Day in the Life, Health

10 Strategies for Better Sleep

Take a bath, adjust your attitude, darken your room and the rest will follow

By Ginny Graves, Allure
updated 11:50 a.m. CT, Sun., March. 2, 2008

The brown bat sleeps for nearly 20 hours each day. Humans function best on a comparatively thrifty seven to nine, but more and more people are having trouble getting even that. The National Sleep Foundation recently found that just 25 percent of Americans get at least eight hours of rest on weekdays and that 60 percent of women say they often sleep poorly.

“Insomnia is a bona fide health problem,” says Rubin Naiman, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona‘s Program in Integrative Medicine and sleep director at the Miraval Resort in Tucson. “Skimping on sleep has a price, including weight gain, diminished immune responses, lack of concentration, irritability, and depression.”

Why should something that seems to come naturally to other creatures prove so elusive for us? “Our society doesn’t value sleep,” says Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology at and director of Northwestern University‘s Sleep Disorders Center. “We see it as a sign of laziness or a waste of time” — so much so that sleeplessness has become something to brag about. Plus, “the culture we’ve created is geared to keeping us awake,” Zee says. Our minds are constantly aroused by stress, caffeine, and even e-mail. “Scans of metabolic activity in the brain show that people who suffer from insomnia have more activity than people without sleep problems when they’re trying to get to sleep,” Zee says. “When people say, ‘I can’t turn my brain off at night,’ they’re actually right.”

It probably doesn’t help that we’re all preoccupied with our sleep problems and inundated with pills, gadgets, and treatments that claim to cure them. We asked experts to tell us which solutions they recommend, and then we put them to the test with bleary-eyed women. After all, sleep is the birthright of most animals; but to toss and turn is uniquely human.

  1. Free your mind
  2. Get physically tired
  3. Increase darkness
  4. Cut back on caffeine
  5. Limit alcohol
  6. Reset your body clock
  7. Take a supplement
  8. Investigate sleeping pills
  9. Adjust your attitude
  10. Restrict sleep

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