By Michele Bender
Studies have shown that sleep helps you lose weight, improves your energy and even decreases your risk of heart disease. Follow these six steps for better shut-eye this year. 1. Prep for bed. Nightly routines aren’t just for infants: They’re essential for all ages. “Start a ritual about 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime to prepare the body for sleep,” says Robert Oexman, DC, director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri. It could include a hot bath (which decreases your core body temperature) or a cup of herbal tea. 2. Get your own top sheets and blankets. “Using separate ones can make up for different temperature needs you and your partner may have,” says Oexman. Added bonus: You won’t wake up when he steals the blanket. 3. Stay in the dark. If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t check your email or text messages—no matter how tempting. When your kids must have a night-light, use a low blue one. “These eliminate the blue wavelength of light that negatively impacts melatonin production,” says Oexman. 4. Lower the thermostat. About 68 degrees is ideal for catching 40 winks because it causes a decrease in your core body temp. If you get cold, covering up is okay. “It’s exposing your head to cold air that naturally decreases your core body temperature,” says Dr. Oexman. 5. Curb the caffeine. Whether it comes from tea, soda, coffee or hot chocolate, this stimulant can keep you up at night. This means you’re tired the next day, so you reach for caffeine to perk you up and the cycle continues. 6. Don’t allow cell phones in the bedroom…even if your kids say they use their phones as alarm clocks. That’s because every time you get a text or email, you'll wake up. “It causes fragmented, lower-quality sleep,” says Oexman.