8 Rules to Follow Before, During and After Sleep

Rule #1—Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. (You knew that was coming, right?)

Rule #2—Fall asleep 20 minutes faster by picturing yourself in a relaxing locale, according to the findings of a University of Oxford study. You can also try counting backward from 300 by threes instead of counting sheep, says Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist and the author of The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep. (Research has shown that the sheep trick is actually too simple to be effective).

Rule #3—In the 2 hours before bed, try not to drink any liquids, so you won't have to get up to pee during the night. At least 6 hours before bed, stop drinking caffeine, to prevent it from keeping you up. Three to 4 hours before bed, stop drinking alcohol—it may help you conk out fast, but you'll wake up in the second half of the night after your body is done metabolizing it.

Rule #4—Give yourself a 30-minute gadget-free period before bed—that includes smartphones, tablets, laptops and TVs (you can re-watch Making a Murderer and come up with new theories on what really happened another time). The blue light they give off can delay your body's release of melatonin. Do something relaxing with that 30-minute window instead, like making some headway on the best-seller you keep meaning to read.

Rule #5—Leave your book in the living room. You know you're not supposed to lie in bed tossing and turning, so having a good book waiting for you in another area gives you an automatic place to go and a calming activity to do when the inevitable (but hopefully infrequent) sleepless night happens. Keep the light just bright enough to read by.

Rule #6—Don't get into bed until it's actually time to go to sleep. The more time you spend out of bed, the stronger your sleep drive, or your need for deep sleep, says Colleen Carney, PhD, coauthor of the book Goodnight Mind: Turn off Your Noisy Thoughts and Get a Good Night's Sleep.

Rule #7Assume the right position. Stomach sleeping can lead to tossing and turning because of the stress it puts on your neck, and sleeping on your back can make sleep apnea (and snoring) worse. Try curling up on your non-dominant side with a pillow between your knees instead. Doing so takes pressure off your lower back and places your body weight on the joints, muscles and tendons that you don't use as much (which means they're less sensitive), says Nick Littlehales, a U.K.-based sleep coach.

Rule #8—Seriously—stop using the snooze button. That seemingly innocent just-10-more-minutes tap (or taps plural, if you're like most of us) can lead to a must-to-go-back-to-bed feeling that can last anywhere from 2 to 4 hours after you finally get up, according to research. Continually waking up then falling back asleep confuses your brain and body, leaving you groggier and more tired than you would be if you'd just gotten up the first time the alarm went off.


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