by Dana Wood, Author of Momover: The New Mom’s Guide to Getting It Back Together (even if you never had it in the first place!)
It’s a weird phrase, but the basic habits of setting the stage for slumber are known together as “good sleep hygiene.” Here’s the Dana version of all the steps you should take (and stuff you should avoid) if you want to sleep like, well, a baby:
Put a cork in it: You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: As good as booze is at knocking you out, it messes with your REM sleep. So consider steering clear, at least on school nights. And layoff the coffee after 4:00 P.M., too. That will give the caffeine time to wear off. Back away from the fridge: No big meals right before bed, although a light snack is fine. You don’t want your stomach going into digestion overdrive when you’re trying to doze off.
Finish working out at least four hours before bed: Otherwise, there’s a chance you’ll get all hopped up and energized, and that’s no state of mind/body in which to sail off to Sleepy Town. Yoga might be okay, but why risk it?
Spring for comfy bedding: You don’t need to spend a fortune (unless you want to), but at least splash out on high-quality sheets and a great pillow.
Develop routines: Go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, do the same “wind-down” things in the same way, religiously. (See my night-night routine in “Worked for Me.”) Practicing the same routine nightly will help send sleep cues to your mind and body.
Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cold: From the digital clock to street lamps, we underestimate all the light creeping into our bedrooms at night; I’ve actually taken to wearing a mask. If you sleep with a snorer, buy earplugs. And as for the chilly temperature, that’s what blankets are for.
Reserve your bed for sleeping and sexing: This is a toughie, because who doesn’t have a flat screen and a pile of books in their bedroom? At the very least, don’t drag your laptop or anything else work related in there. You want your mind and body to associate your bedroom with sleep, not every other activity known to (wo)man.
Zap the nap: A midday snooze throws off your circadian rhythm, which makes it harder to fall asleep at night. If you’re completely exhausted, limit your nap to fifteen minutes. If you’re zonked out long enough to get through all the NREM and REM cycles, you’ll wake up anything but refreshed.
Get up if it just ain’t happening: After about ten sleepless minutes, cut your losses, get out of bed, and head somewhere else in the house. Then do something boring and snoozeworthy, such as watching a rerun of a show you’ve already seen about ninety-five times. When you find yourself dozing off, head back to Sleep Central.
Dana Wood, author of Momover: The New Mom’s Guide to Getting It Back Together (even if you never had it in the first place!), is a mother, wife, and the writer of “Momover,” an online column that explores the collision of age and first-time mommyhood. Currently the senior fashion features editor of W, Wood has served as the beauty director of W and the health and beauty director of Cookie. In her twenty-plus years of journalism, she has also written for numerous national publications, including Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Women’s Health, Self, and People. Learn more about Wood and her her popular blog at Momover.net. She lives in New York, NY.