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Monday
Feb212011

Sleep Secrets: How to Get a Good Night's Rest

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Is there anything worse than tossing and turning when you really need some sleep?

Ten percent of Americans have chronic sleep problems, and up to 35 percent have occasional difficulty with sleep, according to the University of Pennsylvania Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program.

But there are some simple things you can do to make it easier to settle down for the night. The new issue of Prevention magazine has some sleep solutions, and the magazine's editor-in-chief, Diane Salvatore, visited ABC News’ Good Morning America to talk about them.

Keep to a Set Schedule: The trick is to go to bed every night at the same time and get up at the same time -- even on the weekends, Salvatore said. That sets your biological sleep clock.

Maintain Sleep Diary: Do this to find out why you're not getting the right sleep, Salvatore said. Write down when you go to sleep and wake up, and also what you did in the hours before you went to sleep. Ask yourself: what you were watching on TV? Were you having an argument? Were you on e-mail? Analyze your diary for two weeks to see if there's a pattern.

Avoid Bedtime Exercise: Exercise before bed is not good because it makes your body warm, which is not conducive to sleep.

Avoid Alcohol: A stiff drink will knock you out, but it will keep you waking up all through the night because your body's attempts to metabolize the alcohol will play havoc with your body temperature, hormones and REM sleep. Instead, drink milk before bed. It's metabolizes into melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

Chamomile and Other Relaxing Teas: Chamomile is a healing herb that activates the back of your brain and tells the body to go to sleep. Other relaxing drinks contain melatonin, and some have tryptophan – the amino acid that's found in turkey.

White Noise: White noise helps block small distractions and makes it easier for you to sleep.

Block Light: The darker your room can be, the sounder you will sleep.

If you are doing all of these things and you can't sleep, or if you're getting seven to eight hours of sleep but you're still waking up exhausted, you could have a problem such as sleep apnea, Salvatore said. That will need a professional diagnosis and possibly medication or behavioral therapy, she added.

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ABC News Radio