A Non-Drug Approach to Sleep

  • Melatonin. This is a naturally occurring hormone in the body that is produced by the brain to help regulate our sleep/wake cycles. Melatonin supplementation can augment the amount naturally produced by the body to induce sleep. It is sold without a prescription in health food and drug stores.
  • Tryptophan-rich evening snack. Tryptophan is an amino acid that acts as a natural sedative. A glass of warm milk or a slice of turkey are excellent sources. Other sources include: bananas, cottage cheese, eggs, fish, tofu, soybeans, legumes, nuts, and brown rice.
  • Bedtime as a positive ritual. Create an inviting atmosphere with a comfortable bed and pillow. Soothing music or recordings of sounds from nature such as a trickling brook or waves can help lull you to sleep. Keep the room well-ventilated with fresh air with the thermostat set in the mid 60s. Any warmer and you’ll toss and turn from the discomfort of being too warm.
  • Keep your bed a place for sleep (and maybe one other thing). But not for working, reading, watching television, doing crossword puzzles, etc. Let your mind and body identify your bed with sleeping.
  • Avoid TV before bedtime. Don’t watch the news or other programs that may cause stress.
  • Take a bath. A warm bath or quick soak in a hot tub helps with relaxation.
  • Get a massage. If available, have your spouse or significant other give you a massage just before going to sleep. If not a full-body massage, a short back rub and/or face and scalp massage can be a big help.
  • Keep regular bedtime hours. Your body likes regular routines. It likes to know that it’s time to get up at the same time each day, eat at the same times, and go to bed at the same time so, pick a reasonable and regular time to go to bed each night.
  • Don’t sleep in. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends and holidays. Once you’ve awakened, get up. Don’t lie in bed awake thinking about getting up. Just do it.
  • Get some exercise. Light cardio exercise such as a walk or bike ride at least 2 hours before bedtime can help induce relaxation.
  • Deep breathing. One of the main reasons many of us are tense is our breathing. Most people breathe very shallowly, using only the top part of their lungs. Deep breathing allows us to use our entire lungs, providing more oxygen to our bodies, and energizing and rejuvenating every organ and cell in our bodies. It is one of the most effective and beneficial methods of relaxation.

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