Studies show that Americans get 20 percent less sleep than we did a century ago. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 million to 70 million of us suffer from sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss. It stands to reason that learning good sleep habits should be central to the quest for wellness. In his new book, Spent: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again (Simon & Schuster), and his Web site, SpentMD.com, Frank Lipman, M.D., sets out a six-week program for overcoming fatigue. His approach is a holistic one, with prescriptions for proper nutrition and exercise. But he also gives some simple, “scientific” steps for maximizing the benefits of our regular sleep routines.
Nothing helps your circadian rhythms more than a regular sleep schedule. For instance, the body of a person who always sleeps from 11 to 6 knows to produce melatonin at 11 and serotonin and cortisol at 6, whereas the body of someone whose schedule fluctuates needs to recalibrate constantly.
Keep your bedroom cool. A lower temperature aids in the production and release of sleep hormones.
Before bed, take nutrients that calm the body and mind. Look for a formula that has the following amino acids: L-theanine (100 to 300 mg) and 5-HTP (50 to 100 mg).
Massage your feet with tennis balls to release tight muscles and reduce strain from wearing shoes. When your feet feel relaxed, your whole body does, too.
Use a flashlight or a night-light when you wake up to use the bathroom. Exposure to bright light causes the body to cease that night’s production of melatonin.
Before 10 P.M. watch or read something funny. Laughter helps us breathe deeply and releases powerful endorphins.
Try to get up on your own, because it can be very stressful to your body to be woken by an alarm. If you find that you still need an alarm, lower the volume and move the clock across the room to decrease the impact of the sound.