We've all experienced the occasional sleepless night. And it's misleading: watching the hour hand drag around the clock, turning yourself into a pretzel looking for one position you can hold long enough to doze off, dreading having to get up and drag yourself through the next day.
But for too many of us, this becomes an every night experience. Insomnia is a torture that gives us aches and pains, foggy thinking and a cranky, depressed disposition. Before you ask the pharmacist what to take, consider some simple home remedies that even sleep experts recommend?
Sleep doctors agree that there are simple things you can do to end the misery of little sleep or poor sleep. Here is a Baker's Dozen that just might change your restless nights to sweet dreams.
- Stay on schedule. Even if you are a free spirit, your body is designed to work best if you go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Yes, even on the weekend.
- Let the Sun shine in. Your brain needs to know that it's daytime. Try to get at least 30 minutes of natural light every day. This could combine really well with tip number three.
- Work it out. Exercise every day. Your body is a machine that is designed to work. When it idles for too long things go haywire. So get up and move those muscles. Just make sure you finish the workout 5 or 6 hours before bedtime. Getting your blood moving revs you up.
- Create a good sleep environment. Turn off things that make noise and light. Invest in a comfortable bed. Turn thermostat down; cooler temperatures can help you sleep better.
- Nap if you need to. However, make it short; twenty minutes or less will rev you up. Longer naps leave you feeling sluggish. And take that nap in the early afternoon (think siesta!) Napping after 3 pm is a no-no.
- Eat light at night. A large meal can interfere with your sleep. It also tends to make you thirsty, which makes you drink more liquids, which will cause your bladder to wake you up in the small hours.
- Do not do drugs. If you find your prescribed medication is making it hard to sleep, talk to your doctor about an alternative. Some over-the-counter medications and herbal remedies can also keep you awake.
- Nix the nicotine and caffeine. They are stimulants that can take eight hours to wear off. Let's see, eight hours … that would be about how long you've been tossing and turning every night.
- Say no to the nightcap. It seems like a glass of wine is a good way to relax, but the sleep researchers say it can keep you from getting into the sleep sleep stages and it can cause you to wake up after the alcohol wears off.
- Hydrotherapy. A hot bath relaxes your muscles and afterwards your falling body temperature helps you feel sleepy.
- Take time to unwind. A few minutes of reading or listening to soft music helps your mind to back off the day and settle down for rest.
- Do not lie in bed awake. If you are wide wake after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing (try tips ten and eleven) until you feel sleepy. Lying there being irritated or anxious about the sleep you are missing makes falling asleep even harder.
Finally – if a week or two of following these tips does not help, it's time to see your doctor. A short course of medication can get you back on schedule, or your doctor may refer you to specialists that employ other therapies.