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Better Sleep Means a Healthier Heart — 4 Tips to Get Those Zzz’s

We all feel our best after a great night’s sleep. Now, six studies prove that sound sleep also cuts the risk of heart disease by 56 percent — adding six healthy years to your life! According to Cornell University researchers, deep sleep trims blood pressure, heightens cholesterol control, and tamps down the production of stress hormones. To sleep soundly starting tonight, try these four remedies.

Block all sounds and light.

Wear soft foam earplugs plus a sleep mask if you don’t have blackout curtains, and you’ll sleep 67% more deeply each night, suggests research in the journal Critical Care. Explains study co-author Sophie Lavault, Ph.D., shutting out jarring sounds and lights keeps your brain calm, so it can stay in the deeper stages of sleep longer.

Boost sleep nutrients.

Bananas are rich in potassium, magnesium, and B-12 — nutrients that relax muscles, plus prompt the release of sleep-inducing melatonin. And the natural fruit sugars in bananas improve absorption of 5-HTP —  an amino acid needed for the production of calming serotonin. No wonder researchers at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut say this bedtime duo cuts restless sleep and early wake-ups by 65 percent! Note: Check with your doctor before supplementing.

Inhale vanilla.

The aroma of vanilla spurs the release of relaxing alpha brain waves, inducing sleep as effectively as prescription sedatives for up to 92 percent of women studied. To do: Place a few drops of pure vanilla extract on a cotton ball and leave on your nightstand.

Hide the time.

Covering the alarm clock 10 minutes before bed and keeping it out of sight all night helps 95 percent of women drift off more easily, plus cuts middle-of-the-night wake-ups by 62 percent. Explains sleep researcher Rik Lund, MD, it’s normal to wake up slightly several times each night — but bright lights send wake-up calls to the brain, making it hard to get back to sleep. 

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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