It’s common knowledge these days that everything from financial worries to a demanding job can create stress, which leads to the inability to fall asleep or get enough sleep. Websites like WebMD and Dr. Oz offer some general remedies, but how well do they really work? After researching some products and techniques, here are results that may surprise you:

Improved Techniques That Help You Sleep

According to WebMD, you should go to bed at a regular bedtime every night, and wake up at the same time each day. This sounds logical, but we all know life is full of unexpected events that can make a regular sleeping routine impossible. Tracy Rupp of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research was part of a new study on banking sleep which found that getting more sleep at times was more helpful later to those who were denied sleep than those who slept the same amount each night. She explains that those who stored sleep when time permitted were “more resilient during the time when sleep was restricted.”

Setting aside time for problem solving earlier in the day so that you don’t carry anxious thoughts to bed, is a common recommendation that is also suggested by WebMD . They say to keep a notepad by your bed to write down any thoughts or worries that may keep you up or wake you up during the night as well. In an article by Elizabeth Scott, M.S. on About.com, she goes on to say, “Writing in a journal before bed can clear your mind, help you process emotions, solve problems….and can get you in a positive frame of mind for sleep.” Allowing yourself to have a good cry at bedtime is also a good way to relieve pent-up anxiety and allow for a good night’s sleep. Life coach Martha Beck says it’s actually stressful to force yourself to stay happy. She says that giving yourself “permission to feel as we feel, not continuous happiness, is the foundation of well-being,” in her May 2010 column in Oprah Magazine.

WebMD recommends doing something relaxing before bedtime like deep breathing, yoga, meditation, tai chi or muscle relaxing exercises. Dr. Oz, however, advises that if you’re still awake after 15 minutes, you do something to quiet your mind like reading a book, not exercising. In an article by Robert Pendergrast, M.D., he goes on to say that by breathing deep, and “…taking the time to observe your breath, being fully aware of its movement in and out, and bringing the mind’s attention back to the breath as soon as it wanders onto another thought…is very useful for easing into sleep or going back to sleep in the night.”

New Products That Help You Sleep

Using earplugs or sleeping in a different room if your partner’s snoring keeps you awake is another common solution, also suggested by WebMD. They say that if you notice that your partner is sleeping on his or her back, turn your partner to his or her side. This may help your partner stop snoring. You may also want to encourage your partner to see a doctor to find out what may be causing him or her to snore. If this doesn’t work, consumersearch.com recommends Breathe Right Nasal Strips. They studied reviews from BBC News Magazine and SleepEducation.com and found that, “Reviews by users, tests by manufacturers and recommendations by doctors all point to Breathe Right Nasal Strips as the most effective over-the-counter treatment for chronic snoring.”

According to WebMD, reducing the noise in the house, or masking it with a steady low noise, such as a fan on slow speed or a radio tuned to static helps with sleeping.  Another way to create white noise while cleaning a room of allergens is by using a portable air-cleaning machine. Lowes sells affordable Idylis room air cleaners for different sized rooms, and they’re easy to clean and use.  Wearing earplugs at night is another effective way to reduce distracting noise, and can be comfortably used for long periods of time.  One problem with the long term use of earplugs is that they tend to cause wax to get impacted deep in the ear. Dr. Go, an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist from Cincinnati, Ohio, explains that this also happens to people who wear hearing aids, and that having the wax removed once a year by an ear specialist takes care of the problem.

Keeping the room cool and dark is also recommended by professionals. WebMD says that if you can’t darken the room, use a sleep mask. Pilot Paul, a frequent user of sleep masks, gives an excellent review of different quality sleep masks on his website, but he prefers sleeping in a darkened room whenever possible. One easy way to darken a room is to install products like Blackout EZ Window Covers, that are simply blackout vinyl material you can cut to fit any window.  They are inexpensive, easy to order, and come with velcro attachment material.  To keep a room cool enough to help with sleep, H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University says it should be between 65 and 72 degrees. It helps to have a battery operated room thermometer in the room to help monitor the temperature.

Dr. Oz lists taking medications as a way to help you sleep as well. He goes on to say, “Benadryl or one of the combination OTC painkillers or sleep drugs can give you that little nudge into natural sleep.” A review of these products showed that everything from Ambien to Tylenol PM had side effects that made them difficult to use in the long run. Reviews of Ambien showed many people walked in their sleep or were dizzy and tired the next day. Most over-the-counter sleep aids contain antihistamines that caused nervousness, dizziness and sleeplessness for many users. Be sure to check any prescribed medications that you may be taking to see if sleeplessness is one of the side effects. It may be possible to change to another medication that does not interfere with sleep.

So there you have it, by taking the time to prepare yourself for bed with a cool, dark room, a calm state of mind, and the right products, the average person now has a better chance of sleeping well and tackling the challenges of the day ahead. Sweet dreams, folks!

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