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The worst sleep offenders -- and how to rid them

Oct. 7, 2012 at 12:35 PM ET

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Yes, he's adorable and giving you bedroom eyes. But your pooch may be the reason you're not getting good sleep.

We all know that stress and spicy foods can keep us tossing and turning at night. But there are other sleep offenders hiding in our bedroom that can rob us of those all-important zzzzs.

Want to rest in peace? Then try these tips, courtesy of Russell Rosenberg, board certified sleep expert and chairman of the National Sleep Foundation.

Turn off your cell phone. "You need to have protected time at night," says Rosenberg. "And a cell phone is a potential intrusion. They're no longer phones, they're basically computers." If you keep your phone beside the bed, turn it off so you won't be tempted to check your email, texts or surf the web in the middle of the night. Putting it on mute is fine, he says, as long as you leave it in another room.

Close the laptop. According to Rosenberg, the bright light associated with computers (and cell phones) can delay sleep or disrupt your ability to produce sleep. "The bright light suppresses melatonin in the brain, the hormone that signals the brain that it's time for sleep," he says. In the immortal words of Pitbull, shut it down.

No bodies before bedtime. Despite the prevalence of late night crime shows (not to mention the evening news), Rosenberg says it's best to avoid shows about murder or death. "It's not a theme conducive to sleep," he says. "If you have a TV in the bedroom, make sure you're not watching anything too psychologically disturbing." He suggests sticking to comedy or reading or listening to music instead.  

No pets allowed. Yes, we love them, but pets can be some of the worst sleep offenders, says Rosenberg. "They whine to go out or they're nocturnal like cats and may run around the bedroom or want to play," he says. "Get the pets out of the bedroom."

Lose the booze. Yes, we all love a glass (or two) of wine with dinner. But keep drinking after that and you may be sacrificing your sleep. "Alcohol is really bad for sleep generally," says Rosenberg. "It lightens the sleep, disrupts the quality of sleep and people have more awakenings when they've been drinking too close to bedtime." He recommends putting the bottle away at least three hours before you retire.

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