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Nine tips for a better night's sleep

A good night's sleep is vital to our health, yet one in three adults report depriving themselves. Poor sleep can exacerbate or even contribute to certain medical conditions. These 9 tips can help you sleep better and live healthier and longer.

1. Set a rest point. Light suppresses melatonin, a hormone that tells the brain it's time to sleep. Computers, TVs, and other electronic devices all increase attention and prevent the brain from relaxing enough to fall asleep. Ambient light is best; switch off bright lights or set them to dim position. Also, the bedroom should be cool for optimal sleep and soft background noise – such as a fan or a sound machine – can promote better sleep.

2. Don't stress, get up. If you can't sleep after a few minutes, get out of bed and do a non-stressful, non-work-related activity. Don't spend hours in bed waiting to fall asleep; this continues insomnia, because you think about it.

3. Leave alcohol alone. Or at the very least drink less. Using alcohol to sleep is a bad idea in three specific ways:
* It changes the quality of your sleep. Even if you sleep through the night after drinking, you won't feel rested in the morning. Alcohol eases sleep and suppresses REM.
* It interrupts the total amount of time you sleep. You can often wake up all night and have trouble going back to sleep as the alcohol works through your system.
* It increases the prevalence of pre-existing sleep disorders. Moderate to large amounts of alcohol consumed in the evening can lead to significant narrowing of the airways.

4. Quit your caffeine habit. It's no secret that caffeine is a stimulant. Avoid coffee, soft drinks and tea after 2 p.m. or eight hours before going to sleep.

5. Eat smart. Heavy or rich foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy foods, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks all cause indigestion in some people. When this happens right before bedtime, painful heartburn can disrupt sleep. There's even a condition called "silent reflux" where a person only experiences disturbed sleep but doesn't wake up enough to know it's the heartburn that woke them up.

6. Banish bed friends. This won't be popular, but while we love our pets, they don't make great bedside friends. Pets can disrupt sleep for some people. A furry bedside friend just isn't conducive to a good night's sleep.

7. Move. Exercising is a great stress reliever. It was previously thought that you should avoid strenuous exercise too close to bedtime, but research has shown that moderate exercise at any time provides significant health and sleep benefits.

8. Let the light shine in the morning. While you probably know that light tells the brain it's time to wake up, it also helps set your internal sleep/wake clock and keep you alert throughout the day. Start the day right with breakfast outside – exposure to sunlight for just 30 minutes in the morning promotes a healthy sleep/wake cycle.

9. Consistency of sleep/wake. Your sleep routine should be as consistent as your personal hygiene routine. Just like you brush your teeth and comb your hair every morning, try to maintain a normal sleep/wake cycle by going to bed around the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning (yes, even on weekends). .