Ah, sleep! It's the stuff that dreams are made of... and probably one of the most important factors in helping the body and mind heal from everyday stress at the end of the day.
If you're anxious, wired, or just can't get to sleep, here are a few tips for falling asleep so you can wake up tomorrow ready to take on the world again - without pills or sleep medications:
1. Tighten, then relax muscles. Start with the feet and legs, then the stomach and back muscles, and finish with your arms and hands. If you are tense, this will help to your body relax and go limp, much like stretching and unstretching a rubber band.
2. If you live in a noisy neighborhood, turn on a fan or air purifier in your room. The "white noise" will help drown out the sounds from the street.
3. If you are light sensitive, try a sleeping mask or otherwise make the room as dark as possible. This will tell your brain to shut down and that it is time for sleep.
4. When you absolutely can't fall asleep, tell yourself that its no big deal. Turn on the lights and read a book or watch a boring infomercial for about 10-15 minutes until you feel drowsy.
5. If you have too many thoughts running around in your head, right everything down. Describe actions to take to address your anxiety and clear your head for sleep.
6. Listen to yourself as you breath. Maintain a slow and steady rhythm as you inhale and exhale. The sound will help gently rock you to sleep.
7. Cut down on sweets and caffeine during the day. Set yourself a "last call" on coffee, tea, or caffeinated drinks a few hours before bedtime.
8. Invite the dog or cat up on the bed to help you relax.
9. Drink a glass of milk to help you feel drowsy, or try tryptophan (the chemical in turkey that makes you feel sleepy) which is now widely available in tablet form at drug or health food stores.
10. Set on low volume a CD player or radio to play soothing music to help you fall asleep.
11. Be sure to get regular exercise during the day. If you are normally desk-bound on the job, take time out after dinner to stretch, take a walk, or a gentle jog for a half hour so you will be tired by bedtime.
12. Avoid late night dinners and alcohol before you go to sleep which may cause heartburn, stomach upset or gas. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy, but it can also cause restless and interfere with the deeper stages of sleep.
13. If you have any minor aches or pains before bedtime, take aspirin or other gentle OTC pain reliever to help you relax and fall asleep.
14. Give yourself time to prepare by stopping any physical or mentally stressful activity to help you unwind before going to bed.