10 bedtime rituals to guarantee a good night's rest

The right and wrong things to do before bed, PLUS picking the right mattress.

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Four a.m. 4:08 a.m. 4:09 a.m. You'd love to be counting sheep in la-la land, but instead you're counting the minutes as they tick closer and closer to wake-up time. Good night, indeed. How can it be a good night when you spend the majority of the lights-out portion tossing and turning?

It doesn't have to be this way, you know. If you want to get a better night's sleep, take a long hard look at the things you do leading up to bedtime and at the place where you lay your head.

"There are no golden rules when it comes to getting a good night's sleep," says Dr. Rachel Morehouse of the QEII Sleep Disorders Clinic and Laboratory. "People are so individual, you have to know yourself and what works for you."

Makes sense. You're the only one who knows how you react to espressos in the evening or how much unwind time you need to make the switch from daytime running to nighttime relaxing.

Your bedtime rituals will depend on your own needs, but to get you started on your path to a good night's sleep, here are a few tried-and-true suggestions:

1. Warm milk
An old wives' tale, sure, but there is some reason behind this ritual. Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid known for causing sleepiness (it's also in turkey, and is often blamed for the yawns and head-nodding that often follow a big Thanksgiving dinner).

2. Get on schedule
Establish a sleep schedule and stick to it. Retiring and rising at the same time each day allows your body to know when it's time to relax.

3. Lose the late-night soda
It depends on the person but drinking caffeinated drinks at night is a common cause of sleep problems. "For people who are very susceptible to caffeine, I suggest cutting off consumption around suppertime," says Morehouse. Try an herbal tea instead.

4. Soak your troubles away
Have a nice relaxing soak in the tub. It was how you got ready for bed as a child, but it works for adults, too. Or take your shower at night and set the alarm clock for 15 minutes later in the mornings.

Read our 28 tips to help you relax instantly.

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