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Women's Health

The Best Time of Day

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At Night

Down a glass of cranberry. You've probably heard that compounds in cranberry juice can help prevent urinary-tract infections. If you drink a glass in the evening, the juice will hang out in the bladder, fighting bacteria, till morning. Sip a cup after sex for extra protection: The juice can keep bacteria that's been pushed up the urethra during intercourse from sticking to bladder walls.

Invite the night. Preparation for bedtime should start well before you brush your teeth. Wind down any exercise three hours before bed to give your body temperature a chance to cool and signal the brain that it's sleep time. Also close the kitchen (and the bar) two to four hours in advance, since it takes that long for your stomach to empty of solid foods; doing so will help you avoid indigestion and acid reflux. Aim for an undivided seven to eight hours of sleep every night. And because environmental factors, from bright moonlight to fluorescent street lamps, can disrupt cues to your internal clock, it's best to keep the room dark — no night-lights, no neon alarm clocks, and certainly no flashing cell phones. Your brain's pineal gland needs darkness to make melatonin, a hormone that tells your body to drift off (see "Bask in the morning light"). The pineal gland gets confused if it senses light, compromising your sleep quality. Melatonin also has been linked to improved immunity and lower risk of cancer.

Slather on a sweat-stopper. Take a shower before bed (or just spot-wash your underarms — or your feet, if they've been smelly). Then dry off and apply the antiperspirant of your choice. At night, your body's temperature naturally lowers and you're less likely to sweat, which gives antiperspirant a chance to fully absorb and allows its active ingredients to go to work. By the time you step into the shower the next day, you'll be totally protected.

Take your allergy meds. Both allergy symptoms and the pollen count are highest first thing in the morning, so take your long-acting antihistamines at night to avoid waking up to a sneeze-fest. Bonus: If the pills make you sleepy, taking them at bedtime might help you drop off.

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