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How Exercise Affects Sleep

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How to Sleep Better if You're Stressed

Seven simple strategies to boost the amount of shut-eye you get each night

If you’re tired, you’re not alone. About 40 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night. A hectic schedule may be to blame for some of the sleep you’re missing, but here’s the good news: The following tweaks to your lifestyle might help you regain that lost slumber and start getting an optimal amount of zzz’s.

1. Manage Your Stress. A high level of anxiety can keep you awake at night, so address the cause of your stress—whether it’s a deadline at work or a family conflict—in order to score more sleep. Writing down what worries you in a journal may help get any nagging thoughts out of your head and on paper. Meditation and yoga during the day can also have calming effects on the body that will help come bedtime. For the greatest benefit, schedule a session to help you wind down before bed.

2. Schedule Exercise Carefully. People who work out for 30 minutes, three to four times a week, sleep 45 minutes to an hour more than those who don’t make time for a sweat session. But timing may be important. When you exercise, your body temperature rises, so if you exercise vigorously very close to bedtime, it might be more difficult for you to fall asleep. If you find that late workouts lead to restless nights, reschedule them for at least three hours before bedtime or do a calming form of exercise, such as yoga, near bedtime. 

3. Cut Back on Caffeine. Having a cup of coffee or tea, a soda, or an energy drink too close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep and more difficult to achieve deep, restorative sleep, because caffeine acts as a stimulant. To get more shut-eye, have your last caffeinated beverage eight hours prior to hitting the hay—that means cutting out caffeine by 2:00pm if you’re normally headed to sleep at 10:00pm.

4. Check Your Medications. Some drugs, including beta-blockers, which are prescribed for high blood pressure, can lead to insomnia. Discuss your prescriptions with your doctor to find out if any of them may be affecting your sleep.

5. Rethink Your Window Treatments. A dark room will help you sleep more soundly and fall asleep faster. Replace flimsy blinds with curtains that block light better (or wear a sleep mask to bed).

6. Create a Nighttime Ritual. Sticking to the same, calming bedtime routine every day can help signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down. Choose relaxing activities, like taking a warm shower followed by reading in bed.  

7. Don’t Sleep In. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you didn’t get enough sleep one weeknight, don’t hit snooze for hours on Saturday. Throwing off a regular sleep schedule can make it harder to fall asleep come bedtime. Find out a better way to combat sleep debt.”