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Go gentle into that good night

Health and wellness experts offer tips to help you wake up rested


Gary Stanton, president of New Health Corp. in Indian Harbour Beach, developed Amazing Sleep Plus, natural sleep aids with melatonin, GABA, magnolia bark and valerian root. (Michael R. Brown, FLORIDA TODAY)
By the numbers
$150 billion Annual cost of sleep deprivation in higher stress and reduced workplace productivity, according to the The National Commission on Sleep Disorders $98 million Spent annually on over-the-counter sleep aids in the U.S. 70 million Americans occassionally suffer from insomnia 1.6 million Americans use alternative forms of sleep aids, according to Hospital Business Week
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You've heard it before. Whatever happens during your day, you shouldn't lose sleep over it at night.

But try reminding yourself of that as you attempt for the fifth time to catch those precious ZZZs required to help renew and re-energize you for the next day. There you are, eyes wide open as your mind races a 5K through each of the previous day's events.

Or just try not losing sleep when, at 3 a.m., you meet a rude awakening that finds you planning your day as you try to quash that loud thump in your heart. You know you'll be swimming in coffee when you get to work. Now there's something else for you to dwell on.

Such patterns are not unusual among people who report routine disruptions in sleep.

For instance, insomnia, which is just one of about 70 sleep disorders, is an occasional problem for more than 70 million Americans, and $98 million is spent on over-the-counter sleep aids, according to the World Sleep Foundation.

Sleep on this: The National Commission on Sleep Disorders estimates sleep deprivation costs $150 billion a year in higher stress and reduced workplace productivity.

With that in mind, we've rounded up a few health and wellness experts and gathered tips on how to help you make it peacefully through the night.

Sleep consistently

Whether you have to punch a timecard or not, it's better to hit the sack at the same time every night and get out of it at the same time every morning.

While late-morning slumber can seem cozy when you know you don't have to be anywhere, waking up at the crack of noon can actually leave you feeling more tired.

"What happens is people get up early during the week and sleep in during the weekends, and they wake up with a headache, an adrenal headache," said Merritt Island chiropractor Dr. L.E. Zimmerman. "What happens is they continue to sleep, they haven't eaten and their blood sugar drops."

Drugs are only a temporary fix

Prescription sleep aids such as Ambien and Lunesta have become household names in recent years, thanks to television advertising campaigns. But health officials advise against using the drugs long term.

"Typically with sleep meds, they should be used for a short term," said Wuesthoff Hospital's sleep lab coordinator Jeff Smith. "If people take them for many months, they become adjusted to the medication. We find that their (sleep) patterns often return to what they were before they began the medication. And in addition, they are now hooked on a sleeping pill."

Go au natural

And we're not just singing the tranquil praises of sleeping in your birthday suit.

For many people, natural aids can help promote sleep -- without the side effects such as grogginess often associated with pharmaceuticals.

Hospital Business Week recently reported that a low percentage of insomnia sufferers take prescription medication because of side effect concerns. More than 1.6 million Americans use alternative forms such as melatonin.

For those who have infrequent bouts of sleeplessness, a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sleepy Time herbal tea or a daily dose of calcium can aid slumber, Zimmerman said.

"A lot of people think calcium is just for building bones," he said. "But it also will calm the nerves down. Why do you think people are told to have a glass of milk before bedtime?"

Melbourne certified nutritionist Dorothy McCullagh recommends that a regimen of calcium should be supplemented with magnesium for best results.

Gary Stanton was taking prescription sleep aids but quit after a few scary side effects.

"I would wake up in my car and wonder how I got there," he said.

Stanton, president of Indian Harbour Beach-based New Health Corp, has developed Amazing Sleep Plus, a formula of natural sleep aids including melatonin, GABA, magnolia bark and valerian root.

Melatonin, which our bodies naturally produce to induce sleep, has been touted as a natural sleep aid.

"Melatonin on its own has great merit, but for some people it's not enough," said Sarasota heart surgeon Dr. Robert Carlson, who helped formulate Amazing Sleep Plus with Stanton. "The key was to put other natural sleep aids into a single, natural supplement."

You sleep what you eat

Lay off the spicy food if you don't want it to repeat on you in dreamland.

"Keep in mind that some of your eating habits might need to change as you grow older," McCullagh said. "For instance, I know I can no longer eat chocolate after 4 p.m. because of the caffeine. Most people probably don't think about it, especially if they go out to dinner and finish it off with a cup of coffee and piece of cake. And then they wonder why they lay there."

Try hypnosis

Far from counting sheep to produce a trancelike state, which studies have disproved anyway, some people turn to licensed hypnotists in their slumber search.

"I'm sometimes amazed how many people in Brevard aren't getting to sleep," said Melbourne licensed hypnotist Susan Sawyer.

People often turn to her after they have exhausted other means.

"They either do not want to go the route of taking pills, or they have been taking pills and they recognize they are no longer effective," Sawyer said. "They are afraid of what that next step might be."

Sometimes, Sawyer will take clients back in time in their minds and have them relive a traumatic period that might be triggering sleep loss in their adult lives.

Other times, it's a matter of suggesting simple breathing techniques, or giving them suggestions to help them get back to sleep if they wake up with a mind full of worry.

Sawyer says it's important that people not only learn how to sleep, but why they can't sleep.

Such information is useful for people with "mind chattering issues" that prevent them from establishing an actual sleep level.

Good sleep hygiene

The way you sleep can also effect how well you sleep.

Pillows should be full enough to raise your head about two inches, enough to support the neck, Zimmerman said.

"Feather pillows are no good," he said. "They disappear in the middle of the night."

If using a foam mattress, the foam should never be more than two inches, Zimmerman said.

Do you go to sleep with the television on? Bad idea said hypnotist Sawyer.

"Ever dream you are in the television show? That's because your brain is working overtime to make sense of what it hears," she said.

She goes as far as to say bedrooms should be void of electronic equipment such as stereos and computers.

"Never have a home office in your bedroom," she said.

And never go to sleep to a radio station with lots of chatter.

However, for some, CDs with soothing music and sound effects can be enough to catch all 40 winks.

Lay off the booze

A glass of wine might help you relax after dinner. The whole bottle? You'll drift off but you won't feel rested the next morning.

Or hadn't you noticed?

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product
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