Sleep Better Naturally Without Drugs: Sleep Doctors Confess Their Favorite Tips

When you can’t fall asleep, try these sleep doctor-approved tips to nod off naturally.

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If you tend to wake up at night, turn your clock around

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When you see what time it is, you instantly start to panic about not being able to get back to sleep and being exhausted tomorrow. All of a sudden you've created a level of anxiety for yourself that makes it harder to go back to sleep.

Turn down the thermostat

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Set it about two degrees cooler than what you're normally comfortable at. Studies show we sleep better when it’s cooler.

Go to bed later

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I was giving a lecture in Florida and a woman was worried because she woke up every day at 4 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. But when I asked her what time she went to bed, she said 8 p.m. If you go to bed at 8 p.m. and wake up at 4 a.m., you don't have insomnia; you're just going to bed too early.

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Ditch those pajamas

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Sleeping in the buff lets your skin breathe and helps your body stay cooler, which makes it easier to fall asleep and sleep more soundly. It will also boost intimacy. One study found that couples who sleep naked are more likely to report being happy in their relationships.

Let yourself watch some TV

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I've cured more insomnia than you can imagine by telling people it's OK to fall asleep with the TV on. A lot of people simply can't turn off their brains, but watching TV helps. Put it on a timer so it doesn't disrupt your sleep later in the night.

Use a pad and pen to calm a racing mind

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Write down your worries and how you're going to address them tomorrow. Then try a mental exercise to occupy your brain, like counting up by sevens or thinking of fruits and vegetables that start with the letter B.

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Consider separate rooms

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If your bed partner really disturbs your sleep, try a bigger bed or—even better—separate rooms. People don't like to hear that, but it really improves sleep for a lot of couples.

Don't bring your phone or tablet to bed

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Research shows the blue light it emits can halt your production of the hormone melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy. If you can't resist checking your device from the sack, use a pair of blue-light blocking glasses that screen out the most harmful rays.

Get kids and pets out of your bed

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It's tough to tell patients to get their pets and their children out of their beds, but they're a big reason people aren't sleeping well. One couple I treated had a 13-year-old who was still sleeping in their bed!

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If you can't sleep, don’t just lie there

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Instead, get out of bed and do something that's relaxing but boring until you start to feel drowsy. Read a book, turn on the TV, do a Sudoku puzzle, or work on a jigsaw. The goal is to get your mind off the fact that you can't sleep.

Sources:

Board-certified sleep specialists Stephanie Silberman, PhD, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Muhammad Najjar, MD, at Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois; Meir H. Kryger, MD, former chair of the National Sleep Foundation; and Michael Breus, PhD, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health


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