Getting quality, consistent sleep can be quite a feat. Try these 8 tricks and solutions to make happy, healthy sleep your reality.
By Dr. Mehmet Oz
Make a Plan
Decide when you want to wake up and count backward about seven hours. Now take about a 15-minute period before that to start your slowdown process. That means taking five minutes to finish up must-do chores, followed by five minutes of hygiene stuff (flossing, washing your face and so on) and five minutes of relaxing into your sleep state through things like meditation and saying "I love you" as you lie in bed.
Most of us do things at night that are counter-productive to actually sleeping. Instead, make slight changes in your rituals to prepare your body for rest.
Dim your lights several hours before bed to avoid the stimulation caused by artificial light pollution—which is all around us through TV, computers, and indoor lighting—and serves to stimulate us.
Come up with a regular, rhythmic evening ritual that allows you to embrace anxieties that get released when you slow down. Meditation, prayer, and deep breathing are all good methods.
Surrender to sleep. After all, you go to the movies, you shouldn't go to sleep. There is nothing you have to do to sleep—except let go of waking. Practice "dying" into sleep—rather than forcing yourself to sleep—and cultivate awareness of your personal twilight zone.
Tossing and turning works for salads, not sleep problems. If you can't fall asleep within 15 minutes, the answer is not to keep trying. Don't force yourself to stay in bed, because the wait will be interminable. Instead, get out of bed and do some light activity. Getting your mind off sleep resets and reboots your system. Try a yoga pose, meditation, or a short walk. To get back to sleep, music and meditation seem to work best.
Generally, we don't like telling you not to do something—unless it's smoking, slurping trans fats, or spending 16 hours in front of the tube. But for optimum sleep preparation, there are a few things you should avoid to increase your chance of falling—and staying—asleep.
Some sleep problems don't arise because of worry or melatonin problems. Some are caused because your back hurts like stink. Truth is, some people get through general back pain or knee pain during the day because they're so focused on other things. But when trying to get to sleep, they feel the pain—and focus on it. A simple over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can help—not specifically to get you to sleep, but to help alleviate the pain that's preventing you from sleeping. Take aspirin with a glass of water at least one hour before bedtime so that the acid doesn't have as much chance of refluxing up from your stomach to your esophagus.
Allergies can make sleeping trouble worse because of the congestion they cause. About 40 percent of people with allergic rhinitis have trouble sleeping. Over-the-counter nasal strips and sprays help open up everything and clear up symptoms like headaches, watery eyes, runny nose, or new-onset snoring. If you experience those symptoms and aren't aware of any allergies, search for the source in unexpected places. Some have allergies to gluten (wheat, barley, oats), which can lead to congestion and increase insomnia, as can allergies to detergents and the cleaning products you use on your clothes or sheets. One note: Decongestant nasal sprays are addictive and raise your blood pressure. Saline or antihistamine sprays (or a prescription steroid spray) are better options.
You'd think that the way to treat a lack of sleep is to get more of it, but one way that sleep docs treat insomnia is by making their patients sleep less. For instance, they'll take a patient getting five hours a night and force them to get only four a night, and then gradually increase for 10 or 15 minutes a night once a week. The sleep-deprivation approach can work as a way to force your body to reset back into a regular sleeping pattern.
Several supplements have been shown to decrease sleep problems. These are the ones we recommended:
Valerian root: It contains ingredients with sedative properties and is generally considered one of the more effective herbal therapies for sleep. Our recommendation: 300 milligrams.
Ginseng: Studies have shown that the ingredients in ginseng help decrease the amount of wakefulness in a 12-hour period and increase the amount of slow-wave sleep. Try 200 to 600 milligrams of the extract.