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Get a Good Night's Sleep

Get a Good Night's Sleep

From YOU: The Owner's Manual -- Improve sleep even when you have sleep issues such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.

With some major exceptions, sleep is a lot like sex. It's something you really look forward to, and it makes you feel great when you're done. Most important, though, sleep is more like your boss -- it's much more agreeable when it goes uninterrupted.

Getting a good night's sleep is one of the most crucial things you can do for your body. Getting about 7 hours of sleep a night can make a profound difference to your brain and your heart and make your RealAge up to 1.5 years younger.

Lack of sleep makes you less mentally aware and more fatigued, causes you to eat more, and places you at a higher risk for accidents. Plus, being fatigued puts you at greater risk of making choices that age you (when you're tired, it's easier to order the bacon-double-fat burgers than the grilled salmon).

Although sleeping pills may seem like a good idea -- because they do work in the short term by shutting off the Leno-watching neurons -- they may have more harmful effects over the long term because of their addictive qualities. Instead, you can try these ways to help yourself sleep like a teenager during summer break:

  • Get on a schedule. Your body clock runs best when you're on a regular sleep schedule, like a baby. Aim to get up at the same time every day -- whether you have a full day of work or a full day of cartoons. On the weekends, try to rise within 1 hour of the time you get up during the week.
  • Change your temperature. The ideal setting for sleep is a cool, dark room. If you're having trouble sleeping, try removing a layer of clothing (like socks) or lowering the thermostat.
  • At night, eat foods that contain melatonin, a substance that helps regulate the body clock. That means oats, sweet corn, or rice. Or try a complex carbohydrate that has serotonin, like vegetables or whole-grain pasta. You can also go with the classic remedy: skim milk. Of course, you know to avoid stimulants like caffeine and exercise near bedtime. And try to avoid eating within 3 hours of going to bed.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex. It is best to take work materials, computers, and televisions out of your sleeping environment.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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