Special Report

Can't Sleep? Try These Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

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1. Keep the pets out of your bed

Sleeping with pets is very common. About half of dogs and 62% of cats in the United States sleep in their owner’s beds. But Shukla is advising against the practice. “Make sure no one is disturbing you while you sleep,” he said. “And that includes pets.” While this may be obvious to people with allergies, pets can scratch and get in and out of bed several times, possibly waking you up. In a Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center study, about 53% of people who slept with their pets said their sleep was disturbed in some way.

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2. Don’t exercise in the evening

Working out, especially doing any aerobic activities, will lead to an elevated level of serotonin, often called “the happy hormone,” in the body. Serotonin, which promotes wakefulness, stimulates the brain, Shukla explained. You end up feeling very energetic. This is the opposite of relaxation, which the body should be experiencing before bed.

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3. Avoid caffeine several hours before bed

Caffeine is a stimulant and should be avoided at least four to five hours before bed, according to Dr. Ari Laliotis, a board-certified sleep medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in California. This includes chocolate and coffee.

“Coffee has a decent half-life,” Dr. Joshua Tal, a psychologist with a specialty in sleep disorders, said. “It stays in the body for 5-6 hours.” He doesn’t recommend having coffee after 3 p.m.

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4. Skip the last cigarette

Smoking wreaks havoc on your body and you should absolutely quit. But if you still smoke, try to at least not light up a cigarette a few hours before bed. “Nicotine is a stimulant and it promotes alertness,” Smith said. Consuming any kind of stimulant before bed is not conducive to falling asleep, he noted.

“Additionally, people who are addicted to nicotine may experience withdrawal symptoms in their sleep that may cause them to wake during the night,” Smith added. “Smoking has been shown to not only cause disrupted sleep and insomnia, but has also been linked to sleep-disordered breathing.”

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5. Make the bedroom cool

“The body is designed to sleep better at cooler temperatures,” Smith said. “In fact, our temperature naturally drops in the evening to prepare us for sleep,” he added. For most people, the optimal sleeping temperature is between 60 and 67 Fahrenheit, according to him.

That is why you should adjust the room temperature accordingly. “A warm room will raise your body temperature, making you uncomfortable, possibly waking you up and affecting your sleep negatively,” Laliotis said.