Clear your brain clutter with this nightly routine

It's one of the cruelest tricks that life can play on you.

You fall into bed, exhausted from a long day -- but when your head hits the pillow, your eyes pop wide open and your mind starts racing.

You know you need to sleep... you WANT to sleep... but the very fact that you're NOT sleeping is keeping you up at night!

Losing sleep can be disastrous for your health. Earlier this year, I shared a study that showed how lack of sleep can set you up for Alzheimer's.

Now we're learning more about the connection between sleep and memory.

In fact, according to research just published in Nature Communications, sleep problems can actually prevent you from being able to make new memories.

German researchers performed brain scans on 20 healthy, non-smoking adults between the ages of 19 and 25 years old, and put them through a sleep-deprivation exercise.

Now the science here gets a little complicated. But, basically, researchers found that when you don't get enough sleep, your brain loses something called "plasticity."

And you actually need this plasticity to make new memories and process new information.

If you think of the brain like a balloon, at the end of the day it's chock full of information (air) and stretched to the brim. Sleeping actually alleviates that pressure, refreshes your brain, and allows some room to re-fill the next day.

But skip out on sleep... or sleep too little... and that balloon is so ready to burst that it can't let anything else in.

One of the best ways to get a good night's sleep is to set a regular bedtime routine. You did the same for your kids when they were growing up -- because it works!

A warm bath before bed can also be incredibly relaxing -- especially if you add some Epsom salts to calm your muscles. Try also using lavender oil for aromatherapy, since it has some calming effects.

If you still have trouble, try supplementing with melatonin, the body's own natural "sleep hormone." And wash it down with a nice warm cup of chamomile tea.