Irregular sleep patterns have long been one of the most common complaints heard by doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists. The modern, industrialized, computerized world is not kind to the human condition. Stress, processed foods, 24-hour economies and all sorts of noise pollution are blamed for a host of sleep disorders.
Fortunately, there are ways to fight back and claim your right to sleep soundly every night of the week. No one method works for everyone, but there is usually some combination of techniques that lets just about anyone get more shuteye.
Most experts agree that one of the following methods could put an end to your sleepless nights. Remember, if you have a serious problem with sleep that lasts for more than a few days, play it safe and visit your health care professional. That said, here are some of the most effective sleep-inducing strategies:
Don’t nap. If you are over 60 and like to take a 20 or 30 minute catnap during the day, so be it. But if you are a young adult, do your best to avoid naps. Many people find that a brisk walk works well to remedy afternoon drowsiness.
Don’t eat or exercise near your bedtime. Try not to eat heavy meals or do vigorous exercise within 4 hours of going to bed. Your metabolism keeps going for a while after exercise and a heavy meal will keep your digestive system busy while you are trying to sleep.
Attempt to eliminate caffeine after lunch. Most people can deal with early morning coffee, but because caffeine stays in your bloodstream for about 10 hours, it’s best to nix the java after late morning.
Consider natural supplements like valerian, melatonin and kava. Always talk with your doctor when using supplements to address a sleep issue, because a more serious condition may be the cause of long-term sleep problems. Doctors commonly tell patients to use natural supplements, however, and there is a bevy of research to back up the effectiveness of melatonin and similar substances.
For women who are not pregnant or nursing, and for people who have no allergy to it, chamomile tea has been a trusted sleep aid for centuries. To get the full effect of the natural chemicals in chamomile tea, use several bags and make sure you cover it while it brews.
Try to adhere to a set bedtime and wake up time. This one can be quite difficult, especially if you are a person with an unpredictable work or social schedule. But for those who can manage it, setting the body’s clock to go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day can work wonders.
Beware the “alcohol trap.” A drink or two can indeed cause you to drift off quickly, but studies have shown that the effect is only temporary. In fact, alcohol before bed usually leads to interrupted sleep after the drink’s effect fades away.
No liquids for two hours before bedtime. This seems like a no brainer, but is one of the most common reasons people fail to sleep through the night. Setting a cutoff time for liquids, and food, is easy to do, costs nothing, and has helped countless people reclaim their healthy sleep patterns.
Our bodies need sleep, so make sure that you are getting as much as necessary. And don’t forget to check with a doctor if your sleep difficulties last more than a few days. But once you get your sleep cycle back in the groove, you’ll be on the road to natural health and a fuller life.