Monday, August 27, 2012

10 Ways to Fall Asleep and More Tips and Techniques

Sleep is not a habit, but healthy nighttime habits can improve your sleep quality and quantity. Here are 10 ways to fall asleep and more tips to reduce daily stress, anxiety and even depression that cause restless nights.

1. Some foods promote sleep while others cause indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux that can wake you up during the night. Foods that are high in tryptophan, a precursor for producing melatonin, can help you to relax and become sleepy, while large meals and hot spicy foods eaten too close to bed time can increase your chances of having digestive problems. Also avoid foods that are high in protein and sugar as well as those that have caffeine like; chocolate, coffee and colas. If you like to have a bedtime snack, try a bowl of cereal, slice of turkey or a glass of warm milk.

2. With every ones hectic work schedule it is hard to find time to exercise; so many people work out after dinner. Did you know that exercise decreases melatonin which can affect your ability to fall asleep up to three hours? Ideally exercise should be done first thing in the morning not only will it help your metabolism; it keeps your sleep/wake cycle in check.

3. Late afternoon naps can make it harder for you to fall asleep when you should. A power nap of 15-20 minutes is all you need to feel refreshed. If you consistently do not get 7-8 hours of sleep each night have you considered a biphasic sleep pattern? Most of us are monophasic sleepers, but as we age we might only get 5-6 hours a night. Biphasic sleep is when a person sleeps twice per day. To me sleeping ‘in’ means sleeping more than 6 hours a night, then I find that I get very tired especially after I eat lunch (known as the post lunch dip). To make up for the sleep I need I take a longer nap of 90 minutes; 6 hours plus 1 ½ = 7 ½ hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Taking a 90 minute nap gives you a complete full cycle of sleep so you are more likely to wake up naturally and feel revitalized.

4. As I stated before stress, anxiety and depression can cause many nights of tossing and turning. How can you de-stress before going to bed? Take a warm bath using aromatherapy with lavender or chamomile oil, deep breathing exercises, cognitive behavioral therapy, self-hypnosis cds or mp3s, meditation, yoga stretches, visualization or progressive muscle relaxation. If you have an underlying health/mental issue that is causing your depression consult with your physician as he may recommend a specialist for treatment.

5. Make a healthy bedtime routine a habit. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day. If getting into your favorite comfy pjs and having a glass of warm milk helps you sleep, incorporate it into your nightly routine. By taking time for yourself to wind down every night you will insure a successful transition into sleep. If you fall asleep after reading a short story in Oprah’s recommended book This Is How You Lose Her, by Junot Díaz or relaxing with a cup of Sleepytime decaffeinated tea, than there is no happier ending than that.

6. Your sleep position, bed and bedroom are all factors when it comes to the quality and quantity of your sleep. Choosing a comfortable sleep position that feels natural whether if it is on your side or your back will prevent you from waking up in pain or with acid reflux. There is some evidence that your sleeping position may be related to heart function, though it usually affects an existing heart problem like congestive heart failure if you sleep on your left side causing heart enlargement and dysfunction. If you suffer from acid reflux a study showed it can be somewhat increased when you sleep on your right side. If you wake up with neck or shoulder pain it may be caused by the type of pillow you’re using whether it is too flat or too high. Remember too that a clean made bed is more inviting than a rumbled messy one.

7. If your mattress is too hard, soft or lumpy it may be time to buy a new one. Can’t afford one? Then a memory foam mattress topper that is at least 3 inches thick can be very effective in reducing back, shoulder and neck pain.

8. Your bedroom is your sanctuary away from the hussle and bussle of everyday life. It should be quiet, dark and cool to promote the best sleep possible. The ideal temperature for your room should be between 62-68 degrees. If you room is too hot it will affect your ability to fall asleep easy and stay asleep all night. I love a cool room but in the summer that usually means running the air conditioner which in turn dries out the air affecting my breathing. Using a humidifier helps with this problem. If the nights get cool enough I love to sleep by an open window and what is better than that? If you have your bedroom on the main floor, plant a lilac bush outside and in the spring when it is in bloom that cool breeze will also be filled with a heavenly scent!

9. There are two types of noise that can prevent sleep; internal noise that you can control and external noise that you can’t control but you can minimize or drown out. Internal noise inside your house can be reduced or eliminated altogether (this means turning off your TV, video games and laptop computers), but barking dogs or noisy neighbors is another thing. Other than asking your neighbors to turn their music down or put a muzzle on their dog you can use a white noise machine, fan or your own sleep sounds (music, self-hypnosis cds, nature sounds) to block out the noise.

