Three New Ways to Sleep Better

Sleep is the ultimate stay-young strategy. Here’s how to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer

by Cathy Garrard
Photograph: michaeljung/Shutterstock.com

They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing. It turns out that getting enough sleep is key to looking and feeling young: Well-rested women have more youthful skin—fewer wrinkles, brown spots and sags—than those who routinely slumber for fewer than five hours, according to a recent Case Western University study. Insomnia can also age you on a more profound level: Studies say it may shorten your telomeres, the protective protein capsules on the ends of chromosomes that help combat aging, inflammation and disease. Here’s how to reclaim your night.

If you can’t fall asleep…
Try progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), a stress-reduction technique in which you alternately tense and relax muscle groups, starting with those in your forehead and working your way down to your toes.“PMR is especially effective in people who can’t turn their minds off when they go to bed,” says Reena Mehra, MD, director of sleep disorders research at the Cleveland Clinic. A study in the journal Sleep Medicine found the technique helps increase total sleep time both immediately following a session and six months later. For a free audio guide, use the Relax Me app from Google Play.

If you’re a restless sleeper…
Try cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), an approach that teaches habits and ways of thinking that help you slumber more soundly and fall asleep more quickly; it improves sleep in up to 80 percent of those who try it. One strategy is sleep restriction—you go to bed later than you normally would, but keep a consistent wake time. “When people feel sleepier, they fall asleep faster, and they stay asleep for longer,” says Shelby Harris, MD, director of behavioral sleep medicine at Montefiore Medical Center. To find a practitioner, search the database on the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

If you can’t stay asleep…
Try Intermezzo, the only prescription medicine approved by the FDA for helping you fall back asleep when you have four or more hours left before the alarm rings. The mint-flavored, dissolvable tablets go under your tongue. “I recommend the 1.75 mg dose for women,” says Arizona sleep medicine specialist Robert S. Rosenberg, DO.

Next: Yoga for Sleep Problems

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