How to Get a Better Night’s Rest


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According to a recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 65 percent of Americans know that a good night’s rest is crucial to being productive and feeling well. And yet only 10 percent of us make it a priority. As with diet and fitness routines, it’s all too easy to slack on sleep. Here, some simple, highly effective steps you can take to get more z’s.

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Make the Time

The ideal amount of sleep varies according to an individual’s genetics, but most people need between seven and nine hours, says Michael Breus, PhD, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist and sleep specialist. The average sleep cycle is 90 minutes long, and the average person goes through five cycles a night. To find your optimal duration, go to bed exactly seven and a half hours before your planned wake-up time. Add or subtract minutes to this bedtime until you’re able to wake up naturally at the same time each day, even without an alarm.

Chill Out

Set the thermostat to a cool 65 degrees, says Terry Cralle, RN, a Washington, DC, sleep educator and the author of Sleeping Your Way to the Top. “When your core temperature drops, you tend to get sleepy,” she says. And wear cozy socks: “Studies have shown that if you warm cold feet by putting on socks, your blood vessels dilate, and that tells your brain that it’s time to sleep.”

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Embrace the Dark

Your bedroom should be as devoid of light—even artificial—as possible, so use blackout shades or a sleep mask. And since blue light (emitted by phones and computers) signals our brains to stop producing melatonin, which is necessary for shut-eye, stop looking at screens at least 45 minutes before retiring. Set your phone to Do Not Disturb, or try the Thrive App. Developed by Arianna Huffington’s wellness company in partnership with Samsung, it can be set to block all calls, texts, and push notifications.

Try Aromatherapy

Before you tuck in, generously spritz a pillow spray that contains lavender, a natural sedative that has been shown in clinical studies to foster better-quality sleep. Ylangylang essential oil has also been linked to relaxation.

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Know Your Supplements

Popping pills can help—and we don’t mean Ambien. Stress-relieving magnesium is known to summon sleep, and “unless you’re eating a bushel of kale every day, you’re probably not getting enough in your diet,” says Breus, who recommends taking the mineral in a 250- to 300-milligram dose 90 minutes before bed. Try Natural Calm Original ($23). “Valerian root paired with hops is also very effective,” adds Breus, who also suggests reaching for products containing L-theanine—“excellent for sleep”—30 minutes before bed. Melatonin should only be used strategically, as it’s much better suited for circadian-rhythm issues, such as wakefulness during the night or extreme jet lag. Breus recommends Trader Darwin’s Melatonin Dietary Supplement ($9).

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Trader Darwin’s Melatonin Dietary Supplement, $9; amazon.com

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Nap Only In Moderation

Because a perfect night’s sleep can be an elusive goal, wellness hot spots have begun offering supercharged rest experiences. Nap York provides individual sleeping pods, available in 30-minute increments ($10). At ReCOVER, the NuCalm stress relief technology uses cranioelectrotherapy and auditory hypnosis to purportedly provide the benefits of two hours of sleep in just 30 minutes ($45). While regular naps are not the solution for sleep deprivation, if you’re desperate for a pick-me-up, Breus suggests a “nap-a-latte”: one small coffee followed by 30 minutes of sleep. You’ll wake up just as the caffeine kicks in, raring to go.

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of ELLE.

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