A Good Night's Sleep

How many hours do you sleep per night? Not enough, perhaps? I function best with about eight hours, and I've learned over the years that no amount of caffeine can cure a sleep debt. Though I'm an extremely deep sleeper (I've almost slept through two fire drills...), I sometimes have trouble falling asleep. When that happens, here's what I do...

Use aromatherapy. I associate the smell of lavender with bedtime, so I surround myself with that smell as I wind down for the night. A sachet of crushed lavender lasts years and works its magic tucked into a pillowcase or hung near the nightstand. I also keep a vial of Weleda's Lavender Body Oil handy to dab on before bed.

Take a melatonin supplement. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep cycles; normally, its levels rise around bedtime. For years, I've relied on melatonin supplements to recalibrate my circadian rhythms when I'm stressed or jet-lagged. I recently discovered Sleep Squares, chocolate-flavored chews that contain a mixture of melatonin, vitamins, and herbs that promote a good night's rest. Double-check with your doctor before taking something like this, but it's my much preferred alternative to traditional sleeping pills.

Read a book, but nothing too plot-driven. Choose something slower-paced, descriptive or philosophical. I love falling asleep to books about imaginary places far from everyday life, like Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities.

Exercise regularly. When I'm physically exhausted, my body's need for rest trumps my mind's need to stress out. On days when I run a few miles, I sleep like a baby.

What do you do for a good night's sleep?