Do you lie in bed asking yourself when you're going to fall asleep? Few positions are more frustrating. But if you're one of the 20 million Americans who suffer from insomnia, your problems might begin well before you lay your head on the pillow. Forget counting sheep. According to Philip Tucker and colleagues at the University of Wales, the key to a good night's sleep is relaxing before bed. Certain enjoyable pre-bedtime practices can prep the body for sleep by easing the stress accumulated throughout the day and restoring depleted resources.
Don't Worry, Be Happy
According to a study by Christoph Randler at the University of Heidelberg, early rising is correlated with agreeableness and conscientiousness, while a tendency to stay up late can be a sign of neuroticism. Cultivate cheerfulness, and maybe you'll be inclined to tuck in earlier.
You've likely spent all day thinking. So let your mind rest before bed. Evening activities that involve lower mental effort, such as yoga, cooking or listening to calm music, are associated with better-rated sleep, as well as less fatigue the next day.
Leave Work at the Office
For most people in the University of Wales study, working in the evening preceded their lowest-rated sleep. Working until bedtime doesn't leave time for your strained mind to recover. And it sparks an accumulation of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn makes falling asleep difficult. (This rule doesn't apply to those rare souls who experience extra work as pleasurable instead of taxing.)