What is the secret of a good night's sleep?

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January 02, 2009 1:30PM

The most common cause of poor sleep is lack of healthy stress-handling habits. People who learn how to relax and deal with their stress in a healthy manner usually have good sleep habits. You might need to get some help from a professional therapist Here are some other tips to help get those ZZZZ's * Cut the caffeine. If you are having trouble sleeping, the first thing you should do is to stop eating and drinking stimulants. Caffeine is found in most sodas and teas, in diet products, in "energy" products, in chocolate and cocoa, in many headache and pain medications, and in nearly 60 different kinds of plants - some herbal products will list these plants without telling you that it's caffeine, so watch for cacao, guarana, kola nut, yaupon holly or ilex, and yerba mate * Cut the alcohol. People think that alcohol helps them get to sleep because it is a depressant. It actually does make you feel sleepy, however it also keeps you from restful sleep, and makes you wake up more frequently. Skip the nightcap. * Watch the cold medications and herbs. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are stimulants. Modern drug addicts even abuse common diet, "muscle building" and cold medications to get high! Taking too much of these products will ruin your sleep, so watch out for products containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, ma huang, Mormon tea, or squaw tea. * Stop resisting! When you feel sleepy, go to bed whenever it is convenient. Don't try to stay up to a certain time or do more work. Your sleep schedule might be to fall asleep right after dinner and wake up before sunrise - so long as it doesn't interfere with your work, you should indulge your natural rhythm and get a better sleep. * Move it! If you sit around too much, your body gets sluggish, and your sleep suffers. Get some exercise - a brisk walk right after dinner will set your body up to get sleepy by bedtime. * Drop the temperature. The body signals that it's ready for sleep by lowering your temperature. If your bedroom is kept very warm, your body will not sleep as well as if it is kept cool. Set your thermostat below 70 degrees. This also holds true for pajamas that are too tight and too warm - choose a loose-fitting sleep outfit that will let your body heat evaporate to keep you cool. * Make a place. Your bedroom should be comfortable and cozy. The bed should be only for sleeping - get up and sit in a chair if you want to read or work on the laptop. If your bedroom is a bright, noisy room, you won't be able to relax as well as if it is dark and quiet. Think about "blackout" curtains if you live in a brightly-lit neighborhood, and think about repainting or repapering those bright walls in a more soothing color. * Try warm milk. I know, it sounds horrid, but there are actually chemicals in milk that help your body regulate sleep - remember that it's warm milk, not warm chocolate milk (you're cutting caffeine, right?) * Try melatonin. This has not been adequately proven by scientific research, but the chemical inside your brain that regulates sleep patterns is melatonin. It's not going to hurt anything to try taking melatonin at bedtime every day - it won't make you sleepy, but if it does have an effect, it will help your brain reset the sleep schedule so that you will start feeling sleepy at about the same time every day. * Have a ritual. Create a bedtime pattern that you follow every night. This signals your body and brain that it's time to go to sleep. Many people have a wash, brush their teeth, snuggle into their blankets to watch a few minutes of tv or read part of a book - that is a bedtime ritual. Make one and keep it going.