5 Ways to Get Better Sleep

A local sleep researcher at Marquette University has some tips to catch more Zs.


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As important as good sleep is for your health – improving your energy level, boosting your mood, and even strengthening your immune system – quality shut-eye can be hard to come by. Luckily, a growing body of scientific research on sleep suggests some simple routine tweaks can help. Here are five tips for catching more Zs, according to sleep researcher Deanna Arble, a professor of neuroscience at Marquette University.

Deanna Arble; Photo courtesy of Marquette University

1. Curate Your Light Exposure

Your circadian rhythm is like an internal clock that tells your body when it’s time to sleep. Light is one of that clock’s main drivers. You probably already know not to stare at your phone or a laptop too close to bedtime, but Arble says atmospheric light – like streetlights outside your bedroom window or a night-light in your room – can interfere with sleep, too. If your sleeping area isn’t totally dark, try investing in a pair of blackout curtains or a sleep mask.


 

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2. Stop Stimulants Sooner

Coffee too close to bedtime is an obvious no-no. But what’s “too close” varies from person to person. “Some people are more sensitive to caffeine, so pay attention to how it affects you and consider finishing your last cup of coffee before noon,” says Arble. Interestingly, exercise is also stimulating, so try to work
out in the morning or afternoon instead of right before bed.

3. Watch Your Drinking 

A nightcap might relax you after dinner and even help you fall asleep, but Arble says alcohol can cause what’s called rebound alertness, which wakes you up earlier than you want. To prevent tossing and turning or too-early wakeups, rethink your nighttime drinking habits. (Turns out, happy hour is the ideal time for a drink.). 

4. Stick With a Routine

Your bedtime habits can play a big role in promoting sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time, and choose before-bed activities that induce relaxation. Whatever’s relaxing and consistent can help your body set the tone for rest, but Arble says reading a book is an especially powerful tool. “Looking down can promote sleepiness, and conversely, if you ever feel sleepy, looking up can help to wake you up a bit,” she says. 

5. Try Melatonin 

Unlike sedating sleep aids that knock you out 10 minutes before bed, melatonin supplements work by adding a hormone that initiates your sleep cycle. If you want to try it out for yourself, Arble suggests taking the recommended dosage an hour or two before bedtime. And if you regularly struggle to fall or stay asleep, check in with your doctor.


 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s May issue.

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