11 STEPS TO STRESS-BUSTING SLEEP
Simple and sensible bedtime makeovers
Have trouble sleeping? The reason may be staring you in the face—or lying beside you. According to experts, your environment plays a role in how long and soundly you sleep. For dreamy nights, here are some quick changes that can turn the spot where you spend one-third of your life into a sleep sanctuary:
Keep It Cool
Sleep studies suggest that you will sleep lightly and wake up more often if your room is hot. The ideal sleeping temperature is about 68ºF to 70ºF, says Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD, director of sleep disorders at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. If you and your bedmate are at odds over what constitutes a sleep-friendly temperature, the chilly partner can use extra blankets.
Remove Electronic Distractions
Most Americans have a TV in the bedroom, and 36 percent of us have a computer or fax machine there, too, according to a recent sleep survey. But if you watch television, play video games or work in your sleeping chamber, you may condition yourself to associate it with wakefulness, caution sleep experts. Another reason to banish the TV and computer: Research suggests that the stimulating content and the glow from a bright screen may keep you up.
Cover Your Clock
That way you won't be able to check the time if you can't sleep. Keeping track of how much shut-eye you've lost is an anxiety-provoking calculation almost guaranteed to chase away the Sandman.
Dim the Lights
Research shows that bright light can suppress production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. To make it easier to conk out, use a 40-watt bulb in your bedside lamps, suggests Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep. This intensity has little effect on melatonin levels.
Clear Up the Clutter
Seeing clothes draped over chairs or bills and paperwork piled on your night table may remind you of unfinished chores. If your to-do list is dancing through your head, you won't be able to unwind. Tidying up may de-clutter your mind as well as your bedroom if mess causes stress, says Dr. Zee.
Consider Blackout Shades
At night, light from a street lamp or neon sign shining through your window may disrupt your sleep. And early-morning sun might rouse you before you feel well rested. For sound sleep, it's best to have a dark room.
Add a Noise Conditioner
Intermittent noises, like police sirens or barking dogs, may jolt you awake. But steady, low-level sound—the hum of a white-noise machine or light static from a radio set between two stations—can lull you to sleep and drown out distractions.
Use Smaller Sheets
Your bedmate's habits—including tossing and turning and hogging the covers—can cause you to lose several hours of sleep a week, according to a 2004 Harris Interactive survey. Sharing your mattress with a mover and kicker? Try putting a long pillow between you. To prevent your spouse from pulling the covers off you when he or she rolls over, make your bed by placing twin-size top sheets and blankets side by side on a double-, queen- or king-size bed, suggests Barbara Heller, author of How to Sleep Soundly Tonight.
Allergy-proof Your Bed
Sneezing or wheezing disturbing your sleep-but you don't have a cold? Microscopic dust mites that make their home in bedding may be to blame. Even scrupulous cleaning won't completely eliminate them, but you can cut your exposure to this common cause of asthma and allergy attacks by encasing your comforter, pillows, mattress and box spring in non-allergenic covers (available at most home and linen stores).
Pick the Perfect Pillow
A pillow that's too high may cause neck and back strain that prevents you from getting a good night's sleep, suggests a new Japanese study. "The purpose of a pillow is to keep your neck in a neutral position," explains Serena Hu, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, department of orthopedic surgery. If your pillow is too plump, your head flexes forward; if it's too flat, your head drops backward.
Banish Pets from the Bedroom
Fido may be the reason you're dog-tired. More than half of pet owners reported that their dogs or cats disrupted their Zzzs nightly, according to a Mayo Clinic survey.