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The secret to getting enough sleep

(MoneyWatch) Your alarm is set for 6 a.m., but every morning you hear it blaring and hit snooze. Nine minutes later, you hit snooze again, and again, until your back-up alarm goes off and you get out of bed a bit after 6:40, groggy and pretty sure that planned workout isn't going to happen before you need to leave the house by 7:15.

Is there any way to break this cycle?

Sure, says Patty Tucker, a Northern California-based sleep consultant. The key is to realize that if you really can't pull yourself out of bed at the time you intend to get up, you're probably not getting enough sleep. So you sleep in -- but not in a way that's helpful (snooze button sleep is pretty much useless). If you want to get up at a certain time, then getting adequate sleep means you need to stretch your sleep back earlier in the night. That means going to bed on time. And that means setting a bedtime alarm.

A bedtime alarm? "I get this shocked look," says Tucker, whenever she suggests it. She says that "it's so simple, and I think we have a tendency to ignore the simplest things or discount them if we think of them." But she notes that "simplest things are the most powerful."

Set an alarm for 30 minutes before you need to be asleep, and when it goes off, you have to make a conscious decision. "We get so caught up in what we're doing, even if what we're doing is watching the Kardashians," says Tucker. "It takes something to actually pull you out of that reverie." An alarm will do that, and force you to decide if you're giving up on your morning plans in advance or not.

An alarm also has the benefit of telling whoever you're with that you intend to wind down, too. Often, couples get into a cycle where both parties are tired, but neither wants to be the one to turn off the TV. An alarm can bring a neutral outside perspective to this dilemma. The alarm isn't judging. It's just telling you that it's 10:00, and if you plan to be asleep at 10:30 in order to get 7.5 hours of sleep before 6 a.m., then now is the time to start the bedtime process. More often than not, says Tucker, "it works."

Do you give yourself a bedtime?

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