10 ways to sleep better tonight

Tired of feeling tired? Here are 10 things you can do today to help improve your sleep tonight

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sleep naked

1. Sleep naked

It’s easier to adjust your comfort zone with sheets and blankets you can pull up or throw off rather than a long nightgown or a pair of fleece pajamas, says neurologist Dr. Charles J. Bae, a sleep specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center. The idea is to make the adjustment in a way that rouses you from sleep the least.

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couple in bed

2. Have a quicky

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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friends walking

3. Make a date with your friends

Studies at UCLA reveal that women who have healthy friendships and interactive relationships with their children actually sleep better. The “tend-and-befriend studies,” as they are called, conducted by UCLA researcher Shelly Taylor, Ph.D., indicate that when women are stressed, they tend to their children and seek out other women, possibly an ancient survival mechanism that allowed women to band together to protect themselves and their families. The studies show that when this happens, a woman’s level of a biochemical called oxytocin, which blocks cortisol, the body’s chief stress chemical, is increased, allowing them to rest easier than their wired male counterparts.

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woman walking

4. Take a walk

Or run. Or bike. Or skate. Or skip rope with some kids on the neighbourhood playground. You get the idea. “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.

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Cookies and milk

5. Snack on cookies and milk

The tryptophan in milk will help you feel sleepy, but you need some carbs to get it where you want it to go in your brain, says Mary Susan Esther, M.D., and president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Cookies are her carb of choice. Just make sure to choose a low-fat variety and eat them in moderation.

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6. Write down a list of stressors

“Every night a couple of hours before bed, sit down and make a list of all the issues, problems, and things you have to deal with, says Donna Arand, clinical director of Kettering Hospital Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio. “Next to each item, write a solution or plan.”

When you’re ready for bed, put the list by the bedroom door. That way, if thoughts of your problems arise as you’re trying to sleep, you can tell yourself, “I’ve got a plan and I’ll work on it tomorrow,” says Arand. The reassuring presence of your plan by the door will give it a concrete reality that will allow you to shift your mind to more peaceful things.

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7. Drink water

Or juice. Or decaffeinated diet soda. Drink anything but coffee, hot chocolate or tea within six to 10 hours of bed. Caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine, a chemical produced by your brain that makes you sleepy. In fact, studies have shown that the caffeine in even one cup will rev your circuits enough to reduce both the length and restorative depths of sleep. It will also wake you during the night to urinate.

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8. Chill out before bed

Lower the temperature of your bedroom before you climb into bed, says Dr. Becky Wang-Cheng, a medical director at Kettering Medical Center in Ohio. Lower temperatures tell your body it’s time to sleep. If your bed partner objects, just tell him or her to bundle up.

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9. Give yourself an hour

The one right before bed. You need it to wind down and transition from the woman-who-can-do-everything into the woman-who-can-sleep. Unfortunately, most women are not giving themselves one single second. According to the 2007 National Sleep Foundation poll, during the hour before bed, around 60 per cent of us do household chores, 37 percent take care of children, 36 percent do activities with other family members, 36 per cent are on the Internet, and 21 per cent do work related to their jobs.

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10. Skip the steak, have the pasta

“Generally, carbohydrate-rich foods are more soporific, while foods that contain protein are more alerting,” says Dr. Rachel Morehouse, medical director of the Atlantic Health Sciences Sleep Centre in Saint John, N.B. Just don’t stuff yourself too close to bedtime. “A big meal before bed encourages heartburn and reflux, isn’t well metabolized and usually leads to weight gain. I try to avoid eating before bed,” she says.

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