What Are Your Strategies for a Longer, Deeper Sleep?

Real Simple readers reveal how they get the zzzzz’s they need.

Nightly Rituals

I get a healthy dose of exercise every day, drink herbal teas before bed, read books that are relaxing, and abstain from caffeine after noon. And if I do wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back to sleep, I do my best not to worry about it. The more positive I can make my awake time, the less I worry about losing sleep. You can find startling clarity at 4 A.M. Heather Gruver
Boston, Massachusetts

I used to sleep over at my grandmother's house nearly every Friday night, and she would always give me a glass of warm milk to get me to sleep. To this day, I still have a glass of milk at bedtime. My grandmother died in 1989, but I still think of her every evening when I get ready for bed.
Colleen E. Kueter
Medford, Massachusetts

I have a small music box on the nightstand next to my bed. It was a gift from my mother on my most recent birthday. Every night I wind it up and lie down. It calms me and reminds me of the people I love.
Lisa Jessick
North Easton, Massachusetts

A half hour before heading to bed, I take a homemade milk bath: two parts powdered milk, one part cornstarch. I usually fall asleep five minutes after I get into bed.
Danielle Lajoie
Montreal, Quebec

I learned a technique from my yoga instructor that has never failed me: Lie flat on your back close your eyes inhale through your nose exhale out of your mouth. Concentrate on the point slightly above and between your eyes until you feel energy flowing there all the way from your toes. Then shift your focus to your sternum, each shoulder, elbow, wrist, finger, hip, knee, ankle, and toe.
Nicole Wagner
Minneapolis, Minnesota

One of my favorite strategies is to cuddle up with my three-year-old daughter. Seeing her sleep peacefully, listening to the sound of her breathing, and feeling her heartbeat make me feel at rest. Nothing in the world is as comforting or relaxing to me.
Angela Hamernik
Plainfield, Indiana

Every night I take a hot shower or bath, sip a cup of chamomile tea, and lightly mist my sheets with a lavender linen spray that makes my bed smell wonderful and helps me fall asleep.
Allison Domingues
Prairie Village, Kansas

Lifelong Strategies

When I was a child, we had to be in bed by a certain time, but we could stay up reading as late as we wanted (a great way to encourage literacy!). I still can't imagine going to sleep any other way. It helps clear all the day's crazy thoughts out of my head.
Heidi Brose
Redmond, Washington

I iron. When I was young, my mother used our nap time to catch up on her ironing. The sound of the steam and the creak of the ironing board would always lull us to sleep. It still works.
Charity S. Sutton
Chicora, Pennsylvania
 

Valuable Investments

After years of not being able to fall asleep, I borrowed a friend's magnetic mattress and pillow [which are said to improve circulation and reduce pain, among other things]. It may sound crazy, but the first night I used them I had the most amazing sleep ever and woke up rested―without an alarm. I have a new mattress and pillow now, and I wouldn't give them away for a million dollars.
Sara Tomlin
Halifax, Nova Scotia

The best investment my husband and I ever made was a good mattress. After seven years on the same futon, it's heaven.
S. Cook
Denver, Colorado

I bought an alarm clock that has nature sounds, a CD player, and a radio. If I'm feeling anxious, I put on a CD of prayer chants. If I'm relaxed, I listen to jazz on the radio. If I'm tired but can't fall asleep, I listen to ocean waves, because they remind me of camping at the beach when I was a kid.
Amy Whelan
Fullerton, California

I live in New York City, where loud noise and bright lights interfere with my sleep. To create white noise, I rely on an inexpensive fan that works just as well as an expensive sleep machine.
Maggie Byrne
New York, New York


No-Fail Insomnia Busters

I train for triathlons each morning. By 9:30 P.M., I am ready to crash. Prior to starting this morning routine, I had trouble sleeping and finding the time to work out. Now my bedtime is consistent, and I am ready for training each morning. I love this change in my routine.
Ashley Beeman
Elsah, Illinois

Counting sheep has never worked for me, so I've tried many alternatives. My favorite is to dig up my old organic-chemistry textbook from college, turn to any random page, and pretend I have a test the next day. It never fails―I rarely get through one page.
Wendy Collins Montplaisir
Portland, Oregon

My favorite sleep strategy is a drop of liquid valerian root in a cup of hot kavakava tea. If I'm particularly stressed, I put a drop of ylang-ylang on my pillow.
Denise Eldred
Springfield, Missouri

The secret to a good night's sleep? Sex. It's as simple as that.
Lou Gaffey
Toronto, Ontario