Wake up well-rested with expert-tested sleep tips.

The 5 Rules for Better Sleep

Sleep is one of the most essential ingredients in a healthy lifestyle, and it’s particularly important this time of year, when you’re trying to keep your immune system strong to fight off cold and flu viruses. But most of us, studies say, aren’t getting nearly enough of it. More than half of all Americans are significantly sleep-deprived. And insomnia, which is linked to stress, is a growing problem in our work-obsessed times. What to do?

Number one tip: Exercise! A regular fitness routine, it turns it, is one of the best ways to get your sleep back on track. A growing body of evidence shows that regular exercise helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, though the jury is out on whether it helps you sleep more deeply.

A few more sleep tips from the experts:

1. Keep it cool. You don’t want to be so cold you’re waking up shivering, of course, but most people sleep more deeply with the thermostat set low. (And if you’re a menopausal woman, a cooling breeze is a necessity!) The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says keep the temperature set between 60 and 68 degrees.

2. Ban the screens. Turn off your smart phone, leave your computer in the other room, and stop surfing or watching TV at least an hour before bedtime. Otherwise the light from the screens tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daylight and time to be alert and awake.

3. Cut out the coffee. If you have trouble sleeping, you probably already know to avoid caffeine after mid-day. But alcohol and tobacco can also keep you awake.

4. Ease into sleep. If you don’t fall asleep the minute your head fits the proverbial pillow, do something to put your mind at rest. Read, listen to music, take a warm bath, or use a guided meditation podcast to soothe you to sleep.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.