Sleep Aids for a Healthier You
Americans spend upwards of $3 billion every year on sleep medications that can come with heavy side effects. Would you like to sleep like a baby without needing to rely on drugs? During the winter our energy levels gradually drop down, so it is important to give yourself any extra time to sleep that you need in order to feel fully rested. Although this can be hard to manage with our busy schedules, life is easier and happier when you are well rested, and a lack of sleep can also make an existing case of insomnia worse. Here are a few tips to get you on the path to a restful night’s sleep.
Empty the Mind
If you lie awake at night with an ever-expanding to-do list filling your thoughts, then this might be the solution for you. Before going to bed at night, write down everything on your mind. It doesn’t have to be legible or make sense, just make a list of any thought or worry that’s keeping you from sleeping. After you finish the list, tear up the piece of paper and head to bed. If there are things that you need to remember, such as shopping lists or appointments, write those down on a separate page and save it for later.
Create a Peaceful Place
Your bedroom should be a place of rest and relaxation, because it does make a difference to the quality of your sleep. Try to create a quiet and cozy environment. Keep the décor to a minimum, the lighting dim, and any music should be soothing. Research has found that lavender, vanilla, and green apple are among the best scents to help lower anxiety and induce sleep, making these smells a good choice for a scented candle or heated essential oil. Try to keep your pets outside the bedroom because their movements will keep your body from fully relaxing into deep R.E.M. sleep. As much as possible, your bedroom should only be for sleep.
A calming tea before bedtime can ensure a good night's sleep. Drink valerian or passionflower tea before going to sleep every night for one month. Steep 1 to 2 tablespoons of the dried herb in one cup of hot water and drink just before bed. You can also look for a tea with the traditional Chinese herbs zizyphus or jujube seed, bamboo shavings, and oyster shell, which soothe the mind and spirit.
You might also try my herbal blend Calm-Fort/Sleep, which contains useful herbs like lily bulbs, polygala, and turmeric, which help manage stress and calm the spirit while relieving restlessness and insomnia.
When you eat late, you wake up tired. Your body will be busy digesting your dinner while you are trying to sleep, so you won't feel as rested in the morning. Do not eat anything for at least three hours before bedtime. Also, cut back on eating bacon, cheese, chocolate, ham, potatoes, tomatoes, and sausage, especially before bed. These foods contain tyramine, which inhibits neurochemicals like norepinephrine and can cause insomnia. And if you are having ongoing sleep problems, you should definitely eliminate caffeine from your diet.
Eat for sleep! Try eating more grains at dinner; carbohydrates tend to make people sleepy. Another great “snooze snack” is a warm cup of milk. Because milk is rich in the amino acid tryptophan, it can sometimes aid in deep sleep. Mix in natural vanilla flavoring for a soothing snack. Or if you prefer, eat 1 cup of natural yogurt an hour before bedtime.
Exercise for Sleep
People with regular exercise routines often sleep better and have fewer incidents of insomnia than those don't get regular physical activity. Exercise promotes sleep and improves sleep quality by altering brain chemistry. Exercising moderately for 20 to 30 minutes three times a day, combined with meditation or tai chi in the evening, will not only help you fall asleep and stay asleep, but will also increase the amount of time you spend in R.E.M. sleep. In fact, for some people, exercise alone is enough to overcome sleep problems. Exercise in the morning or afternoon, but do not exercise at all during the last two hours before bed.
May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has appeared regularly on Dr. Oz, the Doctors and EXTRA. Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica and Newport Beach. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni founded Tao of Wellness over 25 years ago in addition to also founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit www.taoofwellness.com. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310-917-2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at
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