About 30 percent of us have occasional insomnia, meaning we have trouble falling or staying asleep. And as a nation we annually fill more than 53 million prescriptions for sleep aids. Here's what you can do to get a healthy, natural night of sleep.
Did you know?
A recent University of Michigan study found that people who have personality conflicts with bosses or coworkers are nearly twice as likely to develop sleep problems. And according to the most recent National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll, part-time workers report the highest sleep satisfaction, while those who work multiple jobs or more than 50 hours per week sleep the worst.
Wake up at the same time every day, says Herbert Ross, DC, author of the Definitive Guide to Sleep Disorders (Celestial Arts, 2007). Yes, that includes weekends. Scientists believe your biological sleep clock is controlled by two things: your circadian rhythm (an innate 24-hour cycle orchestrated by the hypothalamus and influenced by external factors such as light) and a sleep homeostasis (a hunger for sleep that builds up throughout the day). Waking up — and going to bed — at the same time reinforces that cycle. By getting up at the same time every day, your “sleep hunger” maxes out at the same time every night.
Let in natural light. The hormone melatonin is a powerful sleep inducer, regulated largely by exposure to light. When natural light hits the optic nerve in the morning, it signals the pineal gland to slow melatonin production, allowing you to wake up faster. In contrast, when it gets dark, melatonin production ramps up. Yet studies have shown that people who aren't exposed to enough natural light during the day have trouble producing melatonin at night. Breus recommends opening the blinds first thing upon waking to take in more natural light. Or, better yet, take the dog for a morning walk.