Leadership

Oprah Winfrey's sleep doctor shares 5 surprising ways to get the rest you need

Getting a good night's rest isn't always as easy as it seems. That's why Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington, two of the most influential women in media, have sought out expert help from psychologist and "sleep doctor" Michael Breus. His classic advice — as well as his unusual sleep hacks — can help anyone get the sleep they need.

The ideal amount of sleep is 7.5 hours nightly, or five 90-minute sleep cycles, says Breus, author of the book, "The Power of When." Unfortunately, many of us short-change our sleep, getting 6 hours or less, putting us at risk for heart disease, stroke and mental distress. Two-thirds of workers admit they would be better employees if they managed to get more shut-eye, according to a Glassdoor survey.

To get better rest, start building better habits, Breus tells the Daily Mail Australia. "The secret to sleep is to pay attention to what you're doing in those precious hours before bedtime," he says.

The doctor suggests classic tips such as avoiding caffeine, alcohol or nicotine before bed. He also advises people avoid their cell phones before bed in part because the devices emit short-wavelength blue light that slow the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

"Good sleep is all about good sleep hygiene," he says.

Those in need of a quick boost or a better night's rest can also benefit from these more unusual tips, ones designed to help anyone build better routines quickly and stave off exhaustion.

Use a stopwatch

Breus says a relaxing hour-long routine can ease you into sleep as you ready yourself for bed. He breaks this hour into 20-minute chunks. In the first 20 minutes, you wrap up your final task for the evening. In the second, you take yourself through your personal hygiene ritual, washing your face, brushing your teeth and taking a hot bath or shower in a dimly-lit room. He suggests you use the last 20 minutes to relax your muscles, stretch, pray or meditate.

To avoid losing track of time, use a timer, he suggests. "Set a stopwatch," Breus says. "Know when that 20 minutes is up."

Count backward

Once you're actually ready to fall asleep, Breus recommends counting backwards from 300 in increments of threes: "It's so complicated that you can't think of anything else." He adds, "It's so boring that you're out like a light."

Nap with coffee

If you are exhausted and need an energy boost, pairing coffee with a nap can help, says Breus. He suggests you drink a cup of black coffee, one that you've cooled with ice. Take a short nap, one less than a half-hour long, right after drinking your coffee. Breus says the caffeine blocks the chemicals in your body that make you feel tired, helping you feel revived.

'Brew' banana tea

If you're having trouble getting to sleep, consider this tea alternative. The doctor suggests you cut a banana in half and place it (skin on), into a cup of boiling water. After four minutes, the water will be "loaded" with magnesium, helping you sleep. It's effects, he says, are similar to chamomile tea.

Get outside

To ensure a good night's sleep, make time to get outside for 15 minutes every morning, says Dr. Breus. People exposed to more natural light can reset their circadian rhythms, as sunlight stops the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, and can rest more easily later.

Read more: Here's how Jeff Bezos, Sheryl sandberg and Eric Schmidt prioritize sleep in their busy schedules .

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