Sleep

Sleep aid alternatives

Author: Canadian Living

Sleep

Sleep aid alternatives

If you suffer from insomnia but don't like the idea of taking prescribed medication, there are alternatives.

Dr. Meir Kryger, author of Can't Sleep, Can't Stay Awake: A Woman's Guide to Sleep Disorders joined Balance Television host Dr. Marla Shapiro to talk all about some ways that can help you get a decent night's sleep.

"One of the things that people need to do is to make sure that they don't do anything that makes their sleep a lot worse and what we're talking about now is sleep hygiene," Kryger said. "What I mean by that is that if you're not sleeping, if you're not falling asleep, get out of bed. In other words, lying there thinking about not sleeping and getting frustrated that you're not sleeping is only going to make things a lot worse."

A note of warning: Once you get out of bed, don't turn on the television, check your e-mail or deal with your finances. You're already over-stimulated to begin with. Kryger suggests doing something boring instead.

"Believe it or not, I've heard that some people will read the phone book or they're going to read a boring novel," Kryger said. "You don't want to do anything that's going to engage you. That's what people need to learn to do: Learn to shut the brain down. Once you're tired and drowsy again, then you go back to sleep."

Everybody does something as a ritual as a part of going to sleep, Kryger explained. Whether it's brushing your teeth or fluffing your pillow. The ritual is important, he said, and should be something soothing and relaxing to the individual, something to help her wind down at the end of the day.

Taking a warm bath to help you go to sleep is not a myth, Kryger said. There is excellent data that says when you take a warm bath you're body is getting rid of heat. Your temperature drops and research says that that helps you fall asleep.

There is no reason to believe that drinking warm milk is helpful for falling asleep. Kryger said that although milk contains tryptophan, which is good for sleep, the levels aren't high enough for milk to be effective in and of itself -- but it may be useful as part of your ritual.

Other alternatives such as Kava Kava (no longer available in Canada), valerian and melatonin (also illegal in Canada) are difficult to recommend, Kryger said, because most products found in health food stores have never been properly tested for insomnia.

"People need to learn to relax," Kryger insisted. "Some things they can learn on their own and for many things they're so stressed out that they can't actually learn to relax on their own and they may need to go to a psychologist or someone else to help them."

"Some of the popular methods to try and get people to relax would include deep breathing. In other words, lying down and breathing very, very deeply and very, very slowly, long enough that you're no longer thinking about work the next day but you're actually thinking about your breathing and it sort of shuts down the mind."

People can also learn relaxation techniques such as making big fists, then relaxing. Making big fists, then relaxing. Then you can move on to tensing your bicep and relaxing, etc.

It's another ritual that can help you relax and gets you away from thinking about the stressful events that may be impacting your sleep.

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