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Get Better at Falling Asleep Faster

July 14, 2014

By the editors of Women’s Health
Photo by Women’s Health

If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping (falling asleep, staying asleep, or falling back asleep), then you know the misery and anxiety attached to not getting a full night of shuteye. No longer. Use these 7 genius strategies to make sure that you’re out cold and sweetly dreaming as soon as your head hits the pillow.

 Related: How to Burn More Calories While Sleeping 

Do This First
“Turn down the lights a full hour before bedtime,” says Michael Breus, Ph.D., a sleep specialist. Lowering overhead bulbs and drawing the shades helps your body produce more melatonin, which can induce sleepiness.

For even better dimmed light, install a Good Night bulb ($70, definitydigital.com), which eighty-sixes the blue-light wavelength that’s considered most detrimental to sleep.

Nighttime Noshing

Banana: The magnesium and potassium can relax your muscles.
Tart cherry juice: This drink is full of melatonin, which may help you doze off.
Toast with peanut butter: Easy-to-digest simple carbs topped with tryptophan-rich protein won’t keep you up.
Rooibos tea: Soothing and caffeine-free (black and green aren’t always).

Related: 5 Foods That Are Keeping You Up Every Night 

Supply List: Accessori-zzz’s
Eye Mask

Choose one that’s lightly filled or weighted (as opposed to a single flap of cotton), or made with a pillowy fabric like fleece, so it blocks light from coming in around the sides of the mask too. Sleep Mask ($45, sleepstudio.com) is chic, not cheesy.

The perfect slumbering outfit should be loose; made of a lightweight fabric such as cotton or silk; and comfortable around your middle (no gut-pinching waistband!). We like the Butterfly Blue camisole, $31, and shorts, $24, figleaves.com.

Myth, Debunked
Sheep counting? Baaa-d idea. In a study, insomniacs asked to imagine a nice scene (like a future vacation) fell asleep faster than those told to count something (like sheep). Detailed, positive images may take up enough cognitive space to distract you from other thoughts, while mindlessly ticking off numbers won’t.

Related: The Best Sleep Position For You 

Keep Your Cool
The ideal temperature for snoozing is 65°F to 70°F

Relaxing or angst-producing? We rank the usual suspects.

E-mail—especially for work. “It stirs up emotions,” says Breus. “To fall asleep, you don’t want to be dwelling on your day.”

Pretty Bad
Texting or game playing. Though it can take your mind off stressors, constant pings and beeps are bound to stimulate you (ahem, Candy Crush).

Related: 4 Tech Traps That Destroy Your Memory 

At Your Own Risk
Watching television or a movie. This is the least disruptive tech activity (especially if the screen is far away) because it’s passive and distracting.

Mostly Calming
Sex. Everyone’s different, but “the endorphins tend to be good for sleep in most people,” says Janet Kennedy, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist.

Downright Soothing
Reading fiction. “It settles the mind and distracts you from other things buzzing in your head,” says Kennedy.

Quick Tip: If you’re reading on your tablet, slap on a SleepShield screen cover to dim the snooze-destroying glow (prices vary by tablet, sleepshield.com).

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