10. Along with noise light in your bedroom can also be a sleep stealer. Try to make your room dark as possible. Turn off all electronics and use blinds or blackout curtains to keep the outside street light from coming in. An eye mask may be helpful too.


How can you stop your mind from racing so you can fall asleep? Try progressive muscle relaxation exercises where you tighten and relax each muscle group starting at your extremities (hands feet) and work your way inward to your chest. You can use progressive muscle relaxation with deep breathing for a more effective approach to relaxation. Usually I fall asleep before I get to my inner core muscle groups. There are self-hypnotic CDs that will tell you how to get the most out of these two techniques. Muscle loosening or body erasing are similar relaxation techniques that will keep your mind on something other than your to-do-list. Both of these usually start with your toes and works up the body as your aim is to sink into the mattress until you are fully relaxed. Deep breathing alone will help reduce your heart rate. Lie on your back and breathe deeply and hold it as long as you can then exhale slowly counting backwards from 8 to 1 Repeat. Tell yourself to relax in between each set.

Yoga Stretching relieves tension and on the DVD Yoga in Bed there is a 5-move yoga routine to relax your body and mind before sleep. What is the best part? Each pose can be done in bed! The first one is: Upside-Down Relaxation

• Sit facing a wall (or your headboard) with your butt about 6 inches away from it.
• Lie back and extend your legs up the wall.
• If this is too intense a stretch for your hamstrings, slide your butt farther away from the wall.
• If it's not enough, scoot closer.
• Let your arms rest by your sides, palms facing up, and breathe gently, feeling the stretch in the backs of your legs.

Meditating and Visualization techniques can be used alone or conjunction with muscle exercise described above. Mediate on a calming word or phrase. Don’t laugh but when I want to reduce my heart rate I concentrate on the words teeter-totter. I repeat these words many times going slower each time and pausing between each word. Visualization is using your imagination to find yourself in a peaceful place such as at the beach, lying in a hammock with a warm breeze or floating on a cloud. Another method is going to a familiar place. I have used the home I grew up in and as I walk through each room my mind and body relax. Or simply just tell yourself to stay awake instead of go to sleep. You never know what may work.

If all else fails get out of bed and do something that makes you tired. Why lie there for more than 20 minutes tossing and turning when you could read a boring book, write down what is bothering you (make your to-do-list) or do something that needs to be done but you’ve been putting it off; like balance the checking account or pay bills. You’ll be happy to go back to bed!


If you are tired go to bed! I do this all the time I fall asleep on the couch then wake up at 2am to go to bed but then I can’t fall back to sleep!

Some people just can’t go to sleep in silence. My granddaughters have to have a fan in their face to fall asleep and stay asleep. Unfortunately my son-in-law is the same way and this habit drives my daughter crazy as she can’t sleep with not only the noise but the wind blowing all night long. What can you do? What if he was a chronic snorer? Are the only solution separate beds or even separate rooms? If someone else sharing the bed is the cause of your not falling asleep, discuss the problem together. There is no sense in missing out on sleep, and this can impact your relationship negatively if you have a poor night's sleep.

Staying at family or a friend’s house and it is too cold? A quick fix is putting on some socks or loading on the blankets. Too hot, the best fastest way to cool down is with your head or your feet. Put your pillowcase in the freezer for 10 minutes or run cold water on your feet.

Some people find sleeping with their pet comforting until they move around a lot or hog the bed. If you like your pet to be near you have a doggie bed by yours if they don’t stay off your bed maybe it is time to keep them on the other side of your bedroom door.


If you haven’t slept well for two or more weeks it may be time to see your family doctor. Your lack of sleep may be a sign of another medical or mental problem or maybe causing one. It may be as simple as changing your diet or starting an exercise program. You might want to check your magnesium level, if it is low it could be the reason you are having sleep difficulties. Ask your doctor about other supplements and vitamins that are options other than addictive prescription medications. Over-the-counter drugs also have side effects. Remember to tell your doctor if taking a supplement as it may interfere with other medications or medical issues. If you are on medications, ask your doctor if they are interfering with your ability to sleep. He may change the dose, the time of day to take them or change the prescription all together.

