Open the shades
Expose yourself to bright light within 15 minutes of waking up. This stops production of melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone), and gets your brain and body going. Outdoor sunshine is best, but if that’s not possible, switch on a full-spectrum bulb in the bedroom or kitchen. Vita-Lite and Gorlux are popular greenhouse bulbs that mimic sunlight for plants—they can do the same for you.
Make your bed
Then clean up any of yesterday’s clothes that might have hit the bedroom floor. And while you’re at it, sweep all that junk on the nightstand into drawers or the trash. Books, mail, watches, loose change—clutter makes it harder to relax. “You want as little in the bedroom as possible,” says Joyce Walsleben, PhD, an associate professor at New York University’s School of Medicine. Decorate in muted colors, and leave out only pleasant things, like photos of loved ones.
No coffee after 1 p.m.
And no more caffeinated soft drinks either. For many people, caffeine lingers in the system for longer than they realize. Even small amounts of caffeine may keep you up late, because it blocks a brain chemical called adenosine that helps us feel drowsy and fall asleep. By the way: the older you are, the more sensitive you become to caffeine, because your liver becomes less effective at filtering it out of your system.
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Handle family business early
For some reason, couples often wait until bedtime to talk over issues, emotions, or schedules—and we all know what those late night talks can do to your sleep. Instead, communicate early in the evening, when you are both better able to focus, and resolve things before climbing into bed.
Adjust the thermostat
Experts say that 65 degrees is the ideal sleeping temperature. Anything warmer can spark neural activity and induce nightmares, while a colder setting will prevent your body from relaxing as it tries to protect your core temperature.
Sleep in total darkness
That means turning your digital alarm clock toward the wall, or throwing a face towel over it. Blocking that big, luminous display has a second big benefit: If you wake up in the middle of the night, you won’t start watching the minutes go by, which just makes you anxious and aroused. And if your bladder nudges you to the bathroom, don’t turn on the light. Even a short stint under a bright bulb will tell your biological clock that it’s time to wake up. A night light is much less disturbing.