How to Get the Sleep You Need

Sacking-Out Tips

From the WebMD Archives

Continued

You can, however, reclaim a few z's. Short naps -- tucked behind an office door, or while the kids are at school -- are one way. About half the world takes an afternoon siesta, and with good reason: Body temperature and alertness dip during mid-afternoon, a sneak preview of bedtime biology. A short nap -- 15 to 30 minutes -- will help you perk up, while a longer nap sails you into deep sleep and actually may make you groggy. If naps don't work, try going to bed half an hour earlier at night and waking at your normal time. This gradual approach will keep your sleep cycle in sync while you rest up.

Healthy habits outside the bedroom can improve sleep, too. Take exercise. In one study, Michael Vitiello, a sleep researcher at the University of Washington, found that people who ran or walked 40 minutes, three days a week, experienced longer periods of deep sleep than a more inert comparison group. This and other studies suggest exercise somehow alters metabolism, setting your body up for more restful sleep.

To pump up your slumber, exercise during the day, before dinner, Vitiello says. And start slowly. "Don't go from being a couch potato to walking 15 miles," he cautions. "That's too much stress on your body, and you probably won't sleep well."

In fact, Vitiello notes, dreamy sleep is just one more reason to boost your all-around fitness -- inside and out. You'll feel your best if you eat right, exercise and tackle the stresses of the day. It's old advice. But it's one route to happiness -- morning, noon and night.

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