The information in this site is for informational purposes only and not meant as a substitute for advice from your healthcare professional. This information should not be used to diagnosis or treat any health problem. Information and statements provided by about supplements that have not been evaluated by the FDA are not intended to diagnosis, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical condition. Reliance on any information in this article or on this site is solely at your own risk.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Side Effects of Lexipro (Lexapro) for Sleep Anxiety

Do you worry about not being able to fall asleep which causes you to stay awake even more? This is what is known as sleep anxiety an endless cycle of sleeplessness that results in chronic insomnia. Most people know they have this problem but are unable to stop it. If you have sleep anxiety you worry about how much sleep you get and how it will affect your ability to function during the day. As you worry about your insomnia the worse it gets. Your insomnia becomes part of your everyday life and instead of doing something about it you learn to live with it or you decide to take a drug like Lexipro to treat your sleep anxiety.

Lexipro, the misspelled word for Lexapro, is an antidepressant that is generally given to people that develop anxiety or depressive disorders. As with any antidepressant there are always side effects to consider. What are the side effects of Lexipro for sleep anxiety? Headaches, inability to concentrate, memory problems, confusion, shallow breathing, sweating, tremors, uneven heartbeat as well as vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite are just some of the side effects from Lexipro. There are even some minor side effects that can occur; like decreased sex drive, impotence, INSOMNIA, constipation, heartburn, ringing in the ears and dry mouth.

You may also be allergic to Lexipro. If you have the following signs of an allergic reaction please seek medical attention. They are skin rash, hives, facial swelling, trouble breathing or swelling of the throat, lips or tongue and even thoughts of suicide.

Lexipro Side Effects Medication Guidelines

How can you stop taking Lexipro? Since this medication is prescribed by your doctor always tell them before stopping any treatment. Your doctor should suggest that you gradually decrease the dosage as stopping Lexipro cold turkey could be harmful. Since Lexipro is habit-forming stopping this drug suddenly your body will go through withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms include: nervousness, headaches, numbness, tingling, trouble sleeping and confusion.

As you know life happens and many of us suffer from anxiety as a result. Too much on your plate is overwhelming for some people and they end up not being able to sleep so they toss and turn night after night trying to solve the problems and difficulties in their life. Many are trying not to take additive drugs with side effects and turning to natural herbal relief for their anxiety. Many can provide a calming and relaxing tranquilizing effect that allows them to fall asleep easy. Kava Kava is used in some cultures to be effective as prescribed medication in relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. As with drugs, herbal supplements should be discussed with your doctor especially if you are pregnant or nursing and since it causes drowsiness you should not take it before driving or using any heavy machinery. Supplements are not addictive or have life-threatening side effects and taking them with positive healthy lifestyle including a well-balanced diet and exercise can treat anxiety. Your diet should be rich in vitamins and minerals like magnesium that is known to help with sleep issues.

An alternative approach to reliving anxiety disorders is using cognitive treatments with an emphasis on relaxation techniques and positive thinking. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that addresses dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognitions through a goal-oriented orderly process. CBT is effective for treatment of a variety of conditions such as; mood anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and psychotic syndromes and each has its own specific treatments for their symptom-based diagnoses. CBT has been shown to be effective with all anxiety disorders, even sleep anxiety.

The basic theory is some CBT treatments for anxiety is in vivo exposure, a term that describes the technique when patients are gradually exposed to the actual cause of their anxiety. This idea is based on the concept that the anxiety response becomes a habit and that avoidance, as in our case avoiding going to bed at night because we know we are not going to fall asleep, is a negative reinforcement which maintains this anxiety. Through exposure to their anxiety this habit can be unlearned.

But, you might ask, if CBT is just a matter of learning the facts and adopting the correct practices, why do I have to pay a therapist for it? Why can’t I just read the facts in a book or on the internet and start changing my behavior? You can, of course, and that’s partly why there are websites that exist  to get the word out about sleep myths and best practices. Many people need another person involved for coaching and to hold them accountable – which is why CBT services exist.  So it is important to talk to your primary health practitioner to discuss your sleep anxiety and have him/her recommend a licensed CBT therapist.

The information in this site is for informational purposes only and not meant as a substitute for advice from your healthcare professional. This information should not be used to diagnosis or treat any health problem. Information and statements provided by about supplements that have not been evaluated by the FDA are not intended to diagnosis, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical condition. Reliance on any information in this article or on this site is solely at your own risk.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Preschool Kids Can’t Sleep Easy Watching SpongeBob

Every parent knows it is hard enough to get kids to go to bed, but adding ‘violent’ TV shows may add to the problem. Digital distractions can lead to bedtime issues and now new research has found that kids can’t sleep easy watching SpongeBob or Scooby-Doo because they may be harmful to sleep patterns.

