How To Sleep Better

Are you tired, run down, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular? Okay, we’ll stop for those who don’t get the joke yet (courtesy of I Love Lucy). But seriously, do you ever have trouble sleeping, and experience awful after-affects that include your coworkers preferring to hide under their cubicle desks rather than engage in conversation with you? We conferred with CBS’s medical on-air correspondent – the ever-so-chic Dr. Holly Phillips – whose newest book, The Exhaustion Breakthrough, is all about fighting fatigue. Phillips gave us the ultimate guide on how to sleep better. (But don’t worry: If it doesn’t work, the answers to all your problems lie in this little bottle…)

Holly Phillips, MD, on how to take back the night and crank up your energy with better quality zzz’s…

It’s a rare woman who consistently feels well-rested and has plenty of energy to spare. Even if you have a busy life with a loaded plate of responsibilities, it’s possible to achieve that feel-good state by upgrading the quality of your sleep with some simple lifestyle changes. I urge you to make the effort because if you don’t snooze long enough or well enough on a regular basis, you will eventually pay a price when it comes to your physical health, your mood and brain function, your safety, and/or your overall functionality. That’s because sleep isn’t an inactive state, as experts used to believe; it’s actually a highly restorative process your body and mind depend on to reboot and recharge. Use the following ten strategies to help you sleep better.

Calculate how much sleep you need. While on a seven-to-ten day vacation, catch up on lost sleep for several nights. After repaying your sleep debt, keep track of how much sleep you get each night after that, and the amount that leaves you feeling alert and energized the next day. Average the shuteye from those latter nights and use that as a gauge of how much sleep you need regularly.

Establish a consistent sleep schedule. While factoring in how much sleep you need, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. You can vary your sleep schedule slightly on weekends but try to keep the difference to one hour or less. Otherwise, you’ll disrupt your body’s circadian (sleep-wake) rhythms, giving yourself the equivalent of jet lag.

Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. It should be dark, quiet, and cool (many people prefer a temperature between 65 and 72 degrees), with a comfortable, supportive mattress and pillows on the bed. To keep out unwanted light, consider installing blackout shades or heavy curtains. Block outside noise by wearing earplugs or using a “white noise” machine or one that generates soothing sounds that help you reach deeper stages of sleep.

Immerse yourself in the morning light. It’s best if you can expose yourself to natural light for at least twenty minutes first thing in the morning by sitting in a sunny window or using a dawn simulator light or alarm clock. This will help keep your body’s internal clock ticking properly and help you maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

Avoid heavy or spicy meals at night. Having a too-full stomach can interfere with sleep and give you a major case of indigestion that can keep you up. Try to finish dinner a few hours before bedtime; if you’re hungry later in the evening, have a light snack with sleep-inducing foods (like whole-grain crackers and cheese or a small bowl of cereal with milk) that contain tryptophan, an amino acid the brain uses to make calming serotonin.

Sidestep stimulants. Avoid caffeine and nicotine (if you smoke) for at least four hours before bedtime because these stimulants can rev you up. While having a cocktail (or two or three) can make you sleepy initially, alcohol eventually acts as a stimulant, leaving you susceptible to micro-arousals or awakenings and poorer overall quality sleep. Have a max of one or two drinks per day and avoid alcohol close to bedtime.

Exercise during the day. Playing sports or working out can help set the stage for a good night’s sleep—but the timing matters for some people. It’s best to finish vigorous workouts by late afternoon because that way your body temperature, heart rate, and other functions will have plenty of time to drop post-exercise to set the stage for sound slumber. It’s fine to do relaxing exercises like yoga or simple stretching in the evening.

Banish technology from your bedroom. Don’t bring your laptop, smartphone or other high-tech devices to bed with you. The light from these items can reset your body’s internal clock; plus, using these devices tends to be stimulating, which isn’t what you want before turning in for the night. So unplug it, shut it down, or turn it off.

Relax before turning in. Avoid stimulating activities or emotionally upsetting conversations in the hours before climbing under the covers. Instead, establish a relaxing routine—including taking a warm bath, doing some gentle stretches, listening to mellow music, and the like—before going to bed.

Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. Don’t lie awake reviewing your worries or staring at the clock. Get up and go to another room to read or do something relaxing or monotonous until the mood to snooze returns. Otherwise, you could come to associate your bed with not sleeping—exactly what you don’t want to happen!

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And pair these sleeping tips with The Ultimate Spring Detox.