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Welcome back to our regular series with certified sleep educator Terry Cralle, MS, RN. In this post, Cralle highlights some easy steps you can take during the day to ensure you get the sleep you need at night.

There's a lot of advice out there about how to get better sleep—but some of it is downright unrealistic (sleeping naked when there are three kids in the house or waking up at 5 a.m. to hit the gym—are you kidding me?) The good news is, you don't have to completely overhaul your life to get better sleep. In fact, there are a few small, yet very effective, steps you can take toward adopting a healthier sleep lifestyle. And they're so easy you can start taking these steps today instead of waiting for next New Year's resolution time to roll around again.

Here are 14 things you can do today that will help you catch more Z's tonight.

  1. Get some morning light when you wake up. Open the curtains, sit outside, walk the dog, put the baby in the stroller—whatever. Morning exposure to light helps reset your body clock, which will actually make it easier to fall asleep at night.
  2. Make your bed. It's much more inviting to crawl into a made-up bed at bedtime—and according to the National Sleep Foundation, 62% of people believe a clean bedroom makes a difference in how well they sleep.
  3. Get some exercise. Even if it's only a 10-minute walk. Exercise of any type helps with sleep. If you have not figured out how to carve out time to hit the gym, just put on your tennis shoes and hit the stairs, or walk around the block at lunchtime.
  4. Stop caffeine at lunchtime. If you feel like you are running out of steam without your afternoon latte, reach for a water bottle instead—or do some gentle stretches. Avoid or cut back on sweetened beverages, such as fruit drinks and sodas, which can interfere with sleep quality. (Here are five drinks that help you sleep better.)
  5. Write down a to-do list or even a “to worry about" list in the late afternoon or early evening. This will help clear your mind and reduce worries that often have a way of creeping up just as you are trying to fall asleep.
  6. Have dinner at least three hours prior to bedtime. Eating dinner too close to bedtime can lead to heartburn and/or restless sleep.
  7. Do something relaxing close to bedtime, like reading, knitting, coloring, journaling, or a jigsaw puzzle.
  8. Avoid nightcaps. While an alcoholic drink can help you fall asleep, it will result in fragmented, poor quality sleep. If you consume an alcoholic beverage, do so at least three hours prior to bedtime.
  9. Spritz lavender onto your pillowcase. Other relaxing options include vanilla, jasmine, chamomile, sandalwood, clary sage, and rose. (Here are the best essential oils for sleep.)
  10. Take a warm bath or shower before bed. The decrease in your core body temperature after you cool off from either will help you fall asleep.
  11. Jot down three good things about your day. Dwelling on these will put you in a positive and grateful mindset, which is good for sleep.
  12. Power off all electronic devices 60 minutes prior to bedtime. If you have a last minute need to be on a device, wear amber glasses or use a filter or blue light blocking app, like f.lux. (Here's how to break up with your phone before bed.)
  13. Try some gentle yoga stretches when bedtime is drawing near. A nightly stretching routine signals to your body that it's time to wind down.
  14. Turn your clock face away from your line of sight. It's natural to wake up several times per night, but if your bedroom is dark and quiet you will likely fall right back asleep. However, if you see the clock face and start calculating how long you have been asleep and how much longer you have to sleep, you will likely end up wide awake.

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Trying any one of these tips will make your journey toward a well-rested you easier than you think. Incorporate a few (or all) of them into your daily routine, and you'll be surprised at the extra Z's that come your way.

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