We all battle sleeplessness once in while. Problems at work, a fight with your spouse, or simply a subtle shift in your body’s “clock” will occasionally lead to sleepless nights. For some people, however, getting to sleep is an endless battle. Doctors estimate that half of all adults will suffer from sleep problems. And when you got older, falling asleep may get even harder.
Everyone needs a different amount of sleep. Some people get five hours a night and wake up full of energy. Others are exhausted if they get less than nine or ten hours. What this means is that insomnia is a very personal thing. As a general rule, if you’re suddenly getting less sleep than usual and are paying the price the next morning, you probably have insomnia and need to do something about it.
Here’s what doctors recommend.
Clear your head before you go to bed . Doctors estimate that about half of insomnia is caused by mental and emotional stress. This makes sense, as anyone who’s tossed and turned the night before (or after) a stressful day can attest. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can turn down the volume before you hit the hay. Sleep experts advise using the last half-hour of your day to wind down and clear your mind. Don’t pore over your daily planner or scribble notes for tomorrow. Just relax. Spend a few minutes on the porch listening to the sounds of the night. Read for a bit, or give a little time to your hobby. Emptying the stress from your mind, even temporarily, will help prevent it from keeping you awake later on.
Pour a glass of milk . A glass of warm milk has long been a remedy for sleepless nights, and now there’s good evidence to show it works. Milk – along with cheese – contains an amino acid that’s called tryptophan. The body converts tryptophan to serotonin – natural chemicals that helps the body regulate its sleep cycles. Having a little milk before bed – it can be warm or cold – will give your brain the message that it’s time to be shutting down for the night.
Ask your doctor about melatonin. Another natural chemical that can help you sleep is melatonin. Produced by the brain, melatonin helps set your internal clock, so your body knows when it’s time to wake up and when to start getting sleepy. As you get older, the brain starts producing less melatonin – which is why doctors sometimes recommend that people with insomnia take melatonin supplements. Even small amounts – between one half and one milligram – may help you sleep better. You can get melatonin at natural food stores, pharmacies, and even some grocery stores.
Pour a cup of herbal tea . Alternative practitioners believe that teas made from chamomile (babunah), valerian (jalakan), or passion flower can be very helpful for calming you down and helping you get to sleep more quickly. Don’t drink black tea at bedtime, however, because it contains caffeine.
Speaking of coffee, don’t drink three cups after dinner and expect to sleep well that night. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant. Even what you’re used to it, drinking coffee at night can lengthen the time it takes to fall asleep and will also make the sleep you do get less restful.
Have a soothing soak . Few things are more relaxing than a long soak in a warm bath. Many people, in fact, start receiving overtures from the sandman even before they’re out of the rub.
Make your days active . Research has shown that people who exercise during the day sleep a lot better than folks who are more sedentary. It’s important, however, to get your exercise no later than the early evening. Exercise stimulates the brain your body, and doing it at night can make you too energized to fall asleep easily.
Say goodnight to nightcaps . Even though alcohol can help you fall asleep more quickly, it disturbs the overall quality of your sleep. That’s why people who drink at night are often tired the next day, even when they’ve gotten plenty of sleep.
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