Early Wakeup? Go to Bed as Usual Anyway
When you're used to going to bed at about the same time every night, the stress of trying to force yourself to pass out earlier could make you take even longer than normal to fall asleep. Plus, the more hours you log in bed not sleeping, the more your body will associate your bed with being awake (holy vicious cycle!), says Kenneth P. Wright Jr., Ph.D., director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the University of Colorado.
So even if your alarm is set to an early hour, climb under the covers when you feel tired and not a minute before. And if you happen to have a burst of energy once in a while at bedtime, it's cool—you can turn in a little later.
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Unwind With Wine at Dinner, Not Bedtime
Yes, booze makes you sleepy, but drinking too much too close to bed is a bad idea. It leaves you more likely to wake up frequently throughout the night—and awaken the next day earlier than you planned to, Wright says. Science hasn't figured out exactly why these sleep disruptions happen, but they seem to occur after your body has metabolized all the alcohol in your system; it takes about an hour to break down each drink. That means if you've had two cocktails, about two hours later, you could have trouble sleeping, so plan accordingly.
Naps are Good! Take Them in This Window
If you're on a normal, 9-to-5-ish schedule, your best bet for a quick snooze (if your job allows it) is between 1 and 3 p.m.—late enough that you'll actually be plenty tired but early enough that it won't interfere with your nighttime rest, says Jena Pitman-Leung, Ph.D., a sleep expert from shift-work consulting company Circadian in Stoneham, Massachusetts. Next, length: Fifteen to 30 minutes is perfect. That's enough to feel refreshed, not groggy. If you sleep longer, you'll end up waking from deep sleep all fuzzy. But if you're seriously tired and can afford to, it's OK to sleep for 90 minutes, the ideal amount of time to complete all the phases of the sleep cycle, Pitman-Leung says. Assuming you take 10 minutes to nod off, set your alarm for about 30 minutes or 100 minutes and you'll get your full share of nappy goodness.
Go to the Gym, But Don't Kill Yourself
At least not close to shutdown time anyway. You may feel pooped after a workout, but your brain is buzzing. That rush, along with your body's high core temperature, will prevent you from calming down, says Stephanie A. Silberman, Ph.D., of Cooper City, Florida, a fellow at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Try to work out four hours or more pre-bed. If your schedule allows only a 10 p.m. run, take a cool shower afterward to speed up your temperature decline. Which brings us to?