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3 Drug-Free Ways to Sleep Better

Fifty years ago, 17-year-old, Randy Gardner and two pals camped out in his bedroom to see what would happen if Gardner broke the world record for sleep deprivation. The teenager stayed awake for 264.4 hours (that record stands today), experiencing moodiness, hallucinations, incoherent thinking and slurred speech.

The 50-70 million North Americans who have frequent trouble falling or staying asleep don’t have to go to such extremes to discover the side effects of insomnia: relationship problems, heart disease, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and stroke.

Related: Sleep better in 9 steps.

If you don’t usually get 6½-8 hours of restful sleep -- try to ID the cause. Insomnia can be triggered by environmental problems such as a TV or digital device, noise or light in the bedroom. (Only red light is sleep-compatible.) Or you may have trouble sleeping because of emotional distress or a medical condition, such as chronic pain or sleep apnea. So make your bedroom sleep-friendly and ask your doc about treatment for any condition that’s keeping you awake. Then try these drug-free ways to sleep better.

  1. Exercise daily -- not within 3 hours of bedtime. Walking 10,000 steps a day dispels stress and clues your body to rest.
  2. Soak in an Epsom salts bath and eat a banana before bed -- the combo of magnesium and potassium relaxes muscles and hot water helps dispel stress hormones.
  3. Drink chamomile tea. But skip late-night alcohol -- it’ll spike blood sugar and interfere with sleep cycles.

If these don’t do the trick, ask your doc for a referral to a sleep specialist.

Related: Discover 5 natural sleep aids that really work.