The two sleep experts also recommend that women get out of bed if they wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep within a half-hour or so. But instead of working, they recommend that women do something calming, monotonous or even boring: fold clothing, or read old magazines or books in dim light.
"They're better able to fall back asleep quicker than if they stayed in bed and became frustrated," Hays said.
Women with extreme insomnia might even consider trying a counter-intuitive approach in which they limit their time in bed, Hays said. If they're only getting five hours of good sleep a night, for instance, they could allow themselves only four hours in bed.
"If they spend less time in bed, there's a better chance they'll spend more of that time sleeping," Hays said.
Another little sleep trick involves body temperature. Researchers have found that sleep comes with a drop in a person's core temperature, Hays noted. Taking a relaxing warm bath before bedtime could help aid sleep. "That may increase the amount the body's temperature actually drops, which may help sleep continuity," he explained.
Finally, women can help themselves fall asleep by "setting the table" for sleep by adopting a routine set of relaxing rituals just before bedtime.
"A lot of people treat sleep like an on/off switch," Harris said. "You should set aside a half-hour to treat sleep like a dimmer switch." Sit in a favorite chair, dim the lights and do something relaxing and enjoyable.
"You're setting the stage for sleep," she said. "Then get in bed when you're actually sleepy."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on sleep and sleep disorders.
SOURCES: Ryan S. Hays, M.D., assistant professor, neurology, University of Texas Southweste
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