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Sleep well, be well: Tips for beating anxiety and getting the zzzz’s you need

The following is a sidebar to the article of the same title in the June 2009 issue of OptiMYz.

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Sleeping well is a necessity, not a luxury. Both mind and body need quality sleep, preferably at night, in order to perform at high levels during the day. Yet without the proper care, both mind and body can conspire to keep us awake, locked in a downward spiral that leads not only to fatigue, but also to anxiety, depression, and a susceptibility to physical ills of all sorts. Indeed, many of us live in an age of anxiety, worrying about the economy, terrorism, war, pandemics, and our own personal issues like health, career, and personal relationships.

To reduce anxiety and improve sleep, the National Sleep Foundation in the US recommends “behavioural therapy.” This means creating a positive sleep environment, developing positive beliefs about sleep, and following a program that limits time in bed. Still, the most common medical approach in our day is prescribing hypnotics (sleep-inducing medications), even though they can produce side effects such as morning sedation and memory problems.

To sleep more soundly, the natural way

If you suffer from anxiety and have trouble sleeping, experts recommend:

  • Make sleep a priority. Schedule seven to nine hours at the same time each night.
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine. Don’t watch TV, use the computer or pay bills before going to bed.
  • Keep the bedroom dark, cool and quiet, with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Avoid looking at the clock. Use the bed only for sex and sleep.
  • Avoid stimulants like coffee, chocolate and nicotine.
  • Meditate. Focus on your breathing and visualize a serene environment.
  • Exercise, preferably in the late afternoon, but not within four hours of going to sleep.
  • Play soft music. This relaxes mind and body and lowers blood pressure.
  • Help others or volunteer, taking your mind off your own anxiety and fears.
  • Still having trouble? Consider seeing a health practitioner or therapist.

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