Healthy Bedtime Habits
If you’re going to have a bedtime snack, make it a kiwi. Eating two of these fruits one hour before bed for a month helped adults fall asleep 35 percent faster and sleep 13 percent longer, found a 2011 study from Taiwanese researchers. It might be the high concentration of antioxidant vitamins C and E, which help regulate neurotransmitters in the brain (linked to healthy sleep cycles), or the fruit’s rich amount of another sleep-promoting neurotransmitter, serotonin.
They Skip the Feather Pillow
If pillows are so important for a restful slumber, why are so many of us sleeping on the wrong kinds? In one study on more than 100 people, those who reported poor-quality sleep said their pillows were also uncomfortable. One common mistake: buying a feather pillow. While pillow comfort is different for everyone, feather pillows were the type most consistently used by those who reported poor sleep. When shopping for a new set, go for polyester and latex—two types, the study found, that are more highly rated for comfort.
They Stretch Out
Ugh, leg cramps. They’re painful enough to make it hard for you to go to sleep—and the condition can spark insomnia. More than half of adults experience them, with women more likely to suffer, especially as they age. The solution: stretching your calves and hamstrings nightly. It helps lengthen tendons and muscles, and can reduce the frequency and severity of cramps, according to a six-week study in 2012 in the Journal of Physiotherapy. One stretch that targets both muscle groups: sit on the floor with legs extended, reach for your toes and lean forward into your knees.
They Pop This Med
If you’re taking a low-dose aspirin per doctor’s orders to cut your stroke or heart attack risk, consider popping it at night instead of the a.m. for the biggest benefit. Heart attack numbers have been found to peak in the morning, possibly because platelet activity is higher at this time (which increases clotting). A study on nearly 300 people—findings of which were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in 2013—found that patients who took aspirin before bed had lower a.m. platelet activity, which could be better for your heart. (Of course, always check with your doctor before switching anything up.)
They Go for “Pink” Noise
The dripping faucet. The tick of a clock. All subtle sounds that can leave you wide-eyed and frustrated. You’ve probably tried white noise to block out sounds, but pink noise may be better. Unlike white noise (ambient sounds over a range of frequencies), pink noise is characterized by sounds that are a consistent, lower frequency. Imagine the hum of a fan or steady rain. (Relaxed yet?) Listening to pink noise during the night helped regulate brain waves so people stayed in the restful phase of sleep longer, according to a 2012 Chinese study. In fact, 75 percent of participants said they felt pink noise had a positive effect on their sleep. Even better? Subsequent research showed that pink noise can boost the brain’s memory center.
They Go Running
You’ve heard the advice to skip that evening trip to the gym because nighttime workouts leave you wired and unable to fall asleep. Good news: Exercising whenever you can fit it in helps you sleep better—even that same night, according to 2013 research from the National Sleep Foundation. People who performed intense exercise within four hours of bedtime experienced no differences in sleep quality, the study found.
They Take a Moment for One Other Exercise
We know there are mental health benefits to being grateful, but people who scored higher on measures of gratitude were also more likely to report fewer problems falling asleep, found a 2009 UK study. When you’re grateful—keeping a gratitude journal, like Oprah does, or simply reminding yourself of what you can appreciate about the day—you’re less likely to dwell on negative thoughts that can keep you up at night.