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5 Ways to Get a Good Night's Sleep

You know you need a good night's sleep to be productive at work, and now new research has found that we might not make the best decisions when we're sleep deprived. But getting to sleep is not an easy feat for many of us.

According to the latest sleep poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 43% of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep on weeknights and 60% say that they experience a sleep problem every night or almost every night.

But new research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has found that making a few behavioral changes can significantly improve your chances of getting to sleep and staying asleep. Try these five tips from sleep experts if you have insomnia or wake up during the night:

  1. Avoid electronics about an hour before bed. As I reported in a previous blog, those who hang out on Facebook, email about work, play video games or text before bed get less sleep. Electronics entice us to stay up later and many of the more interactive uses keep are brains on alert.
  2. Reduce the time spent in bed. Sleep restriction is part of the behavioral approach used in the Internal Medicine study and a well-researched way of helping people with insomnia regulate their sleep. The idea is to limit sleep in order to help you get to sleep and stay asleep through the night. Limit your sleep time to your average nightly sleep time plus 30 minutes, but no less than six hours a night.
  3. Get up at the same time every day. As hard as it may be, don't allow yourself to sleep late on weekends. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule helps regulate your circadian rhythm.
  4. Don't go to bed until you feel sleepy. Lying in bed wide awake is about the worst thing you can do in the interest of sleep. If you can't fall asleep within about a half hour, get out of bed and read a book, do a crossword puzzle, practice relaxation exercises, or anything else that relaxes you, but stay away from your computer or smart phone.
  5. Exercise early in the day. Exercising can help improve your sleep, but avoid exercising three hours before bed, as that can have the opposite effect, making it harder to fall asleep.
What sleep strategies work for you?
Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for the New York Times, national magazines and websites including Health, Prevention, iVillage and the Huffington Post. Follow her on twitter.
Photo courtesy flickr user Martin Cathrae
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