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How to Sleep Less and Feel Great

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Follow a regular schedule to live a happier, healthier life.

Erratic sleep patterns can leave you feeling out of whack, so a regular sleep schedule may be exactly what you need. Just a few adjustments to your daily routine can help you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. These tips will help you take control of your internal clock.

Be Consistent.

Pick a bedtime and a wake-up time—and stick to them as much as possible. Life will inevitably interfere, but try not to sleep in for more than an hour or two, tops, on Saturdays and Sundays so that you can stay on track. That way, your body’s internal clock—also called a 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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—will get accustomed to a new bedtime, which will help you fall asleep better at night and wake up more easily each morning.

Make Gradual Adjustments.

You won’t be able to change your sleep schedule overnight. The most effective tactic is to make small changes slowly. If you’re trying to go to sleep at 10:00pm, rather than midnight, for example, try this: For the first three or four nights, go to bed at 11:45pm, and then go to bed at 11:30pm for the next few days. Keep adjusting your sleep schedule like this. By working in 15-minute increments, your body will have an easier time adjusting.

See the Morning Light.

Your body’s internal clock is sensitive to light and darkness, so getting a dose of the sun first thing in the morning will help you wake up. Opening the curtains to let natural light in your bedroom or having a cup of coffee on your sun-drenched porch will cue your brain to start the day.

Dim the Nightlights.

Likewise, too much light in the evenings can signal that you should stay awake. Before bedtime, dim as many lights as possible and turn off bright overhead lights. Avoid computers, tablets, cell phones, and TV an hour before bed, since your eyes are especially sensitive to the blue light from electronic screens. (If there’s something good on TV at night, DVR it so you can watch it another time.)

Skip the Snooze Button.

Though it’s certainly tempting to hit the snooze button in the morning to get a few extra winks, resist. The first few days of getting up earlier won’t be easy, but post-snooze sleep isn’t high quality. Instead, set your alarm to the time that you actually need to get up and remember that it may take a few minutes for your body to adjust to a daytime rhythm. If you can, skip the alarm altogether. Your body should wake up naturally after a full night’s sleep—usually seven to nine hours—and you’ll feel most alert if you wake up without an electronic aid.

Food for Thought.

It’s not just what you eat—it’s when you eat. While you know that it’s not a good idea to go to bed on an empty stomach, being stuffed is just as bad. Having dinner around the same time every night will help keep your whole body on track. Also, limit how much you drink before bedtime to avoid trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. A good rule of thumb is to eat your last meal two to three hours before bedtime.

If you must eat before bed try a small snack that blends carbohydrates and protein together, such as cereal with a banana, cheese and crackers, or wheat toast with natural peanut butter. You should also avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol in the evenings, since those stimulants take hours to wear off.