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10 Steps to better sleep

Many things improve with age. Unfortunately, sleep is not one of them. When you were in grade school or college, you probably didn't even have to think about sleep - you crashed when you were tired, slept as late as you wanted on days you didn't have class, and woke up refreshed.

But most American adults don't spend enough hours asleep, nor do they reach the deep Stages 3 and 4 necessary for mental, emotional and physical restoration. We over-schedule with work, exercise, social commitments, family responsibilities and what-not to the point of severe stress, then wonder why we can't relax.

Here are some tips from Gerry Morton, CEO of EnergyFirst, to help you get the restful, restorative sleep you need.

1: Give yourself permission to put worries aside overnight
This one is huge, because we all carry baggage with us as we try to sleep. When worries pop up, say to yourself something like, "I acknowledge that the big project at work is my responsibility, and I choose to accept that I will make better decisions about it after I've slept tonight."

2: Cut down or cut out alcohol use
Drinking seems relatively benign when we're young, because we can still sleep well regardless. But as we age, sleep becomes more fragile and drinking alcohol interferes more with sleep. If you drink, drink in moderation and don't drink the night before an important event.

3: Darken your bedroom
I'm not talking about the wall color, although dark or blue walls do help. I mean make it dark. Turn off all lights in your bedroom as well as lights in other parts of the houses and outside that shine into your bedroom. If your blinds are flimsy, buy better ones or get heavy, dark curtains.

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4: Don't watch TV before bed
This is a tough one for most Americans, but it's true - TV stimulates your brain too much. In particular, there is no reason you should have a TV in your bedroom. That just contributes to laziness.

5: Don't use a very loud alarm clock
It jars your body to wake up suddenly, and that's what a loud alarm clock does. Instead, get one of the zen alarm clocks that gradually wakes you with slowly increasing light and volume.

6: Early to bed recharges your energy
Go to bed as early as possible. Studies have shown that your body recharges your adrenal glands between 11pm and 1am. You have to be asleep for this to happen. Also, your gall bladder dumps out its toxins at this time. Early to bed, early to rise, as Ben Franklin used to say.

7: Cool it down
When you keep your bedroom above 75 F, or even 70 F according to some experts, your body just can't get into the deep sleep Stages 3 and 4.

8: Dial down the caffeine
If you drink coffee or caffeinated sodas, limit them to 1-2 per day and don't drink them after lunchtime. If you do, they may interfere with getting to sleep and staying asleep.

9: Keep your mattress current
If your mattress is over 7 or 8 years old, it's probably time to replace it. Springs compress over time, and your mattress won't be as supportive. If you are overweight, you may have to replace your mattress after 5-6 years. Also, rotate and turn your mattress at least 4 times per year.

10: Give your neck the support it needs
Sleeping on a regular pillow doesn't provide enough support for the gentle curve of your neck. Seek out an orthopedic pillow that is contoured to provide support for your neck and spine.

EnergyFirst's new Sleep Aid is 100% natural and really works. Give it a try if you need an extra boost.

More tips on getting good sleep can be found by visiting Get a Great Night's Sleep.