1. Stick to a schedule. Try to wake up at the same time every morning, no matter when you fell asleep or how well you slept. Making up for lost sleep by sleeping in on weekends makes it harder to get up on Monday. Try to keep the same bedtime every night.
2. Seek the sun. Research suggests that we all need at least two hours of sunlight each day to keep our biological clock on track. But studies show that most healthy older people and even many young people don’t meet their quota. Men average 90 minutes of sunlight per day, women 45 minutes – and elderly patients in nursing homes average only a paltry 2 minutes of sun most days.
3. Exercise. Although an intense workout within three hours of bedtime may interfere with sleep, physical activity earlier in the day helps induce bedtime drowsiness. One University of Washington study found that people who ran or walked for 40 minutes three days a week had longer periods of deep sleep than people in a more lethargic control group. An analysis of 12 other studies on the subject found that exercise is most likely to improve sleep in women and older people.
4. Eat early. Finish your evening meal by 6:30 p.m. so that your body’s digestive processes will be at rest when you go to bed. This will help you to avoid stomach acid reflux, which causes heartburn, a painful problem that can disrupt sleep.
5. Hop in the tub. Soaking in a hot bath an hour and a half before bedtime will raise your body’s core temperature, then cause it to cool – a biological signal that it’s time to snooze. US researchers studied female insomniacs in their 60s and 70s and found that those who bathed in water temperatures of about 40.5°C spent more time in deep, slow-brain-wave sleep, the type we need to recover from fatigue.
6. Develop a bedtime ritual. Following a routine every night before bed will slide you into sleep. Play the same piece of music, write in a diary and, of course, brush and floss your teeth.
7. Drink fewer liquids. Cutting back on fluids, especially those containing caffeine, during the two-hour period prior to bedtime will minimise the need for trips to the bathroom during the night.
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