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How Much Melatonin Should You Really Be Taking?

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How to Relax

What to do instead before bed to relax and drift into dreamland.

If your usual bedtime routine involves TV, your cell phone, or a tablet, chances are you’re not sleeping as well as you could be. Even if you think that mindlessly clicking through your Facebook newsfeed and watching silly cat videos helps you to wind down, the light from those electronic screens may actually curb your body’s natural production of melatoninThe hormone secreted by the pineal gland thought to help adjust our internal and external clocks
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, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. The result: You may take longer to nod off and wake up more frequently during the night. Instead, hit the “off” button on those digital devices and try these tech-free, sleep-inducing strategies for better zzz’s all night long.

Breathe In, Breathe Out. Yoga devotees swear by the power of breath for its ability to calm the mind and body. You can make it as simple as slowing your breath, inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling completely through your mouth. Or, try this trick: Lie on your left side and gently press on your right nostril to close it in order to breath slowly in and out through your left nostril. (Or lie on your opposite side and close the other nostril—whichever is most comfortable.)

Squeeze and Release. Sometimes a little self-induced tension is just what you need in order to fully relax and drift off. That’s the idea behind progressive relaxation exercises like this one. Lying comfortably, curl your toes strongly and hold for a few moments. Then relax them completely. Then, squeeze your calf muscles and relax those. Work your way up the body, squeezing one body part, and then letting it go. By the time you get to your shoulders you’ll be completely blissed out.

Find Your Sleepy Spots. Certain acupressure points in the body can help you wind down.  Three to know: the spot between your eyebrows at the top of your nose, the indent between your big toe and second toe, and the spot just below the toenail on your big toe. Press firmly on each of those spots and hold for 20 seconds each time.

Drink This, Not That. You probably already know that caffeine can keep you up, especially if you drink it later in the day. In fact, it’s best to avoid it after 2:00pm to prevent sleep disruption. But did you know that alcohol can also be a sleep disruptor, too? Even though that glass of wine may leave you feeling drowsy, it can actually keep you from sleeping as deeply and cause sleep disruptions during the night. Instead, try a glass of warm milk or herbal tea for a soothing nighttime ritual.

Turn Down the Temp. Cooler temperatures, between 60 and 67 degrees, are typically considered best for sleep.  But did you know that your body’s temperature naturally falls as bedtime approaches, triggering sleepiness? Help the process along by inching down the thermostat, or taking a warm bath or shower (your body will naturally cool as you dry off).

Lower the Lights. The rising and setting of the sun plays an important role in setting your natural Circadian Rhythm (Body Clock) A daily rhythmic activity cycle, based on 24- hour intervals. This is often called your "body clock."
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, so your body knows when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to sleep. That’s why it’s a good idea to turn on all the lights and open the blinds first thing in the morning. It’s also why it’s a good idea to start dimming the lights as bedtime approaches in order to trigger the production of melatonin.

Read a Book. Reading is a great way to prepare for sleep—as long as you aren’t diving into a gripping page-turner that’s overly stimulating. Stick to an old-fashioned paper book, if possible, or use an e-reader (such as a Kindle or Nook), rather than a bright tablet.