Would you give anything to be able to sleep soundly – even once? As a nation, we pop sleeping pills regularly. But you don’t have to! A major contributor to enjoying a good night’s sleep is to have an effective bedtime routine.

Chances are that you already have a bedtime routine. However, certain tasks prior to bed will help you sleep, while others won’t. The key word here is, “effective,” meaning that your habits work to help you sleep.

Suggestions to help you construct a bedtime routine that helps you fall asleep more easily and enjoy a deeper sleep

1. Exercise. Most people sleep better when they’ve exercised during the day. Because exercise tenses the muscles throughout your body, you’re better able to relax them later. As long as your doctor approves, try a little regular exercise.

* A 20-minute jog, a 30-minute walk on the treadmill, or even a bike ride will do. Pull out those old exercise DVDs and do a different routine every day.

2. Clear the clutter. Believe it or not, it’s hard to go to sleep in a bedroom stacked up with a bunch of clothes, newspapers, and other stuff. Have a nightstand with a lamp, your alarm and space for your book and MP3 player. Ensure there are some wide-open spaces in the room so you can “rest” your eyes.

* Dust your bedroom surfaces and headboard every week. Even if you don’t have allergies, breathing in dust when you’re trying to sleep can be annoying and unhealthy.

3. Limit evening snacks. Most nutritionists and medical personnel recommend not eating a couple of hours before you’re going to lie down. This practice helps you avoid possible gastrointestinal issues that could develop, and also saves you some calories.

4. Refrain from caffeine use throughout the day. Although some people claim it’s not the caffeine that keeps them awake, they’ll never know unless they completely stop drinking the substance. If you must, have one or no more than two servings of caffeinated beverages before noon. After that, it’s caffeine-free till bedtime.

* If you’re hooked on caffeine, this suggestion may not be easy to carry out, but the results will ultimately be well worth your efforts.

5. Take a bath about an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Even if you’re more of a shower person, recognize that showers are known for energizing people, which might not be the best idea before bed if you have trouble sleeping. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out endeavor.

* Try a quick, warm bath to help your muscles relax. Even 15 minutes can help.

6. Complete your body care routine. Brush, floss and moisturize. Taking care of your hair, teeth and skin will help ease your mind when you lie down to go to sleep. You’ll be free of any nagging thoughts related to your hygiene.

7. Unwind. The last hour or so before you’re going to turn out the light, get your bed clothes on and read or listen to your nighttime playlist on your MP3. Although some people feel relaxed lying in bed and watching television, sleep experts do not recommend this as a way of improving sleep.

* Be willing to experiment with a couple of different options in your routine to discover what works best to help you obtain good sleep.

8. Take deep breaths. Once you turn off the lights, focus on taking four or five deep breaths. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. You’ll feel your body sink into your bed a little more with each breath. This technique will work surprisingly well to help you get to sleep.

Designing your own effective bedtime routine will bring you many nights of relaxing, restful sleep. Revise your habits using some of these suggestions. You’ll discover you can have a good night’s sleep simply by altering your night-time routine.

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