Thursday January 10, 2013
On a rare night when you actually crawl into bed at a decent hour, you stare at the ceiling, eyes wide open, mind racing … and a good night’s sleep feels more like a distant dream with every passing second. You’re not alone. Every year, as many as 40 percent of adults have insomnia, an inability to fall or stay asleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. About 10 to 15 percent of people suffer from chronic insomnia, finding it difficult to get enough shuteye at least a few nights a week.
But regaining entry to the land of nod is key for your long-term health; over time, sleep deprivation can reduce immunity, up your risk of diabetes and heart disease and even make you gain weight. Here’s how to get the Zzzs you crave.
Make Cherry Juice Your Nightcap
Alcohol is a known sleep saboteur — it may make you fall asleep, but it disrupts normal sleep cycles, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night. Cherry juice, on the other hand, may help ensure restful slumber, because it’s naturally high in melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycles. In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, participants who drank tart cherry juice twice a day fell asleep sooner than when they drank a placebo beverage.
Relax In a Rocking Chair
It’s well known that babies fall fast asleep when they’re rocked gently back and forth in a carriage or a mother’s arms. Surprisingly, the same trick works with adults, say Swiss researchers. When study participants napped in a hammock-like bed, they fell asleep faster and entered the restorative deep-sleep phase sooner than when they slept in a regular bed. It seems that the gentle swinging sensation primes areas of the brain involved in deep sleep. While you can’t exactly doze off in a hammock every night, try chilling out in a rocking chair before hitting the sheets to mimic the motion and help your body feel sleepy.
Count Sheep… Backward
If your mind tends to race as soon as your head hits the pillow, put the brakes on this sleep-stealing habit by distracting yourself from rehashing the day’s events. One tip Breus offers his patients: Count down from 300 in multiples of three. “Because this task is mathematically complicated to do in your head,” he explains, “it forces your brain to focus on something else besides your worries.”