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Getting a Good Night's Sleep

Many people suffering from insomnia use sleep medications to help them nod off, but this isn't a good first choice for combating sleep problems.

"Natural sleep is healthier than drug-aided sleep. After taking sleep medications, people often feel hazy and detached when they wake up. In contrast, people who fall asleep naturally are more likely to wake up refreshed," Dr. Robert Ballard, director of the Sleep Center and National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, said in a prepared statement.

He offered several tips for developing good sleep habits to help you fall asleep more easily and reliably:

  • Prepare yourself for sleep by making sure you're calm and relaxed before you go to bed. Before you hit the sack, wind down with relaxing activity. Avoid loud music and television. Turn down the lights. Reading, yoga and meditation can help prepare you for sleep.
  • Stick to a regular schedule by going to bed and waking up at about the same times every day. Your body will get used to the schedule and be better prepared for sleep at bedtime. Make sure your bedroom is cool and comfortable. If you have a luminescent alarm clock, move it out of your direct line of vision.
  • If you spend more than 15 minutes in bed tossing and turning, get out of bed and do something relaxing such as reading. Staying in bed while you're awake only increases your anxiety about not being able to get to sleep.
  • Exercise can help you sleep better, but only if you exercise at the right time. The ideal time for exercise is in the morning. Exercising late in the day can contribute to sleeplessness. That's because exercise causes an increase in your body's energy.
  • Don't eat big meals before bed and don't consume caffeine in the afternoon or evening. Don't smoke. Alcohol can also impair your ability to sleep.

"When people don't get enough sleep, their health can be seriously jeopardized. Not sleeping enough can impair the memory, cause depression, and make one more susceptible to illness," Ballard said.

If sleeplessness persists for more than a month -- even though you're practicing healthy sleep habits -- you should consult your doctor, Ballard said.

More information

The National Sleep Foundation has more about getting a good night's sleep.

Reference Source 101



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