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Tips for When You Wake up in the Middle of the Night

Getting ready for a solid night of shut-eye starts long before you hit the sheets. These daily habits can set you up for success.

What you do during the day affects how well you sleep at night. There are some obvious slumber interrupters—drinking too much coffee in the afternoon, say—but others are less apparent. Learn how to make a few simple changes to your daily routine to keep you on track for good sleep tonight.

Eat Smart
The first rule of sleep success: Don’t save your largest meal of the day for dinner. Going to bed with an overly full belly could keep you awake long after the lights go out. It’s also smart to pay attention to what’s on your plate. Eating meals that are high in fiber and low in added sugars could help you fall asleep faster and even score you an extra two hours of shut-eye weekly. And while large dinners aren’t ideal, adding a light pre-bed snack made from foods that contain tryptophan could improve your ability to nod off, since the amino acid has been shown to help send your body into sleep mode. Try half a banana and a few almonds, three or four whole-wheat crackers with peanut butter, or a glass of milk.

Adjust Your Workouts
Aim to exercise most days of the week. People who regularly work up a sweat tend to sleep better, possibly because physical activity lowers stress levels in addition to tiring out your body. The good news is that you don’t need to log long hours at the gym to reap the benefits. Even just 10 minutes of walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling will pay off. Despite what you may have heard, the time of day you exercise doesn’t seem to matter, although some people may find late-night sessions leave them too wired to wind down effectively before bed.

Stick to a Bedtime Schedule
We give young children bedtime routines, but adults tend to follow more lax procedures. That’s a mistake, since the consistency of a routine helps signal to your body and brain that it’s time to sleep. Create a schedule where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends!). Give yourself a head start by establishing a few calming pre-bed rituals and running through them every evening. You could take a bath, read a book, listen to music, or meditate. As long as you’re consistent, you should notice that it’s easier to fall asleep once your head hits the pillow.