Natural snooze inducers
Hot bubble baths
Taking a bath before bed relaxes your muscles and releases muscular tension--and has a chemical effect as well. While you're in the tub, your core body temperature will rise, and then it will quickly drop when you get out. That decrease in temperature signals the brain to release melatonin, says sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD. The bubbles keep the water hotter longer.
Some people say that taking these hormone supplements helps them sleep, but experts say it's not for everyone. "Melatonin is a sleep regulator that affects your body's biological clock by signaling that it's time for sleep, but it doesn't make you feel sleepy," says Dr. Breus. "It's really for people who need to reset their clocks, such as shift workers or those dealing with jet lag." Talk with your doctor about whether melatonin is right for you. If it is, take 1 mg or less about 90 minutes before bedtime.
Some studies have shown that the scent of lavender acts as a mild sedative, helping you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. There are plenty of products to choose from, from massage oils and lotions to bath salts and reed diffusers.
Nighttime lullabies don't just work on babies. Older people with sleep problems reported a 35% improvement after listening to 45 minutes of music before bedtime in a study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. While the music doesn't have to be Brahms, we're not talking the Black Eyed Peas--60 to 80 beats per minute is key, so seek out slow, steady music such as classical tunes or soft jazz.
Multiple studies suggest that this herbal remedy might improve sleep quality without side effects. Valerian root seems to act as a sedative, reducing anxiety and calming the body before sleep. If you're going to give this alternative a try, take 400 to 900 mg of valerian extract between 30 minutes and 2 hours before bedtime for as many as 28 days, suggests the National Institutes of Health.
White noise machines
White noise machines block out background noise, such as a partner's loud snoring or street traffic, that might otherwise prevent shut-eye. Two worth trying: HoMedics SoundSpa ($20; Bed Bath & Beyond) and Brookstone Tranquil Moments Sleep Sound Therapy System ($130; brookstone.com).