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5 Easy and Scientifically-Proven Ways to Improve Your Sleep

Elaina Giolando

Sleep is one of the essential keys to health and happiness, but a recent study by Harvard Medical School found sleep difficulties affect up to 75% of the American population, contributing to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and an overall weakened immune system. Chronic sleep loss also negatively affects mood, memory, learning capabilities, metabolic processes. The worst part? The National Sleep Foundation reports that the majority of sleep problems go undiagnosed and untreated. Whether you’re sleeping seven to eight hours per night but waking up feeling tired or suffering from insomnia that prevents you from sleeping the recommended amount, here are five easy and scientifically-proven ways to dramatically improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.

Nix the night-caps.

Many of us see nothing wrong with a glass or two of wine before bed, a telling symptom of our widespread ignorance of alcohol’s powerful negative affect on sleep. Recent studies reveal that although alcohol may make you feel drowsy, it actually acts as a stimulant after a few hours in the bloodstream, causing more awakenings and a lower overall quality of sleep. As a rule, limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks per day, and none consumed within 3 hours of bedtime, advises Dr. Russell Rosenberg.

No caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime.

Caffeine is possibly the most popular drug in the world. While there is no proven health risk of moderate caffeine consumption, the National Sleep Foundation studies show caffeine stays in the bloodstream for up to 6 hours afterwards, which can negatively impact sleep when consumed too late in the afternoon or evening.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

It is widely known, but rarely practiced recommendation, which Dr. Stephen Amira refers to as “synchronizing our internal clocks.” In fact, establishing a regular sleep routine can even eliminate the need for an alarm clock as your body naturally falls asleep and awakens at the same time every day, preventing harmful snoozing in the morning.

Don’t eat a big meal within 3 hours of bedtime.

Eating right before bed can active digestion that causes insomnia, not to mention heartburn and obesity, says sleep expert Shelby Freedman Harris. If you feel hungry before going to sleep, eat a light, low-protein snack. Harris suggests bananas, nuts, crackers, cereals, and cheese, which contain the amino acid tryptophan that converts food into serotonin and melatonin, the body’s natural chemicals for relaxation.

Plan for tomorrow and keep a notepad at your bedside.

If you’re chronically unable to fall asleep at night, stress and anxiety may be the cause. WebMD doctors suggest setting aside a dedicated time, perhaps after dinner, to plan the next day and write your master to-do list. Then, keep a notepad and pen by your bedside so if anything else comes up, you can write it down on the notepad so your mind can let it go until the next morning.

Implementing just these five simple life changes can drastically enhance how much you sleep, how well you sleep, and how great you feel as a whole. After all, a natural, well-rested glow is the best fashion accessory.