6. Choose the right pillow. One Swedish study found that neck pillows, which resemble a rectangle with a depression in the middle, can actually enhance the quality of your sleep as well as reduce neck pain. The ideal neck pillow should be soft and not too high, should provide neck support, and should be allergy tested and washable, researchers found. A pillow with two supporting cores received the best rating from the 55 people who participated in the study. Another study found that water-filled pillows provided the best night’s sleep when compared to participants’ usual pillows or a roll pillow. Yet another study found that a pillow filled with a special “cool” material composed of sodium sulfate and ceramic fiber provided a much better night’s sleep than one filled with polyester. The reason, the researchers suggest, is that the cooler pillow kept the subjects’ head cooler during the night, improving their sleep. While you may not be able to find a sodium sulfate-filled pillow, you can buy a pillow made of natural fibers, which are better at releasing heat than polyester.
Other pillow tips: if you’re subject to allergies or find you’re often stuffed up when you awake in the morning, try a hypoallergenic pillow. And experiment with the pillow’s thickness. While a thick, fluffy pillow might sound appealing, it might be too thick for you, leading to neck strain. Try a thin pillow.
7. Switch to heavier curtains over the windows, and use them. Even the barely noticeable ambient light from streetlights, a full moon, or your neighbor’s house can interfere with the circadian rhythm changes you need to fall asleep.
8. Clean your bedroom and paint it a soothing sage green. Or some other soothing color. First, the more clutter in your bedroom, the more distractions in the way of a good night’s sleep. The smooth, clean surfaces act as a balm to your brain, helping to smooth out your own worries and mental to-do lists. The soothing color provides a visual reminder of sleep, relaxing you as you lie in bed reading or preparing for sleep.
9. Move your bed away from any outside walls. This will help cut down on noise, which a Spanish study found could be a significant factor in insomnia. If the noise is still bothering you, try a white noise machine, or just turn on a floor fan.
10. Tuck a hot-water bottle between your feet or wear a pair of ski socks to bed. The science is a little complicated, but warm feet help your body’s internal temperature get to the optimal level for sleep. Essentially, you sleep best when your core temperature drops. By warming your feet, you make sure blood flows well through your legs, allowing your trunk to cool.
11. Kick your dog or cat out of your bedroom. A 2002 research study found that one in five pet owners sleep with their pets (and we’re not talking goldfish here). The study also found that dogs and cats created one of the biggest impediments to a good night’s sleep since the discovery of caffeine. One reason? The study found that 21 percent of the dogs and 7 percent of the cats snored!