The Natural Sleep Cure: How to Get Restful, Rejuvenating Sleep Without Popping a Sleeping Pill

We’re all aware of the common breakfast cereal commercials that show a bowlful of bran flakes with milk, topped with banana slices, with a side glass of orange juice, accompanied by the phrase, “Part of a balanced breakfast!” Instead of claiming such a breakfast starts your day energized, I wish to replace that image with a different one: Someone deeply, contentedly asleep. Because unlike a breakfast of high carbs and excess fructose (presented as healthy and energizing by many cereal companies), a night of plentiful, restorative sleep is the healthiest way to start your day.

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Not only does a night of excellent sleep rejuvenate your very own cells,  it also sets your circadian rhythm, keeping your hormone levels in sync with your varying needs throughout the day. Unfortunately for most of us, eight hours of high-quality sleep seems like an unattainable dream (pun intended).

Our modern lifestyles get in the way of a good night’s sleep in several ways. I’m going to address three of the most common sleeping mistakes people make, as well as how you can change your habits to become a master sleeper.

1. Sleeping Pills Are Not the Answer

Data from 2011 show that pharmacists filled 60 million prescriptions for sleeping pills, which is a huge uptick from the already-high 47 million prescribed in 2006.1“IMS Health,” accessed March 24, 2012 http://www.imshealth.com/ and sleep data originally sited by ...continue Even the most popular prescription pills add just 40 minutes (or fewer!) of sleep at night, and most are approved only for short-term use. But the most frightening part of this trend is that recent studies link prescription sleeping pills with a greater risk of cancer and death.2Kripke DF, Langer RD, Kline LE. “Hypnotics’ association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study.” British Medical Journal Open 2 ...continue

The Solution

If you struggle to fall asleep on your own at night, there are several proven supplements on the market that have none of the sleeping pill downsides. One of my favorites is Valerian, a medicinal herb that was recommended by Hippocrates himself. In fact, a new randomized trial in menopausal women showed that 530 mg of Valerian extract improved sleep in 30% of treated insomniacs, versus only 4% of the placebo-treated group.3Taavoni. S., et al. “Effect of valerian on sleep quality in postmenopausal women: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Menopause 18 ...continue

2. Too Much Technology

Are you guilty of staring at your phone in bed? Falling asleep with the television on in  the background? Checking email one more time before you hit the sack?

All of these could be contributing to an inability to fall asleep, as well as worsened sleep quality over the course of the night. Not only do these devices stimulate your brain, making it harder for you to relax, but the artificial light from their screens can mess with the sleep chemicals your confused brain should be making. Sleep is a crucial part of your self-care regimen – not playing Angry Birds on your mobile device.

The Solution

Set a technology curfew. Turn off your phone, tablet, TV or computer roughly two hours before you want to go to sleep. This will give your busy brain a chance to wind down from the day and release the melatonin you need to drift off. You may even find yourself adjusting to an earlier bedtime, which leads me to my next point…

3. Late Nights, Low Energy

Are you a night owl? There are lots of us who claim to be “night owls” or, conversely, “morning people.” Unfortunately, people who like to stay up into the wee hours of the morning are depriving their bodies of valuable nightly repair sessions, and those who wake up early for work some mornings but sleep until noon on the weekend are confusing their hormonal calendar. In other words, it’s not just how much you sleep that matters, it’s also the times of night you sleep.

The Solution

Play Cinderella, only set your clock to chime at 10:00 pm, not 12:00 am. What I mean is that you need to set a bedtime and stick to it. Setting a regular bedtime will do wonderful things for your hormones. Going to sleep and waking up at roughly the same time each day keeps your circadian rhythm steady, leading to a consistent release of the necessary hormones over the course of the day.

When you set that bedtime to before 10:00 pm, you’ll be getting a double-whammy of cell repair and energy boosting sleep. We know that the hours between 10:00 pm and midnight are the most auspicious for cell repair, so being asleep during those hours will result in younger-looking skin, improved organ reserve, and decelerated aging.

Sleep is a free, readily-available, and incredibly effective hormone-balancing tool at everyone’s disposal. I suggest you master yours tonight! If you want to delve deeper into up-leveling the quality of your sleep, please look into one of my latest products: The Sleep Cure. It contains the science, the advice and the steps you need to take for optimal sleep.

For more tips and lifestyle habits that will help you age gracefully and beautifully, order your copy of Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years.

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About Sara Gottfried MD
Sara Gottfried, MD is the author of the new book, Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years. She’s the two-time New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Reset Diet. After graduating from Harvard Medical School and MIT, Dr. Gottfried completed her residency at the University of California at San Francisco. She is a board-certified gynecologist who teaches natural hormone balancing in her novel online programs so that women can lose weight, detoxify, and slow down aging. Dr. Gottfried lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two daughters.

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References   [ + ]

1. “IMS Health,” accessed March 24, 2012 http://www.imshealth.com/ and sleep data originally sited by http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/new-worries-about-sleeping-pills/. IMS data are proprietary and not reported in a peer-reviewed journal.
2. Kripke DF, Langer RD, Kline LE. “Hypnotics’ association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study.” British Medical Journal Open 2 (1) (2012): e000850.
3. Taavoni. S., et al. “Effect of valerian on sleep quality in postmenopausal women: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Menopause 18 (9) (2011): 951-5.