9 Easy Ways to Get More Z's

If you can't seem to get a good night's sleep, you're not alone-more than 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems, according to the National Institutes of Health. The good news is, many of these issues can be solved by simply changing your daily routine and creating a better sleep environment. Follow these guidelines to improve your sleep habits.

Dedicate the bedroom to sleeping. A sleeping area shouldn't be a place for work, paying bills, or watching TV. Bedrooms should be for sex and sleep only.

Make the bed more comfortable. Whether this means buying new sheets or purchasing a body pillow, your bed should be a place of comfort. Take the time to make it a peaceful, relaxing place by investing in a new mattress, updating the sheets, or replacing that 10-year-old pillow.

Create a nighttime ritual. For many people, this means starting to wind down about an hour before bedtime, either having a warm cup of decaffeinated tea, putting on lotion, or slipping into comfortable clothes.

Take a relaxing bath. Warm baths have been shown to lower blood pressure. What's more, this activity can serve as a bridge between the movement, activity, or thought processes of the day and letting it all go at night.

Go to bed at the same time each night.
This will send a signal to your brain and your body that it's time for sleep. In addition, try to get up at the same time each morning, even on weekends. Trying to "catch up" on sleep doesn't work and may cause grogginess.

Avoid caffeine or other stimulants after lunch. Diet soda, coffee, tea, and even chocolate can stay in the body for more than eight hours, preventing a peaceful night's sleep.

Give up naps. Daytime naps can interfere with the body's natural rhythm. Most experts recommend powering through the day without a nap, even if it means going to bed at 7 or 8 p.m.

Avoid exercise late in the day. Exercising too close to bedtime can signal the body to rev up instead of relax.

Stay away from alcohol. Although having a glass of wine may seem to aid sleep, alcohol actually interferes with deep sleep, so the effect is only temporary.