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What puts you to sleep?

Sleep-deprived readers of my "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column will be sorry to read this week that my quest for a list of foods that can help you sleep better left me empty-handed. Turns out there's not good scientific evidence to support any food's ability to induce sleepiness.

But there are other things you can do to maximize your chances of sleeping well. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, getting adequate exercise, reserving your bed for sleep and only sleep (well, and sex) -- no reading, watching TV or playing with your smartphone. Keep the room cool and dark. Here's a long list of tips.

Bear in mind that losing sleep isn't just frustrating (and exhausting!). Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, particularly among children, and to increased diabetes risk.

Do you suffer from sleeplessness? What are your little tricks for ensuring a good night's shut-eye?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  July 27, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  General Health , Sleep  
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Guided meditation on my iPod. I like Doreen Blumenfeld. Also reading until I feel sleepy (may not work with a really good book.)

Posted by: chiquita2 | July 27, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Ambien (zolpidem).

Posted by: rlalumiere | July 27, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I don't usually suffer from insomnia, fortunately. When I am under a lot of stress I have found myself waking up at ~3 am and having trouble going back to sleep. What I have done is (1) drink a big glass of water - for some reason that seems to help (2) turn my mind to other things - for example think about what I am going to do on vacation or something like that (3) I used to hug my cat to me, my old kitty was very good about serving as a teddy bear; but the one I have now will at least let me pet for awhile, that seems to ease my mind at least somewhat. I read the list of tips and I am pretty good about most of them, which may be why I don't have much trouble sleeping most of the time, although at times I do exercise close to bedtime and that does not seem to cause problems.

Posted by: catherine3 | July 27, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I tend to have an overactive brain at bedtime and have difficulty turning it off (Usually, I work too late in the evening). A technique that has worked successfully for me for 15 years or so is to play a movie (or just the audio of the movie) that I have seen several times and can easily visualize. Comedies with a lot of dialogue (e.g., When Harry Met Sally, Dr. Strangelove, MST3K, Murder by Death) work best for me. I close me eyes and visualize the movie. My brain is focused into creating familiar images and in a few minutes I'm asleep.

There are probably 10-15 movies that I have used and swap them occasionally, although I find it works best to use the same one for several consecutive nights (i.e., weeks to months). I travel with them, solving another problem of sleeping in foreign beds. You have to enjoy the movies you choose or your mind will drift. Another bonus: you'll soon be able to quote every line from your favorite movies.

Posted by: TeamMIG | July 27, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: patriciawsf | July 27, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I had decades of insomnia until I recently took a sleep study. It turns out that I have severe sleep apnea, waking up as many as 30 times an hour! Six months, two masks and some pressure tweaks later, I am sleeping better than ever in my life. I recommend a sleep study before you turn to sleep meds. Make sure the problem isn't physical. There are fewer side effects to a CPAP machine.

Posted by: ZenRuth | July 27, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Earplugs and niacin. I started taking niacin years ago to bring my cholesterol numbers down, and falling right to sleep was an unexpected benefit. Let your doctor know if you decide to try this.

Posted by: brcg | July 27, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I often have trouble quieting my mind when trying to get to sleep -- schedule for the next day, other stupid stuff that I've already put down in a list so I won't forget, even stuff that happened decades ago. I found that thinking about something very familiar and mundane, like well-memorized poems or the plans for my dream home, distracts my mind. Because I know the poems/home plans by heart backwards and forwards, my brain doesn't have to work to remember; my mind becomes bored(?) and I fall asleep. It usually only takes about 5-10 minutes, at most 15 minutes.

Posted by: ccs53 | July 27, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

What puts me to sleep?
The fact that I'm pushing 70.

Better to ask me what can
possibly keep me from falling
asleep... any time/anywhere!

S D Rodrian


Posted by: sdr1 | July 27, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

What puts me to sleep? CBS news with Diane !!

Posted by: richard36 | July 27, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

If you have trouble sleeping you usually are not getting enough exercise or are deficient in B-Vitamins or amino acids - especial L-Tryptophan.

Melatonin is another good supplement for sleeping. Try drinking a glass of red wine and hour or two before bedtime.

Try learning a foreign language and study verb conjugation before bed. That will put anyone to sleep.

Posted by: alance | July 27, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

If I wake up in the middle of the night or having trouble going to sleep, I write down what's bothering me. Then my brain feels that it can rest because it isn't working frantically to try to remember what it needs to remember because I wrote it down. Getting the bedroom temperature right (not too warm or too cold) is crucial too. If all else fails, warm milk. I know it's not for everyone, but it has worked for me.

Posted by: queen522 | July 27, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

I use white noise, & only use my bedroom for dressing & sleeping. I'm single so not a whole lot else goes on in there. I also use a lot of the tips provided on the authors link. Including the limitation of caffeine later in the day, even though I'm not always good with that. The nicotine one is something I struggle with, but it's rare for it to cause me to stay awake.

My big trouble is nightmares & other sleep related PTSD symptoms in combination with ADD. Both are manageable but are difficult to contend with. I have to work on my sleep a very great deal, and it's often unpleasant to deal with the problems that go with disrupted sleep.

Posted by: Nymous | July 27, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

I sleep so much better in a very black and very quiet room.

Given that I don't - two things help.

1) Counting backwards from 100 each time I take a deep breath. If I lose count, I just start from the number that I remember last.

2) I put on the John Huling CD Mesa Sunrise. Most of the time, I fall asleep before it ends 47 later.

Posted by: cmecyclist | July 28, 2010 5:43 AM | Report abuse

Niacin (the slow release version I take for cholesterol is called niaspan) and reading that days Post does it every time!

Posted by: rogernebel | July 28, 2010 5:59 AM | Report abuse

Randomly finding a number between 10,000 and 99,999 and counting backwards making it a point to formulate the number rather than mere rote counting without focusing on number. Dull and boring, it keeps mind from racing off on stimulating thoughts. Normally, takes only five regressions before I fall to asleep. Akin to reading a book on economics which will put you to sleep in the middle of the day. It works, but it is dreadful to think about so much so that I sometimes prefer tossing and turning until I force myself to do it. Like counting sheep, but more blah.

Posted by: demcapu | July 28, 2010 6:52 AM | Report abuse

Diphenhydramine HCL (generic Benadryl)-- 50 to 100 mg half hour before sleep.

Posted by: PJTramdack | July 28, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Check out an experimental nasal spray which may reverse sleeplessness...

Posted by: chylton | July 28, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Backwards counting is good.

Another switch-off exercise that puts me to sleep is to work through the alphabet finding (i) a country that starts with each letter or (ii) a boy's or girl's name.

Posted by: Kookaburra | July 30, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

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