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Did you know that you can use your five senses to turn your bedroom into a soothing, comfortable environment  for sounder sleep? That’s a surprising new insight from sleep scientists, according to National Sleep Foundation (NSF) .

If you sleep well, you’re likely to be slimmer, healthier and less stressed than poor sleepers. You’re also likely to live longer and have lower levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritis. Catching enough Z’s also reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels; helps ward off depression, and even reduces risk for car crashes.

But most of us aren’t getting enough slumber to reap its health rewards. According to a new survey by Consumer Reports, 57 percent of the 26,451 respondents had trouble staying asleep, and one in three woke three or more times per night to worry about work-related stress, health problems and money. Give yourself an edge in the sleep department, with these natural tactics that really work, using your five senses.

Visit the Healthy Sleep Learning Center

Make Your Bed for Better Sleep

 This morning chore can make a surprising different in the quality of your sleep at night, according to the NSF’s recent Bedroom Poll. The overwhelming majority of respondents felt that a clean, tidy bedroom is crucial for getting a good night’s rest, so a neatly made bed looking more inviting than one with rumpled covers.

Switch to Memory Foam or an Air Bed

 A new Consumer Reports (CR) poll of more than 15,500 people found that those who sleep on memory foam mattresses or inflatable air beds rated their sleep as better than respondents who snoozed on traditional innerspring mattresses. Tempur-Pedic memory foam and Sleep Number air beds were most frequently cited as improving sleep.

It’s time to replace your sleep surface if you wake up tired or achy, you tend to sleep better at hotels than at home, your mattress looks saggy or lumpy or is five to seven years old, says Consumer Reports. (Note: you don’t necessarily need a new box spring, too, CR explained. If the old one looks good, you can keep it and save several hundred dollars.)

Consumer Reports advises spending at least 15 minutes testing a mattress you’re considering – lie on each side, your back and your stomach and spend at least five minutes in each position.

10 Simple Ways to Leave Stress Behind

Pick a Perfect Pillow

If your pillow is more than two years old, it’s definitely time to replace it. Old pillows can’t give you the support you need and may also be harboring allergens, including mold, fungus, and dust mites, which can make up half the weight of an older pillow.

Sleeping on the wrong pillow can worsen head and body aches, shoulder and arm numbness, and wheezing. The perfect pillow is firm enough to keep your head and neck in alignment with your spine, as they are when you’re standing. To prevent back and neck pain, elevate your head only one pillow high.

Reset Your Body Clock

 If you’re a night owl (like me) and are not getting enough sleep, set your alarm for 6 a.m. and force yourself to get up and go out in the sunlight–or at least sit by a sunny window. This strategy should help your body suppress production of the sleep hormone melatonin during the day and release it earlier in the evening so it will be easier to fall asleep sooner rather than later and transform yourself into an early bird.

The CR survey found that people with a consistent bedtime and waking time—including weekends—sleep best, a finding also confirmed by sleep scientists. Snoozing late on the weekends creates a form of jet lag, contributing to fatigue during the week.

Scent Your Pillow with Lavender 

 You just need a few drops of this lush, familiar fragrance on a handkerchief that you can tuck into your pillowcase. Lavender has a well-deserved reputation as a remedy for insomnia, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Inhaling the scent has a calming, soothing and sedative effect.

Take a Relaxing Bath

 A leisurely soak can relax tired muscles and lower body temperature, a natural signal to your brain and body that it’s time to sleep. A few drops of that lavender oil can work its fragrant magic in the tub, too.

Exercise Late in the day

 Research suggests that early evening exercise three times a week between 5 to 7 PM makes us pleasantly tired and contributes to sound sleep. It may also help you relax and unwind. Avoid exercising within two to three hours of bedtime–that will rev you up instead of letting you wind down.

Dine by Candle Light

 Here, the idea is to take advantage of your body’s natural inclination to prepare itself for sleep when daylight begins to ebb. Dim the lights, turn off the computer and the television–flashing lights and sound stimulate you up when you need to dial down.   

Eat a Banana

 Some experts call bananas a “sleeping pill in a peel,” because the tasty yellow is loaded with the amino acid tryptophan needed for production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has a sleep-inducing sedative effect. Other foods that set this process in motion are dairy products, peanut butter, tofu and turkey.

Lisa Collier Cool