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7 Daytime Habits to Make You Sleep Better

Exercise, a good routine and the right foods all contribute to a better night’s slumber

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    Catching Zzz’s

    En español | How’d you sleep last night? If you’re like more than a third of adults, you’re probably not getting the recommended seven hours a night, and it might not be for lack of trying. New research finds that what you do during the day can have just as big an impact on the quality and quantity of your sleep as what you do just before bed. Here are seven habits to start today.

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    Get Some Green

    At least once a day, head to a local park, tend to your garden or take a scenic walk. Adults age 65 and older who spend time in nature are more likely to sleep better, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When you commune with nature, you’re staying active and boosting your mental health – two factors that have been shown to improve sleep quality when you go to tuck in.

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    Love Your Routine

    Having a daily routine is far from boring — in fact, it may be vital for your well-being. In Canadian research last year, both good sleepers and insomniacs participated in activities throughout the day, but it was the good sleepers who did them at consistent times. (For example: Go to the gym in the morning, head to work, meet friends for dinner, etc.) A regular routine can help set your biological rhythms so that your body is ready for bed when you are.

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    Load Up on Legumes

    If you want better zzz’s, focus on eating more fiber (found in large amounts in foods like lentils and beans) and getting less saturated fat and sugar, a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests. That pattern of eating was related to more time spent in restorative short-wave sleep and fewer middle-of-the-night wake-ups. And, yep, that might explain why you wake up feeling sluggish after a burger, fries and milk shake combo.

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    Work It Out

    You may be reluctant to work out later in the day, worried that getting sweaty would make it too stimulating to get to sleep at night. It’s OK to take that jog or snag a spot with a trainer in the evening, suggests research in Sleep Medicine. People who reported vigorous evening exercise didn’t get worse sleep — 97 percent said they logged just as good or better sleep on days they hit the gym compared with nonexercise days.

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    See the Light

    Workers who were exposed to natural daylight through windows got 46 more minutes of sleep compared with those in windowless environments, reports a study the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Exposure to light during the day and darkness at night keeps your body’s circadian rhythms in check. If you spend your day in a dark building, the researchers suggest going outside for a short walk or lunch to snag some sun.

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    Stay in the Moment

    Mindfulness meditation— the practice of being aware of thoughts, feelings and sensations in the moment, without judging them as “good” or “bad” — has received a lot of buzz recently, and for good reason. In a study in JAMA Internal Medicine, older adults who took a mindfulness class two hours a week for six weeks benefited from improved sleep quality more so than those learning healthy bedtime habits (such as how to wind down before bed). What’s more, mindfulness helped reduce fatigue during the day. So next time you’re walking to the train, sense your feet on the pavement or how the breeze feels on your skin.

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    Pop Meds Right

    Adults older than 50 are the most likely to rely on sleeping pills, research from the CDC shows. If you need this extra help to catch your zzz’s, take them on an empty stomach. For some meds, washing them down with dinner can delay the time it takes them to work. Because the guidelines differ depending on what you’re taking — for example, an over-the-counter product such as Tylenol PM isn’t affected by food — this is a reminder to always read the instructions on the medication label (or ask your pharmacist) to learn the guidelines on yours. It can mean all the difference between slipping into slumber and lying awake and staring at the ceiling. Sweet dreams.

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(Video) Foods to Avoid Before Bed: We all love food and sleep, but they don't go hand in hand. Here are the worst foods to eat right before you sleep.