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7 Strategies for a Good Night’s Sleep

Adequate sleep is absolutely necessary for long-term health and regeneration. Here are 7 tips for improving the quality of your sleep, from Michael T. Murray, N.D., author of What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know: The Alternative Treatments That May Change Your Life — and the Prescriptions That Could Harm You.

1. Make your bedroom primarily a place for sleeping. It is not a good idea to use your bed for paying bills, doing work, etc. Help your body recognize that this is a place for rest or intimacy. Make sure your room is well ventilated and the temperature is consistent. And try to keep it quiet. You could use a fan or a white-noise machine to help block outside noises.

2. Incorporate bedtime rituals. Listening to soft music or sipping a cup of herbal tea cues your body that it’s time to slow down and begin to prepare for sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Keeping a regular schedule will help your body expect sleep at the same time each day. Don’t oversleep to make up for a poor night’s sleep — doing that for even a couple of days can reset your body clock and make it hard for you to get to sleep at night.

3. Relax for a while before going to bed. Spending quiet time can make falling asleep easier. This may include meditation, relaxation, breathing exercises, or taking a warm bath. Try listening to recorded relaxation or guided imagery programs.

4. Get out of bed if you are unable to sleep. Don’t lie in bed awake. Go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Worrying about falling asleep actually keeps many people awake.

5. Don’t do anything stimulating. Don’t read anything job-related or watch a stimulating television program (commercials and news shows tend to be stimulating). Don’t expose yourself to bright light. The light gives cues to your brain that it is time to wake up.

6. Perform progressive relaxation. This technique is based on a very simple procedure of comparing tension with relaxation. Begin with contracting the muscles of the face and neck, hold the contraction for a period of at least one to two seconds, and then relax the muscles. Next the upper arms and chest are contracted and then relaxed, followed by the lower arms and hands. Repeat the process progressively down the body: i.e., the abdomen, the buttocks, the thighs, the calves, and the feet. Then work your way back up to your head. Repeat two or three times. This technique is often used in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia.

7. Use a natural product to improve the quality of sleep. A number of natural products can help to improve sleep. The specific product that I recommend is Tranquil Sleep from Natural Factors: it provides a combination of melatonin, 5-HTP, and L-theanine in a great-tasting chewable tablet. Melatonin is an important hormone secreted by the pineal gland, a small gland in the center of the brain. If a person’s melatonin levels are low, melatonin at bedtime can produce a gentle sedative effect. A dosage of 3 mg at bedtime is more than enough. The amino acids 5-HTP and L-theanine (a relaxing compound from green tea) have been shown to decrease the time required to get to sleep and to decrease the number of nighttime awakenings, and they really seem to work well with melatonin. The recommended dosage at bedtime is 30 to 60 mg for 5-HTP and 200 to 400 mg for L-theanine. Although I recommend the Tranquil Sleep formula for adults, I have found that kids really respond well to L-theanine alone.

Michael T. Murray, N.D., author of What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know: The Alternative Treatments That May Change Your Life — and the Prescriptions That Could Harm You (Copyright © 2009 by Michael T. Murray, N.D.), is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine. He has been featured on numerous television programs, including 20/20 and Dateline. He lives in Washington.



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