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Surprising Dos and Don’ts for Better Sleep

May 18, 2015

Sleep Science

Few things feel better than a good night’s sleep. Quality time spent snoozing puts us in a better mood, sharpens our brains, makes us more resistant to colds and other illnesses, and even makes us look younger! “Sleep is the most underrated health habit,” says Michael F. Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic. Here are some less common — perhaps even surprising! — dos and don’ts for improving your slumber.

Do Downsize Your Dinner

Going to bed after a megameal can cause digestive discomfort that leads to wakefulness. If indigestion or acid reflux is a continual problem in the evenings, try early-bird dining — finish your last meal at least three hours before bedtime — so that you have plenty of time to digest.

Do Make Time to Worry

If you tend to fret at night, consider devoting a half hour each evening — an hour or two before bed — to the sleep-robbing task of worrying. No matter what your concerns, write them down, along with possible solutions. “The idea is, ‘Okay, now I’ve already done my worrying, and I’ve got my plans ready,’” says Michelle Drerup, PsyD, a sleep psychologist and behavioral sleep medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center. Then, at bedtime, you can rest easy.

Do Turn Upside Down

To really get your relaxation on before bed, try a yoga pose called Legs Up the Wall. This gentle inversion calms the nervous system, according to Cleveland Clinic yoga therapist Judi Bar.

  • Sit next to a wall and slowly bring your back to the floor and your legs up onto the wall. If you have back problems, use a folded towel or small pillow to support your lower back.
  • Rest your head and shoulders on the floor. Use your hands for balance as you shift your weight from side to side and scoot your bottom close to the wall.
  • Let your arms rest open at your sides, palms up. Relax your hips and buttocks. Close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply. Hold the position for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • To release, push yourself away from the wall and slide your legs to the right side. Take your time sitting up to avoid feeling dizzy.

Do Go Blue

Whether or not you’re conscious of it, paint color can affect your mood — and your sleep: Red is thought to be energizing and exciting. Orange is active and stimulates the appetite. Yellow is cheerful in small doses and stimulates memory. Blue slows the heart rate and reduces blood pressure, which makes it great for the bedroom and better slumber.

Don’t Hit Snooze

We know you want to sleep in on the weekends. Don’t. It’s important to develop a stable sleep-wake pattern, which means waking up and going to bed at the same time every night. Snoozing late on Saturdays and Sundays will only make it hard for you to get to sleep on Sunday night, and you’ll feel less refreshed on Monday.

Don’t Clutter Your Bedroom

Piles of magazines and mail, clothes strewn on the dresser (or floor!), shoes in a jumble near the closet… All that clutter can make you feel tense. Keeping your bedroom clutter-free makes it more peaceful and more conducive to sleep.

Don’t Smoke

Nicotine is a stimulant, which is why smoking cigarettes and sleep don’t mix. Nicotine will generally make it harder to fall asleep, and to stay asleep. Cigarette smokers are four times as likely as nonsmokers to report feeling unrested in the morning.

Don’t Watch the Clock

When people have difficulty sleeping, they tend to watch the clock anxiously. Try this: Set your alarm as needed and then put the clock (yes, that includes your smartphone) somewhere that it can be heard but not seen.

Did you know?

Getting in any exercise during the day helps you reach the deepest and most fulfilling stages of sleep.

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