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Sound slumber results in increased energy and productivity, improved heart and immune system health, a better mood, even a longer life. And hey, you just feel so much better after a satisfying 8 hours of rest. But chances are, you're not getting it. "Sleep issues are epidemic among women today," says Michael Breus, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan.

Not surprisingly, women tend to get less sleep than men do overall, says Marianne Legato, MD, FACP, director of the Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University. Even if you don't have children, levels of sleep-promoting estrogen sink regularly during menstruation and then permanently in menopause. And symptoms related to both—cramps, headaches, hot flashes, and night sweats—also disrupt slumber. (Plagued by period cramps? Try these 3 research-proven ways to prevent them .)

But experts agree that these biological facts don't mean that sleep deprivation has to be your destiny. "Feeling tired should never be considered normal," says Dr. Breus. Yet there are no stock sleep solutions, either: Finding out what works for you takes some trial and error, but it's well worth it, says Lawrence Epstein, MD, chief medical officer of Sleep HealthCenters. "Sleep is a basic biological necessity—just like eating—and it has an impact on every aspect of your health and your life," he notes.

Try these 20 ideas to find the sleep formula that works best for you.

Set a Sleep Schedule

Take Time to Wind Down

"Sleep is not an on-off switch," says Dr. Breus. "It's more like slowly easing your

foot off the gas." Give your body time to transition from your active day to bedtime drowsiness by setting a timer for an hour before bed and divvying up the time as follows:

First 20 minutes: Prep for tomorrow (pack your bag, set out your clothes).

Next 20: Take care of personal hygiene (brush your teeth, moisturize your face).

Last 20: Relax in bed, reading with a small, low-wattage book light or practicing deep breathing.

Can't spare an hour? Try one of these 2-Minute Stress Solutions .

Sip Milk, Not a Martini

A few hours after drinking, alcohol levels in your blood start to drop, which signals your body to wake up. It takes an average person about an hour to metabolize one drink, so if you have two glasses of wine with dinner, finish your last sip at least 2 hours before bed.

Snack on Cheese and Crackers

The ideal nighttime nosh combines carbohydrates and either calcium or a protein that contains the amino acid tryptophan—studies show that both of these combos boost serotonin, a naturally occurring brain chemical that helps you feel calm. Enjoy your snack about an hour before bedtime so that the amino acids have time to reach your brain.

Some good choices:

One piece of whole grain toast with a slice of low-fat cheese or turkey

A banana with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter

Whole grain cereal and fat-free milk

Fruit and low-fat yogurt

Listen to a Bedtime Story


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