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Do you feel jaded at work? Are you forever craving that 'extra hour' in bed? Browse through these expert tips for the answer to your sleep problems.
Pick a bedtime when you're likely to fall asleep quickly, and make sure it's at least eight hours before you need to get up.
Keep to this bedtime for the next week and note when you wake up each morning. If you need an alarm to wake up, if it's difficult to get out of bed or if you're tired during the day, eight hours isn't enough sleep for you. Move your bedtime up by 15 or 30 minutes the next week.
Continue doing this each week until you awaken without an alarm and feel alert all day. When you determine what you think is an ideal bedtime, cut 15 minutes off it to see if you're sleepy the next day. If so, add those 15 minutes back - and you've nailed your PSQ.
Tips excerpted from Sleep for Success! Everything You Must Know About Sleep but Are Too Tired to Ask by James Maas, Ph.D .and Rebecca S. Robbins
Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up naturally at the same time every morning, including weekends. As long as you meet your PSQ without interruption, it doesn't matter when you bunk down or wake up.
Even with adequate rest, don't expect to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as the cliche goes. Your body is designed to gradually become more alert, reaching a high point in late morning and again in the late afternoon or early evening. So if you need to be at your best first thing in the morning, adjust your schedule accordingly.
Sometimes it's impossible, we know. But so-called 'fragmented sleep' - even when it goes on for hours - is not physically or mentally restorative, and it causes daytime drowsiness. It also dramatically compromises learning, memory, productivity and creativity.
Many people use snooze bars thinking that they'll get an extra hour of sleep after the first alarm goes off. Wrong! If you set the alarm to ring every 15 minutes for an hour, you might get 18 to 20 minutes worth of fragmented sleep. It's much better to go to bed one hour earlier and wake up naturally.
Every two hours of wakefulness requires a repayment of one hour of sleep. Catch up on sleep by going to bed earlier rather than sleeping later.
Don't try to make up for large sleep losses during the week by sleeping in on the weekend. This is like trying to get fit or lose weight by doing all your exercising or dieting on Saturdays and Sundays.
If you sleep until noon on Sundays, you won't be very tired come your regular bedtime and you'll have to crawl to work with the Monday-morning blahs.
When sleep is curtailed at night, a nap can be a stopgap measure to get through the day.
Naps can also be part of a well-rested person's normal routine - a natural, midday pick-me-up. However, be careful not to nap too long or too late in the day, or you'll further disturb your sleep cycle.
The ideal nap: 20 or 90 minutes between 2-4 p.m., when your body's energy dips.
It's the magic bullet that allows 'sleepy you' to make it through the day - the most widely used drug in the world. Unfortunately, it's also a major cause of insomnia.
Any coffee (or caffeinated tea, soda, energy drink or chocolate bar) after 2 pm will probably disrupt your sleep.
Caffeine has a half-life of six hours which means that six hours after your last sip, half the caffeine is still in your body.
Many people believe that a nightcap facilitates sleep, but that's a tired old wives' tale. Alcohol is not a sedative.
A drink after work or with dinner is fine because your body will have plenty of time to absorb the alcohol.
But if you drink within three hours of bedtime, it will damage the quality of your rest.
Nicotine is an even stronger stimulant than caffeine. It makes it hard to fall asleep and maintain sleep.
The reason nicotine causes you to lie awake at night is because your body is actually experiencing withdrawal symptoms - craving another hit. Studies clearly demonstrate that sleep improves immediately when subjects stop smoking.
Two-pack-a-day smokers who quit cut the time they lie awake at night in half.
Exercise raises endorphin levels to deepen sleep and make it more efficient and restful. The best time to exercise isn't 'early morning' - an extra hour of sleep does more for your health than running around in a half-awake state.
The best time to work out is 5-7 pm. Exercising at these times is more likely to enhance your nighttime sleep.
But avoid strenuous exercise (except pleasurable sex!) within three hours of bedding down. That's because exercise elevates core body temperature for five to six hours. In order to feel drowsy and stimulate the release of melatonin, body temperature needs to be dropping.
This is the ideal sleeping temperature. If you're used to it being sauna-like, reduce the temperature gradually.
A bedroom that's too warm can even induce nightmares. If 65 degrees feels frigid, add a blanket, night cap, pair of socks, a special friend or a warm puppy.
Light is one of the most powerful cues for initiating and maintaining wakefulness. The lighting in your bedroom should provide a soft, warm glow.
Avoid halogen lamps and fluorescent fixtures. Choose low-wattage, tungsten bulbs.
Use a small lamp with a dimmer for reading in bed. Gradually lowering the brightness will fatigue your eyes and promote drowsiness.
Once the lights are out, make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. If city lights are shining through a curtain or shade, try blackout drapes.
If light from a bathroom or hall is sneaking under the door, cover the crack with a rolled-up towel. Wearing an eye mask is another alternative.
