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Remember the days when going to bed meant going to sleep?

If you’re like millions of others, that now means anything but nodding off to dreamland. Before you think about trying sleeping pills, which can have numerous nasty side effects, or just become resigned to the fact that falling asleep easily is a thing of the past, give these tips a try. You might be very surprised at the results!

  1. Stop falling asleep on the couch in front of the television: You might think that this counts toward your nightly zzz’s, but it’s actually counter-productive. By the time you wake up in that semi-haze and work your way to the bedroom, brush your teeth, put on PJs and actually climb into bed, you’ve managed to wake yourself up to a large degree. Plus, you’ve no doubt exposed yourself to some bright bathroom or bedroom light (more on that in number 4).
  2. Try to avoid sharing your bed with fuzzy friends: And no, I’m not talking about that teddy bear you got on your 10th birthday.  It’s easy for those who don’t have any pets to say “just close your bedroom door at night,” but personally, I don’t want to hurt my kitty’s feelings, or hear a small dog whining and scratching at the door all night. On the other hand, I frequently get walked on by a very large cat, awakened by a snoring dog (with his head on my pillow), been kicked in the face (by the same snoring dog) and been forced to get out of bed several times during the night to reclaim my space. Try to maneuver your menagerie off your bed by creating a better sleeping space for them elsewhere, such as a comfy heated pet bed, some special treats in an off-bed location, a fuzzy blanket on the couch, or some favorite toys in the living room. (Sometimes, some music or radio “noise” will help ease the adjustment as well.)
  3. Curtail those caffeinated beverages after 3 p.m.: You make a quick trip to Target in the evening and as soon as you walk in the door you’re hit with the aroma of a steaming latte from Starbucks. But if you expect to get a good night’s sleep, it’s best to resist the temptation Caffeine is said to have a “half life” of at least five hours, meaning that half the jolt is still in your system long after you enjoyed that overpriced cup of java.
  4. Avoid the ‘blue light’ wake-up call: Certain types of indoor lighting, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs (the curly ones) and other fluorescent lights emit a  more “blue” wavelength of light, that while invisible to the eye, is a wake-up call to the brain. What this will do is interrupt the natural production of the hormone melatonin, which is your best friend when it comes to having a decent night’s sleep.  Likewise…
  5.  Turn off all those electronic devices several hours before bedtime: Computers, iPads, E-readers and smart phones also give off the type of blue -spectrum light that halts melatonin production. If you like to take a book to bed, do it the “old fashioned” way, with a bound paper edition. And make sure the light you use in your bedroom for reading is not a curly CFL, but rather one that is “adjusted” to emit the proper wavelength of light that won’t wake you up when you should be happily drifting off to sleep.

Linda Bonvie

Linda Bonvie is an author and consumer advocate with over 20 years of experience researching and writing about food safety, health and environmental issues. She is the editor of FoodIdentityTheft.com, for which she writes twice weekly blogs, and is co-author of Chemical-Free Kids: How to Safeguard Your Child’s Diet and Environment (2003) and Chemical-Free Kids: the Organic Sequel (2008), as well as The Stevia Story: a tale of incredible sweetness and intrigue (1997). Articles she has co-authored with her brother Bill have been published in a number of top magazines and many major newspapers. One, an expose on the spraying of passengers on international flights with a toxic pesticide, which was published back in 1993, led to the requirement being dropped by a couple dozen countries after then-Transportation Secretary Federico Pena became personally involved in the issue.

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