Sweet Dreams: Tips for Good Sleep

What helps you fall asleep when you struggle with insomnia? Try these healthy habits and remedies.

| September/October 2016

  • Taking a walk in nature is a great way to reduce stress and get exercise.
    Photo by Fotolia
  • Some people prefer to sleep for four hours at a time, with short breaks, rather than 8 hours all at once.
    Photo by iStock
  • A satisfying rest helps you maintain focus and alertness during the day.
    Photo by iStock
  • A mug of sleep-formulated tea or golden milk with turmeric may help you get to sleep.
    Photo by Fotolia

An occasional episode of insomnia can make it difficult to handle the day, but regular episodes of insomnia make it difficult to handle life. The causes of insomnia are varied, and both psychological and physiological factors can be present. Environmental and dietary factors also play a role, and statistics show that, for unknown reasons, insomnia is more common in women than men.

Insomnia is classified in two broad categories: sleep-onset insomnia (difficulty falling asleep), and maintenance insomnia (frequent or early waking). Treating either type of insomnia should begin with an awareness of your needs. Not all people require the same amount of sleep, for example, and some may think they have a problem only because they don’t fit the norm. Sleep cycles can vary among people and throughout a person’s life. While one person may require only four hours of sleep, others need 10 hours to feel refreshed.

Lifestyle Changes

The first and easiest way to remedy sleep problems is to address some of these underlying lifestyle factors.

1. Health

Sleep disturbances can have physiological causes, so treating the cause can solve the sleep problem. People suffering from hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, for example, can experience fluctuations in blood sugar levels during the night. The brain needs a constant supply of glucose to function, and a drop in blood sugar signals the body to produce hormones and neurotransmitters that stimulate sugar release. The resulting rise in blood sugar may wake a person (a small amount of fruit upon waking will relieve the symptoms). Serotonin is a natural chemical associated with inducing sleep. Sometimes, deficiencies in tryptophan, vitamin B6, niacin, magnesium or other nutrients can inhibit the formation of this hormone. Sleep apnea is another common sleep disturbance that is caused by a physical condition. It is important to have a correct diagnosis. If you have recurrent sleep issues, ask your health-care professional to run tests to rule out physiological causes of sleep disturbance.

2. Daytime stress

Many people get wound up working to achieve their goals during waking hours, but trouble occurs when stress built up during the day is released at bedtime—they lie with their brains racing, unable to shut off the mental background noise. In Chinese medicine, this type of insomnia is called “disturbed shen qi,” or a disturbed mental spirit. Releasing stress before bedtime by taking a brisk walk, doing a yoga routine or meditating, or taking a warm bath with calming essential oils can be more effective (and safer) than taking a sedative. Also, be aware of stimulants ingested during the day such as caffeine, sugar or nicotine; try cutting back to see if that relieves the problem.

3. Sleep surroundings

The sleeping environment can have an important bearing on both types of insomniacs. Noise, an uncomfortable bed, a snoring partner and light are obvious distractions. One often overlooked factor is temperature. Most people sleep more soundly in a cool room. Research by the University of South Australia in 2004 showed that the body needs to drop its core temperature in order for sleep to initiate normally. Experts often recommend 60 to 65 degrees as an optimal sleeping temperature.

8/9/2016 8:04:08 PM

I am curious as to the amount of milk in the Golden Milk recipe listed here. It seems like a lot of spices, etc if we are only talking about 1 cup of milk. But maybe that's the way it's supposed to be...

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