– Russ Mason, M.S.
If there is one thing I dearly love, it is a long delicious sleep with pleasant dreams. Trouble is, I don’t always get a long delicious sleep. More often than not it’s a bit of tossing and turning before I start to snooze. Fortunately I was able to find some solutions for myself and, in the process, came to a greater understanding about why I have trouble falling asleep.
But I am not alone. In fact, I’ve come to understand that I am one of the lucky ones, because I don’t have a lot of stress in my life. But of course others do, and stress not only prevents a good night’s sleep, chronic stress can contribute to a variety of heath problems. Stress is really a catchall term which usually implies one or more negative emotional states, such as dread, fear, worry, anxiety and doubt. It’s hard to sleep with any of the above; and, depending on the severity, it could be impossible.
Most of us don’t suffer debilitating stress to the above degree, but there are other factors that can prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep. In 2011, a Sleep in America® poll recently released by the National Sleep Foundation finds pervasive use of communications technology in the hour before bed. Many people watch TV or use the computer the hour before bedtime, and this can disrupt the ability to fall asleep. Cell phones and texting have also been shown to be sleep-disruptive, especially in the hour before bedtime.
“Unfortunately cell phones and computers, which make our lives more productive and enjoyable, may also be abused to the point that they contribute to getting less sleep at night leaving millions of Americans functioning poorly the next day,” says Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D., Vice Chairman of the National Sleep Foundation.
The Sleep in America poll also found that 43% of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 report that they rarely—or never—get a good night’s sleep on weeknights. 60% say they experience a sleep problem every night or almost every night; i.e., snoring, waking in the night, waking up too early, or feeling un-refreshed in the morning.
Despite the fact that most people have trouble falling asleep, there are some excellent and effective remedies. The first is simple. Turn off the computer, cell phone, WiFi and television at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep. This will give your brain a chance to wind down.
Many people drink alcohol as a sleep aid, and it can be effective. Trouble is the sleep patterns will be disrupted and you will not be able to get good, deep restorative sleep. You may wake up groggy, hung-over, or with ‘brain fog;’ so drinking alcohol before bedtime is not wise.
Fortunately, there are many excellent sleep aids and they can greatly assist your getting drowsy.
A popular amino acid, l-tryptophan, has reportedly been used with great success; 500-1,000mg taken a half-hour before bedtime may help you fall asleep. (Many people fall asleep on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner. This is because there are high quantities of l-tryptophan in turkey).
Another popular sleep remedy is melatonin. Your brain produces this naturally in no-light or low-light situations, but 3mg can often help bring on a good night’s sleep. The herb valerian can also be very effective, as well as drinking chamomile tea (six tea-bags, not one).
If your mind is racing and you need to quiet it, saying a familiar prayer over and over often helps. If your mind wanders, coax it back into the prayer. Sometimes I do this, while picturing myself sitting in the church I attended as a boy. This usually works for me, because there is a level of comfort with the prayer and an image of a familiar setting.
Playing soothing music at bedtime can be very helpful for relaxation in preparation for sleep. Monroe Products has a variety of patented CDs (and digital downloads) which stimulate Delta waves in the brain, which can help you fall asleep. Some of the titles are: Deep 10 Relaxation, Super Sleep, Timeless, and Sleeping Through the Rain. I have several of these and I often play one of them at bedtime. (Click here for a complete list of all sleep enhancement titles.)
As you know, getting a good night’s sleep is essential for good health. I wish you a great night’s sleep tonight and, as they say, pleasant dreams.
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