13 Secrets to Better Sleep Doctors Want You to Know

What the docs don't mention about how much rest you actually need, the unconventional ways to fall asleep fast, and other tips for catching sweet z's.

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You may not need eight hours

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The latest research shows the right amount of sleep is what leaves you energized the next day. I’m a sleep doctor, and I’ve been a six-and-a-half-hour sleeper my entire adult life.

Ditch the pajamas

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

Go ahead, watch 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.

Everyone has sleeping quirks

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Many people can’t sleep unless certain music is playing. Some adults always sleep with teddy bears. I even have one patient who has to shake a leg vigorously for 15 minutes while she falls asleep. I have no idea why, but it works for her.

A nightcap doesn't work

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Alcohol may relax you so you nod off quicker, but studies show you’ll wake up more and get less of the REM sleep you need to feel rested.

There's an easy cure for snoring

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Have a snoring bed partner? Hidden allergies are a big cause of snoring. Congestion narrows nasal passages, creating the vibrations that cause snoring. A decongestant or an antihistamine can help quiet it.

Yes, you can go to bed too early

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One 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. In certain cases, you don’t have insomnia; you’re just going to bed too early.

Write to stop worrying

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To calm a racing mind, write down your worries and how you’ll address them tomorrow. Then try a mental exercise to occupy your brain, like counting up by sevens.

You might need therapy, not drugs

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If you have insomnia, consider a referral to a clinical psychologist who specializes in sleep. He or she will use an effective technique, cognitive behavioral therapy, that gets to the root of the problem. Some studies show it works better than drugs.

No one is immune to caffeine

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Even if you can easily nod off after a cup of joe, the caffeine keeps you in light stages of sleep. During sleep studies, we see a difference on your electrocardiogram (a recording of your heart’s electrical activity) from just one cup of coffee.

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