Clocking eight straight hours can seem more elusive than spotting a unicorn, but here’s the kicker: It’s also the undisputed key to success during your waking time. Adults need 7-9 hours of shut-eye a night, per the National Sleep Foundation. We rounded up the most effective sleeping tips to improve your bedtime routine and get more sleep so you can nod off already.
What to Eat or Drink Before Bed
-A light snack of carbs and dairy. The perfect excuse for milk and cookies! Other proven soporifics: granola with yogurt, a turkey sandwich or a banana. Fatty, acidic foods are too much work to digest at night.
-Herbal tea. That warm cup becomes a cue to your system that it’s time to start your sleep cycle. One Bare Necessities staffer loves these Relaxation teas. Finish sipping an hour before bed to avoid bathroom breaks. (Side notes: a glass of wine or a hot toddy won’t help the cause. While alcohol can make you drowsy fast, the sleep is subpar. Curb caffeine 4-6 hours before bed, too.)
-A glass of tart cherry juice, if tea isn’t your bag. It elevates melatonin levels, the hormone that naturally regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycles, making you sleep longer and better.
-Melatonin supplements may do the trick. “I recommend 5mg one hour before bed,” says Allison Palcsesz, a board-certified family nurse practitioner based in NJ. (Always ask your doctor what’s right for you.)
What to Wear to Bed
-A sleep bra. Marilyn Monroe famously wore one to help keep her assets alert, and who are we to argue? The bra experts here recommend sleeping in a bra for the bigger-busted for a few reasons: They help counter the effect of gravity. They provide lateral support all night just as a regular bra supports you vertically all day. And anecdotally, they’ve found they wake up more rested, with less back and shoulder strain.
“If you’re a C-cup and up, pregnant or nursing, you can really benefit from a night bra,” says Heather Garcia, senior buyer at Bare Necessities. “It comes down to comfort and prevention. It just feels better to lounge around or sleep in a leisure bra, or even a camisole with a shelf bra,” she says. “Wearing a bra while lying down helps keep the girls looking better longer. No more chafing, either.” Choose a wire-free lounge bra in a super-soft, breathable fabric. Don’t wear anything so tight (like a sports bra) that it restricts circulation. Some of Heather’s favorite bras to sleep in:
-Breathable, soft pajamas. Cotton or modal will make you as comfy as possible under the covers. Heather likes DKNY Urban Essentials and Calvin Klein Essentials. Same goes for sheets: cotton or silk in summer, flannel in winter.
-A sleep mask. Ambient light (moonlight through the blinds, the glow of the alarm clock) messes with melatonin, but you can block it out in one stylish swoop with a silk mask that’s gentle on the delicate skin around your eyes. The cheeky designs at Perpetual Shade are irresistible. (Can’t bear the feeling of fabric on your face? Invest in blackout curtains.)
What to Do to Sleep Better
-Use technology. Try apps designed to help you sleep, or an app like Twilight that filters out your device’s sleep-sapping blue lightwaves. The latest wearable technology from the likes of Fitbit and Jawbone features sleep trackers.
-Sniff something lovely. Aromatherapy helps you relax, and that’s half the battle. Pick your favorite soothing scent—lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile, marjoram, valerian, clary sage or bergamot—and surround yourself with it (candles, bath products, lotion, linen spray or detergent). A dab of salve on your temples and under your nose lingers long enough to escort you to dreamland.
-Get on schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. If you’re getting enough Zzzzs, eventually you won’t even need an alarm to wake up.
-Use your bed for two things only: sleep and sex. Associating it with anything else (TV-watching, working from home) makes it harder to rest there. And make your bed in the morning: Those who do sleep better at night!
-Exercise. We all know it’s important for a million reasons, but it also helps you sleep more soundly. Take a walk, do yoga, or clean the house for half an hour. Two birds, one stone—love it!
-Pick the right light. During the day, get as much sun as possible. Sit by a window, keep the nearest shades open or take breaks outdoors. After dinner, dim the lights to start setting a sleep-inducing scene. And please don’t shoot the messenger: Avoid backlit electronics an hour before bed.
-Heat up, cool down. That drop in body temperature is the secret sauce for drifting off. Bathe or shower at night, then put the thermostat to 65-70 degrees. Flip on a humidifier if it’s dry.
-Change your soundtrack. Every little noise (a dog barking, a door slamming) registers subconsciously. Try earplugs, a ceiling fan, a white noise machine or a soothing sounds app.
-Read a book. Just ten minutes of escaping mentally while staring at the black and white pages could be enough to conk out. (Think about how much smarter you’ll feel, too!)
-Breathe easy. Dr. Andrew Weil’s technique has been making the social media rounds: In bed, with your eyes closed, inhale for 4 counts, hold the breath for 7, and exhale for 8 to slow your heart rate and drift off. Or try progressive muscle relaxation (imagine each individual body part falling asleep), visualizing your happy place or repeating a mantra.
And if all else fails, count sheep. Sleep is too great a pleasure to miss out on.
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