Sleep Cures from Mother Nature
Get Better Sleep -- Starting Tonight
According to sleep experts, I'm doing everything wrong. I don't have a regular bedtime and often stay up way too late. There's always one more TV show to watch, one more e-mail to send, one more newspaper article to read. By the time I finally crawl under the covers it's after midnight, and even then sleep sometimes eludes me. Some nights I toss and turn and fluff and re-fluff pillows for what seems like hours, in search of that sweet spot for slumber. All too soon the alarm clock jolts me out of a pleasant dream. In a fog of fatigue, I hit the snooze button over and over, desperate to catch a few more zzz's.
That's my version of our national exhaustion epidemic. Sixty percent of American women sleep poorly most nights of the week, and 43 percent are so drowsy during the day that it interferes with normal activities, according to a 2007 poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Weariest of all are working moms. Not only do these women spend the least time in bed -- averaging fewer than six hours a night -- they're also the likeliest to suffer from insomnia. Stay-at-home moms don't get off so easily, either. They are likely to complain of waking frequently at night and not feeling refreshed in the morning.
The NSF poll paints a grim picture of the toll insufficient shut-eye takes on virtually every aspect of women's lives. Sleep-deprived women are likelier to be stressed-out (79 percent), late for work more than once in the past month (20 percent), and too tired for socializing (39 percent) or sex (33 percent). They fight daytime drowsiness with caffeine and do nothing special to wind down at night. In fact, frazzled moms typically spend the last hour of the evening multitasking -- finishing chores, squeezing in some time with their spouse and kids, catching up on work -- often while also watching TV.
A hectic lifestyle can sabotage sleep, says Carol Ash, DO, director of Sleep for Life, in Hillsboro, New Jersey. "A lot of my patients lie awake at night with racing thoughts. They're exhausted but their brain just won't stop humming. As they toss and turn they get increasingly anxious about not sleeping, which only makes the problem worse."
Stress isn't the sole reason for restless nights. Misunderstanding what helps -- or hinders -- slumber also plays a key role, according to Dr. Ash. But sleep problems can be solved -- in many cases without pills. The following surprisingly simple natural solutions work by enhancing your body's own mechanisms for lulling you into soothing, satisfying sleep.