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5 Smart Ways To Get A Good Night's Sleep

If it’s any consolation, you’re not the only one struggling.

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5 ways to get smart sleep pillow with eye mask on it
Travis Rathbone/Trunk Archive
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If it’s any consolation, you’re not the only one struggling to fall asleep and then waking up at 3 a.m. … and 4 a.m. … and 5 a.m. Sleep-pattern change is a part of the normal aging process, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And in this context, “change” means more difficulty drifting off and maintaining blissful, uninterrupted dream time. “When you’re an older adult, sleep is fragmented because your internal system is starting to deplete,” says Rebecca Robbins, a sleep researcher at the New York University Langone Health Center and coauthor of the 2011 book Sleep for Success!

Contrary to a popular myth, you need just as many z’s now as you did back in the day. “Toxins are removed from the brain during sleep at a rapid place and if you cut sleep short, you’re depriving yourself,” says Robbins. “Over time, it can result in a greater risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.” Sleep is also critical for relieving stress, improving your mood and weight management. (“There’s evidence to show that when we’re sleep deprived, we overestimate our appetite.”) You can’t do anything about the pesky aging part, but it is possible to take steps and sleep like a baby. Here are five expert tips for a great good night.

Use your bed exclusively for sleep (and sex)

When you stop grinding it out every day in the office, you tend to spend more time at home — which ups the temptation to check email, read a book, stream a movie on Netflix and eat in bed. Stop it. “You should be using it only for sleep and sex,” Robbins says. “It’s such an easy fix, and the best recommendation.” When you go to bed to simply go to bed, you’re instantly promoting good sleep hygiene for your brain and body. As she advises, “Save the other activities for the living room or the kitchen.”

Make sure the conditions are ideal

Set yourself up for sleep success by maintaining a proper bedroom environment. Start with blackout curtains to help block out any outside light, natural or otherwise. “Darkness is what allows the secretion of melatonin,” Robbins explains of the hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. For temperature, Robbins suggests putting the thermostat at a cool 65 degrees. “You want your core body temperature to be on the lower side,” she says. (This is especially true for menopausal women experiencing hot flashes.) And, hello, splurge on soft sheets and a supportive mattress “that you or you and your spouse absolutely love and look forward to getting into.” After all, comfort is priceless.

Control your partner’s snoring

“If your partner’s constant snoring is a problem, first make sure that it’s not a medical condition such as obstructive sleep apnea,” Robbins says. If that’s not the case, you still don’t have to stew and suffer. A white noise machine or app on your phone can muffle the annoyingly sonic range (not to mention other external sounds). You can also get crafty: Try putting a tennis ball in a sock and pinning it to your partner’s back to discourage face-up sleeping. “You snore more loudly when you’re on your back,” she says. Specially constructed pillows can also assist in putting the snorer’s body in the correct (ahem, quieter) position.

Stay busy when you’re tossing and turning

It’s the wee hours, and you’re desperate to fall back asleep. Alas, your mental wheels start spinning. Solution? “Get out of the room and do something that quiets your mind,” she advises. “If you keep tossing and turning, you’ll start to look at that bed as a stressful place.” Stay preoccupied with tasks such as clearing out the dishwasher or folding laundry. Just avoid brain-stimulating electronics. When you tire again, she adds, “go back to the bedroom, and you’ll fall asleep.”

Turn off the TV

Yes, the thought of a little post-dinner TV time in bed seems heavenly. But beware. If the TV is close to you, the blue-light emission penetrates your retinas and activates your mind when you’re trying to power it down. And what you’re watching can be just as mentally arousing, whether it’s a suspenseful sports game or a hard-charging news program. If you just can’t resist using the remote, tune in to something soothing. “I know people that swear by Seinfeld reruns,” she says. Talk about serenity now!