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 Melatonin and Eight Other Tips for a Good Night's Sleep 
 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Women's Nutrition Detective by . View all columns in series

Get exposure to plenty of bright light during the day. If you read a lot, use full spectrum fluorescent light bulbs found in all hardware stores. These are not like ordinary fluorescent bulbs. They mimic daylight and contribute to melatonin production.

Try an herbal sedative
If you don’t want to take pharmaceutical drugs, but want a relaxant, you may want to try herbs. Valerian root, hops, skullcap, chamomile, linden flowers, and passionflower all have relaxing, sedative effects. You can find several of them in various herb tea blends and in capsules.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is particularly effective for women who have irregular sleep patterns, or have difficulty falling asleep. From 300-600 mg of valerian can be as effective as pharmaceutical sedatives. Caution: Never take herbal sedatives with either over-the-counter or prescription drugs.

Write it down
If you don’t want to forget tomorrow’s chores, or if you’re worried about something that nags at you, write it down on a small pad kept on your night stand. Use a pen with a tiny light, or write one or two words in the dark. You’ll be able to decipher it later. Once you’ve written it down, you can let that thought go. Deal with it in the morning when you’re more alert and refreshed. This tiny modification can make all the difference between getting to sleep or lying in bed with a racing mind.

Move your clock
Many of us have a clock we can read in the dark near our bed. Move it out of sight. If you are having trouble falling asleep, or if you wake up, it won’t help to know the time. All this does is create more worrying and keep you awake.

Another reason to move your clock is that its electromagnetic fields, found in all electric appliances, can interrupt your sleep. Many years ago, I had a patient who was very sick with a number of serious health problems. She had insomnia, and lack of sleep further lowered her immune system. I questioned her thoroughly and discovered she slept under an electric blanket. The blanket interfered with her body’s electromagnetic field and kept her awake. Don’t sleep under an electric blanket, and keep your clock at least three feet from your bed.

Tip: If you like to jump into a warm bed, use the electric blanket to warm the sheets. And then remove the blanket when you go to bed. Stay warm
Keep your bedroom cool and your body warm. Your body temperature drops at night, and this can keep you from falling asleep. Take a hot shower or warm bath before bed to raise your temperature.

Have cold feet? They can wake you up. The solution: wear socks or knitted booties to bed. If your feet get too warm, like mine often do, booties are easy to slip off without waking up.

Listen to music
A study in a nursing journal found that playing soothing music for 45 minutes at bedtime improves sleep patterns. All of the study’s participants, aged 60-83, slept longer, woke up less frequently, and were more awake during the day after three weeks of listening to music at night.

Music had a cumulative effect. The longer they played it, the more improvements they noticed. Buy a little tape recorder that automatically shuts off at the end of a tape. Listen to music each night at bedtime, and watch your sleep improve.

Take the right minerals
Many people take calcium at bedtime to help them sleep. The body loses calcium at night, so this may sound like a good idea. But calcium contributes to anxiety and causes muscles to contract, contributing to restless leg syndrome and leg cramps.

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 About The Author
Nan Fuchs, Ph.D. is an authority on nutrition and the editor and writer of Women's Health Letter, the leading health advisory on nutritional healing for......moreNan Fuchs PhD
 
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