6 easy ways to improve your sleep

You might be surprised to find out just how significant these simple suggestions prove to be. Give them a chance to improve your sleep’and your life

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nap

1. Take a nap

Want to get some sleep and boost job performance by 34 percent? "Take a 26-minute nap," says Sara Mednick, research scientist at the University of California at San Diego and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life. Studies show that one nap of up to 90 minutes between the hours of 1:00 and 4:00 P.M. will reduce your sleep debt, invigorate your day, boost your job performance, and not affect night sleep, says Mednick.

"To start, lie down at the same time every day for 20 minutes without the expectation of falling asleep," she says. "That way, you're teaching your body that it's okay to relax in the middle of the day." Eventually your body will believe you, and you'll doze off. Set your watch or cell phone to wake you up-and feel free to expand the time to sleep.

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exercise large

2. Work out

"Exercise improves sleep as effectively as benzodiazepines in some studies," reports Dr. Kalyanakrishnan Ramakrishnan, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. On average it reduces the time it takes to get to sleep by 12 minutes, and it increases total sleep time by 42 minutes. And it doesn't take much. Studies at the University of Arizona show that walking six blocks at a normal pace during the day significantly improves sleep at night for women. Scientists suspect that exercise sets your biological clock into a consistent wake/sleep pattern, or it may boost the brain's production of serotonin, a neurochemical that encourages sleep. Just make sure you finish your walk at least two hours before bed. Any later and the energizing effect of the activity can actually keep you up.

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journal

3. Keep a worry journal

Keep a worry journal beside your bed. When you wake and start worrying, jot down everything you're worrying about and any strategies you've thought of that will solve the problems to which they're related. Then close the journal, put it on your nightstand, turn out the light, and go back to sleep. Your worries will be waiting for you in the morning.

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nightmare

4. Avoid scary novels before bed

Thrillers and every other scary book are absolutely verboten if you expect to sleep, says Dr. Becky Wang-Cheng, a medical director at Kettering Medical Center in Ohio. No one sleeps when they're expecting something from under the bed to grab them. Kids aren't the only ones afraid of monsters.

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remote control

5. Turn off late-night news

Given the fact that most late-night newscasts tend to feature murder, mayhem, and man's inhumanity to man, these are bound to turn on every arousal mechanism your body owns. No way are you going to drift into a peaceful sleep after 30 to 60 minutes of watching violence and disturbing stories. So ditch the late news. Watch it in the morning when that shot of adrenalin it triggers will help you fight rush-hour traffic.

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couple kissing in bed

6. Have a quickie

Some 44 percent of midlife women say they don't have time for sex. But the Big O is still one of the most sleep-inducing agents around. Just don't forget to protect yourself against an unanticipated side effect that could appear nine months later. Now that would really trash your sleep!

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