Trouble Sleeping? 9 Ways to Better Zzzs

This entry is ironic because I couldn’t sleep for the life of me last night. Despite feeling exhausted when I hit the sheets, I tossed and turned for hours, finally submitting to a sleeping pill at 4 a.m. and getting a solid five hours of Zzzs. Good enough for me!

There are those who can sleep anywhere, anytime and in any position while others need an eyemask, earplugs and six pillows, so it’s important to figure out what works for you. Remember that everyone is different, so even if you sleep next to someone who’s an early bird and you’re a night owl, try not to let his or her sleep pattern affect yours. So, for my fellow frequent insomniacs, tossing-and-turners or anyone seeking quality ZZZs, here are some tried and true tips to help you achieve better rest.

Stop working already! Close your laptop, put down the business documents and give yourself at least 30 minutes to unwind before hitting the sheets. Working up until the last minute will leave your brain in overdrive. Create a nighttime routine: wash your face, brush your teeth, put on your PJs and relax by watching a few minutes of your favorite “happy” movie (not Scarface or The Terminator!) or reading a book.

Turn off the tube: There are some people who can only fall asleep while watching television (which is great for them!), but if you find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep, consider leaving the TV in the living room. Studies show that television, video games and even surfing the net stimulate the mind, making it harder to sleep. Make your bedroom your sanctuary and use your bed solely for sleeping and…“love-oriented recreation.”

How hot is it? Studies show that a drop in temperature may help you sleep better, so consider taking a hot bath 90 minutes before bedtime. Your body temperature will drop once you get out of the shower, which might help you fall asleep. It’s also important to monitor the temperature in your bedroom since being too hot or too cold can disrupt your sleep. Keep your room cool, dark and quiet for best results, and use earplugs, a sleepmask or a sound machine if necessary.

Be thankful: We all know turkey contains L-tryptophan, which is why you can feel so sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal, but it’s also found in milk and other dairy products. Have a warm glass of milk and a slice of turkey (lunchmeat will do) before bedtime and it’s a one-way ticket to dreamland!

Turn back the clock: Actually, just make sure they aren’t facing you and that they don’t tick. Any noise or visual reminders that you’re still awake may heighten your stress levels and make it harder to sleep.

Rule of thumb: Avoid caffeine, nicotine and exercise too close to bedtime – they’re all over-stimulating. One sleep expert warns that “caffeine has a 6 1/2-hour half-life…it’s still active up to 10 hours after you drink it.” Also, limit your alcohol intake: While one nightcap might help you fall sleep, excessive drinking may disrupt your sleep pattern once it wears off – and make you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night!

Get out of bed: If you haven’t fallen asleep after 15 minutes, guess what? You’re AWAKE, so get out of bed! Do something quiet like reading, writing, meditating or listening to soft music until you feel sleepy again.

Write your heart out: Sometimes it’s the running dialog in your head that prevents you from falling asleep. Take a pen to paper before bedtime and write a to-do list or journal entry to get it all out of your system.

Pop a pill? Prescribed medication and over-the-counter sleep aids like Tylenol PM or Sleepinol are fine to use once in a while — for short periods of time. A word of caution: even if the label says it isn’t addicting, you could still become psychologically dependent on the pills.