Get great sleep with these tips

Sep 13, 2012 at 7:00 a.m. ET

Experts recommend at least six hours of sleep per night, warning that if you don't get your fair share, you could experience long-term effects such as premature aging and weight gain, and it can even possibly lead to Alzheimer's!

Get your Zzzs
Woman sleeping peacefully

Do you have trouble nodding off and staying that way? Here are some tips to help you get a good night's rest.

Planning

Plan for a good night's sleep. If you have loads of thoughts buzzing around in your brain, write them down before you slip between the sheets so you can deal with them in the morning. Alternatively, deal with any issues — such as your office or living area — away from your bedroom so that your boudoir remains a place of solitude and rest.

Stick to a schedule

The Mayo Clinic recommends that you determine a sleep schedule that works for your life and then stick to it whenever possible. For example, if you tend to go to bed at 10 p.m., do the same on weekends even if you don't have to be up as early as usual the next day. When you are consistent, your body becomes more familiar with the cycle of when to wake and when to sleep, which makes you more productive at both.

No liquids before bedtime

It stands to reason that if you polish off a bottle of water just before bedtime, you're going to need to visit the toilet throughout the night. The Mayo Clinic suggests you limit how much you drink before going to bed to reduce the need to wake during the night. This is particularly true of alcoholic beverages. Even though they might make you dozy upon consumption, they can lead to sleep disruptions later in the night. If you enjoy caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea or pop, avoid drinking them too close to bedtime, as the caffeine can cause you to have trouble getting to sleep, or it may wake you up in the middle of the night.

Exercise

Regular exercise can help your body achieve a deeper, more restful sleep, but it's best to exercise long before you hit the hay, since getting your blood pumping too close to bedtime can cause you to be too energized to sleep.

Dim the lights

Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends you dim the lights an hour before bedtime, thereby creating a false sunset that tricks your brain into getting tired. Sneaky!

Romp

Sex is a great way to help the body transition into sleep mode — just try to avoid drifting off while in the midst of the process!

Music

Death metal or heavy hip hop may not send you off into the land of nod, but a soothing soundtrack can work wonders in helping your mind and body to relax. Just make sure it is playing quietly, and avoid tunes that bring up particular memories or thoughts that could have the opposite effect.

Warm socks

Your feet get cold more easily than other parts of your body, so keep your toes toasty warm with a pair of socks to help prevent overnight awakenings.

Hot shower

A hot shower not only increases circulation, rejuvenates your body and relieves stress, but it also raises your body temperature, and when you raise your body temperature late in the evening, it falls again at bedtime, facilitating sleep!

Turn off electronics

Rather than sitting in front of the TV or surfing the internet up until just before hopping into bed, turn off all your electronics an hour before if you can. This will help your eyes begin to rest and calm your thoughts from whatever exciting story you were looking at. If you do need to do something before dozing off, try reading.

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