A good night’s sleep – WebMD

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Want a good night’s sleep? It is not as easy as it may seem, but fortunately, these days there are plenty of aids to help with massage your wrist as you drift off.

Another option: Check into the eyes and opening them in the morning,” she tells WebMD. “There’s stuff going on, regeneration of the brain activity and consists of two basic states: hunger is very activating and can make it difficult to sleep.”

Indeed, what soothes you to sleep is very personal, says Michael Twery, MD, acting director of the NIH’s National Center on Sleep Disorders Research. “For children, a teddy bear may help; for adults, listening to relaxing music is a sedative. Part of being sleepy is not being alert. If you’re very worried, if your sleep environment is hostile, your body will produce stress hormones that keep you awake.”

That’s why in a strange environment — like a hotel — we have trouble sleeping, he notes. “Certain smells can be bothersome for some people. Others are very sensitive to sound. Some will need white noise or a rhythmic sound to help them sleep, while another person finds those sounds annoying. We’re all wired differently.”

Sleep Products May Help

Eye masks have been used for decades by the sleep-challenged, Twery says. “Light on the brain to pick up on little noises that can arouse you at night.”

Science has investigated how smells and sounds are connected with brain circuitry, says Twery. “But how they control sleep and wakefulness is less understood,” he tells WebMD. “That doesn’t mean these products don’t have merit. They’ve probably been tested to find if there’s value. These products may actually help someone sleep. It’s mostly about personal comfort.”

As for mattresses, comfort certainly rules. “For people with sleep apnea,” says Lorenzo. “These people have been snoring all their lives, waking up all their lives, what’s the big deal, they think. But Melatonin is a hormone the body naturally produces at night and is thought to help initiate sleep. Melatonin supplements have been available in health food stores for quite awhile, but they are not FDA-approved, so their purity and safety are not known, she notes.

A medication which works on the melatonin system, called Rozerem, was FDA-approved last year, Lorenzo tells WebMD. Rozerem works by stimulating the body’s melatonin receptors. “Clinical studies have shown that it helps with insomnia. Since it doesn’t work at all like sleeping pills, we won’t have any dependency issues.”

Research has shown that melatonin prompts brain neurons to regulate the biological clock, Twery says. “The advantage of melatonin is that it comes from natural sources. Synthetic melatonin brings purity and better safety in terms of accurate dosage. That’s a nice step forward. However, the research hasn’t fully worked out details about long-term use of synthetic melatonin.”

What else can lull you to sleep? Getting regular exercise (no more than three or four hours before , so your body temperature has time to come back down, says Lorenzo). Relaxation and meditation can tame intrusive thoughts and tension. Acupuncture is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat insomnia.

But if you think you have a chronic sleep problem, go to your doctor, Twery tells WebMD. “Discuss the nature of your condition. A doctor can look at your overall health and offer solutions that might work more completely. It can be very hard to sort these issues out and may take several visits to come up with the solutions.”

Published March 6, 2006.