Even the LED digits on your alarm clock have enough luminosity to get through your thin eyelids and disrupt your sleep.
If you can dim the display, do so. If not, throw a T-shirt over it. This will also prevent clock watching, which is another sleep disrupter.
Even noise as low as 60 decibels, the level of a normal conversation, can stimulate your nervous system. And any sudden or loud sound can put your brain on alert.
You can mask these disruptive noises with the hum of an air conditioner, humidifier, fan, the static between FM stations, a CD of chirping crickets or rolling surf - any sound that is low and consistent.
These solutions are generally less expensive and just as effective as the white-noise products on the market.
If you have a partner who snores, try using earplugs or investing in noise-cancelling headphones.
An occasional poke in the ribs also works, although pinning a sock, with a tennis ball inside, to the back of his nightshirt is more humane.
This keeps the perpetrator on his side and less likely to snore.
Choose muted colors such as neutrals or light pastels for walls and bedding.
A light blue ceiling has been found to be soothing.
If using brighter accents, avoid contrasting colors because it discourages rest.
Leave toiletries in the bathroom. Clear off that bureau. Get rid of all those magazines and books on the nighttable.
A plant, a scenic painting and photos of family are sufficient decorations to create a balance between pleasant memories and pleasant dreams.
Because dust mites will double the weight of your mattress, you should invest in a new one every 10 years. Don't get bogged down by product claims; test drive the mattress before you buy. When you lie down, your head, neck and spinal cord should be aligned as if you were standing.
If you and your partner prefer different mattresses, consider buying twin beds and pushing them together. Ask about coil count: higher is better. You will spend one-third of your life in bed, so this is not the place to pinch pennies.
Buy the best mattress you can afford.
Soft, loose-fitting, breathable garments are ideal.
Do not wear nightclothes that are too light or heavy for the season. Cotton is a great choice for nightwear because it's comfortable and it breathes.
When the weather (or the situation) warrants, by all means try sleeping in the nude. It's conducive to great sleep.
Make sure it's firm enough to support your head and neck and maintain your spine's normal curve.
If you usually sleep in the fetal position (most people do), consider a 'side-sleeper' pillow.
These have two seams so your pillow doesn't come to a point and cause neck discomfort.
Picking great bed linens should start with the feel. Don't pay too much attention to the thread count.
Although that plays a part, the preparation of the yarns (i.e. if the yarns are spun or combed) ultimately determines how the product will feel and wear during its life.
Stick with 100 per cent cotton sheets for their absorbent quality.
Create an 'information-free' zone. That means no computers, TVs, iPads, iPods or Blackberrys in the bedroom.
They create distractions by reminding you of everything else you should be doing and act as secret stressors.
For some people, installing a home security system helps encourage worry-free sleep.
A pre-sleep routine is key to a good night's sleep. Your body needs a buffer between the day's stress and the night's rest.
You need to find peace and calm in the hour before bed. Eat a small, high-carb, low-protein food (like a piece of fruit, some crackers or a small bowl of cereal). Take a hot bath or shower. Do something: Read a novel, fold laundry or handwrite a few notes.
If you must watch TV in bed, set a timer so it's not on all night. (The noise will pull you awake as your sleep gets lighter toward morning).
Keep kids out of your bed. If you have young children, don't let them develop the sleep-disrupting habit of crawling into your bed on a regular basis.
If they insist, try putting a sleeping bag on the floor.
That way, they'll probably return to their own room after a while where the bed is more comfortable.
If you toss and turn, get out of bed! Whenever restlessness persists for more than 15 minutes, go to another room.
Walk around, tidy up, star-gaze out a window - basically do anything that is relaxing, moderately boring or doesn't require concentration.
Usually it will take 15 to 20 minutes for your body to feel sleepy again, at which point you can return to the bedroom.
Stress is the number one cause of insomnia.
Yoga poses can help your mind relax, help you let go of worry and slip into a deep slumber.
Staying in bed longer can actually keep you from gaining weight! The less sleep you're getting, the less efficiently your appetite-regulation system works.
Many people make the mistake of thinking they're hungry when they're actually sleepy. Ignore the common perception that those who sleep for eight hours or more are fat and lazy. Instead, look at it this way: The time you spend in bed is time you won't spend eating.
The best diet may not be Atkins or Jenny Craig; it's getting one additional hour of sleep every night.
Are you looking for a promotion? Learning a new skill? Studying for a test? Struggling with a problem?
No doubt about it, the best brain food is a good night's rest. In the stage of sleep called REM sleep, the previous day’s events are solidified into memory, and sequences of learned skills become muscle memories.
In almost every psychological experiment testing brain functioning, 'sleeping on it' after first learning the task improves performance.
And getting a full eight hours of sleep will fully incorporate learned material into your brain. Always get a good night's sleep before any test, interview or presentation.
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