suggests a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Researchers found that caffeine consumed zero, three, and six hours prior to bedtime reduced total sleep time, diminished sleep quality, and significantly increased the amount of time spent awake at night. Consuming caffeine six hours before bed reduced the total sleep amount by more than an hour.

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    How to Sleep Better: Meditate

    After work

    A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that those who meditated for 20 minutes daily were able to significantly improve their quality of sleep. The clinical trial recruited subjects over age 50 who wanted to know how to sleep better. Half were assigned to courses in sleep hygiene and half were enrolled in a six-week mindfulness meditation course for two hours a week plus homework. After a year, the meditation group experienced greater improvements in sleep quality and fewer instances of insomnia, depression, and fatigue compared to the other group. Try meditating after work to recharge after a long day.

    Never meditated? Use this beginner's guide to meditation to get started.

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    How to Sleep Better: Stop Eating at Night

    Three hours before bed

    "In general, it's best to stop eating three hours before bed to allow food time for digestion," McNulty says. "If you lie down to sleep on a full stomach, there's more chance of reflux and stomachaches."

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    How to Sleep Better: Turn Off the Lights

    Two hours before bed

    The blue light from your computer or phone can screw with your sleep. It suppresses production of a brain chemical called melatonin, which helps us fall sleep, say researchers at the Lighting Research Center at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. Looking at tablet displays for over two hours will suppress the body's melatonin production significantly, according to their study in Applied Ergonomics. So rethink that Netflix binge sesh. "If you need to be on your computer, wear glasses that filter bright light or use an app, like Flux, which changes the color scheme and lighting of the screen," McNulty says.

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    How to Sleep Better: Turn Down the Thermostat

    One hour before bed

    Sleeping in a cool room may help you fall asleep and stay asleep, suggests a study presented at SLEEP 2011, the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. When people with insomnia wore cool caps, they fell asleep in 13 minutes and spent 89 percent of their sleep time in bed, which is similar to healthy controls: 16 minutes to fall sleep and 89 percent of their sleep time in bed. Setting your thermostat to a cool temperature, such as 65°F, may provide the same results.

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    How to Sleep Better: Take Melatonin

    One hour before bed

    This isn't something you'll want to do every night, but if you need to sleep in a noisy place, research recently published in Critical Care suggests melatonin can help you get a good night's sleep. "Melatonin is best taken an hour before bed—roughly the time needed for full absorption," McNulty says.

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    How to Sleep Better: Put on Socks

    Five minutes before bed

    When you're just about to fall asleep, your body directs blood toward your extremities, like to your feet. Keeping them toasty warm helps promote blood vessel dilation, better circulation, and faster sleep onset, suggests a study published in Nature.

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    How to Sleep Better: Don't Switch Up Your Bedtime

    Bedtime

    Part of creating the perfect sleep routine is setting a bedtime. And as we explained earlier, a consistent sleep schedule helps teach your body when it should prepare for sleep, which means less tossing and turning.