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David Baxter PhD

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How to Sleep Like a Sleep Scientist

by Hannah Seo, The New York Times
August 5, 2022

Half of all Americans have trouble falling asleep each year. But for Leah Irish, an expert in sleep behavior at North Dakota State University, getting a good night’s sleep starts during the day. Here's what she said.

She checks in with herself when she wakes up.

A big part of getting a good night’s rest is thinking about and keeping track of how you sleep, said Dr. Irish.

When she wakes up in the morning, she notices how she feels — and reflects on how her actions from the previous night might have influenced her rest.

Sleep-tracking devices or apps can help you notice and learn from patterns in your own sleep.

She keeps her sleep space “cool, clean and comfortable.”
Studies show that having your bedroom on the cooler side is best for optimal sleep. Dr. Irish optimizes her sleep environment throughout the year by switching out seasonal bedding.

Having a clean and tidy bedroom also helps with peace of mind, she said.

She makes sleep a priority.
A commitment to good sleep means planning around it, said Dr. Irish.

It’s a paradigm shift; she’s often fitting her social life into her sleep schedule rather than the other way around.

She knows what works for or against her sleep.
Caffeine doesn’t bother Dr. Irish, but working late does. So she makes sure to factor in a few hours post-work to wind down, giving herself enough time to get into a sleep mindset.

Know what keeps you up, and abstain from those things after a certain hour.

If sleep issues persist, consult with your doctor as the problem might be medical.

Tips for Better Sleep​

Tired of tossing and turning? There are some strategies you could try to maximize your hours in bed.​

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