The search for a good snooze could be over.
How did you sleep last night? If you’re one of the 50 million to 70 million Americans who suffer from sleep and wakefulness disorders, chances are your slumber was substandard. Not getting the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended seven to nine hours of nightly shuteye has its consequences. It’s one of the reasons why 60 million prescriptions for sleeping pills were written last year. According to Dr. Abid Malik, board-certified psychiatrist and medical director of the Sleep Disorder Center at South Seminole Hospital, chronic sleep deprivation not only makes people grouchy and cognitively sluggish; it can also lead to high blood pressure, weight gain and increased risk for diabetes and stroke. In many cases, Malik says, “good sleep hygiene” can pave the way to better rest. He recommends sticking to a consistent bedtime, eliminating working in bed, refraining from evening exercise, and dimming the lights 30 to 45 minutes before lights out. But sometimes a lack of quality sleep can indicate something more serious, such as restless leg syndrome, depression or sleep apnea.
“Sleep apnea is a disorder in which someone has an obstruction in his or her windpipe during sleep,” he explains. Throughout the night, the throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway, producing pauses in breathing that move a person out of deep sleep and into light sleep. The result is a restless night’s sleep. For the millions of Americans who are just too stressed or too wired to fall asleep and stay asleep, natural alternatives to sleeping pills have had proven success. Steven D’Antonio, a naturopathic doctor at Winter Park’s Whole Family Healthcare, most commonly recommends melatonin supplements for people who have trouble sleeping. “If patients have difficulty staying asleep, we often recommend valerian root,” he says. “The tea smells like sweaty socks, so most patients opt for the encapsulated standardized extract of valerian.”
For those desperate for a good night’s sleep, a smelly sock tea may not seem so bad.
Chill Out – Setting the room to the ideal sleeping temperature of 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit has been proven to help.
Go Solo – According to Australian researchers, some people might need to ditch their sleeping companion. Of the 13,000 sleepers studied, 70 percent woke up during the night, and the person in bed next to them was most often to blame.
Journal – Folks with a “monkey mind” can try writing their anxieties down in a bedside journal or try composing a to-do list before nodding off.
Move West – A nationwide University of Pennsylvania study found that Southerners have the most trouble falling and staying asleep. It turns out Californians are among the best-rested.