At the Seattle Children’s Research Institute a study was performed to determine sleep and TV watching habits of 565 kids 3 to 5 years of age. The families who participated answered several questions about their children’s nighttime sleep routine and then completed the same survey six months, 12 and 18 months later. The researchers split the families into two groups; one (focus group) received a home visit, phone calls and mailings with instructions on how to make better TV choices while the other controlled group only received nutrition information.

Prior to any involvement, researched noted no difference of sleep and TV habits between kids in either group. After the study they found that kids who changed to more age-appropriate TV viewing had considerably less trouble falling asleep easy and staying asleep throughout the night. In fact, 64% were less likely to have sleep problems, including nightmares. One problem was that parents had a hard time figuring out which shows weren’t considered ‘violent’ for their young children.

Shows like Scooby-Doo and SpongeBob SquarePants may be too violent for 3 or 4 year olds without parents realizing it. SpongeBob also received bad press last fall when researchers suggested the show’s quick animation sequences could cause attention problems, but hadn’t looked at the effects it had on sleep patterns. Other cartoons like Bugs Bunny, Road Runner or Tom and Jerry can also affect a 3 year old's sleep due to violence. Tom and Jerry is infamous for some of the most violent cartoon gags ever devised; such as Jerry slicing Tom in half, shutting his head in a window or a door, Tom using everything from axes, firearms, explosives, traps and poison to try to murder Jerry.

Parents know that preschooler shouldn’t watch violent movies, but they may not necessarily make the same conclusion with violent cartoons that are advertised toward this age group. According to USA Today, the TV shows this study classifies safer viewing for 3 to 4 year olds to watch at night are Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer and Curious as they not only help children to sleep better, they also help with learning and social skills. The study also did not alter the children’s time spent watching television or how late they stayed up, only the types of shows they viewed.

As I have explained before we all need to power down before bedtime and that is especially important for children. Studies have found that kids that use any type of media right before bedtime (TV, video games) were more likely to have trouble falling asleep than those that shut down all electronics at least an hour before they went to bed.  An additional note about light emitted from electronics and sleep; that a significant body of research now points to television as a key factor in reducing levels of the hormone melatonin, the substance that regulates the body's internal clock and also governs the speed at which puberty develops.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain which plays a key role in regulating the body's internal clock. Doctors suggest that the light emitted by television screens may play a part in suppressing melatonin levels in the blood, which may disrupt the sleep patterns of children and teens as well as the age at which they enter puberty. The ever-earlier onset of puberty has puzzled researchers since it began in the 1950s, precisely when televisions became widely owned.  So start encouraging your children to watch less TV, especially close to bedtime.  Setting up a nightly routine now will help them establish healthy sleep habits that will continue through their teen years and into adulthood. has some basic guidelines how to encourage kids to watch less TV :

Set reasonable limits -- and stick to them. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of quality "screen time," which includes TV, DVDs, and computers, for kids ages 2 and up, and no screen time at all for kids under 2. Of course, enforcing such a limit is easier said than done -- especially when your child's fussing, the phone's ringing, and dinner's on the stove. Some extra TV time won't hurt (just make sure it's a trusted program or DVD -- and it's preferable to a mom at her wit's end. But it's good to remember that you can create downtime with other activities -- dolls, drawing, blocks -- that will engross kids in a healthier way.

Don't put a TV in your child's room. "You're asking for trouble," says James Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, an organization that helps parents make informed decisions about kids' entertainment. "It's best in the family room so you can be involved in your child's viewing."

Have your child ask your permission before he turns on the tube so you're aware of when he's watching.

Watch programs together as much as possible so you know what he's being exposed to and you can answer any questions he might have.

Make viewing time special by having regular family TV or movie nights.

Talk to other parents. If you keep in mind that all families are different, other parents can be a good resource for ideas and support. You may also set similar rules in your homes, which will reassure you when your child visits them.

Don't depend solely on a friend's recommendation for what's appropriate (despite the advice above) unless you know that she shares your values. Sites such as and provide detailed accounts of violence, bad language, and sexuality on DVDs and videos.

Get your partner on the same page so you can enforce rules consistently. At the very least, agree that you'll consult before giving your child the TV green light.

Be a good example. It's difficult to talk to your kids about curtailing TV if you have the set on all the time. If your spouse likes to watch, encourage him to do so in a private area, if possible, so the TV doesn't disrupt others.

The information in this site is for informational purposes only and not meant as a substitute for advice from your healthcare professional. This information should not be used to diagnosis or treat any health problem. Information and statements provided by about supplements that have not been evaluated by the FDA are not intended to diagnosis, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical condition. Reliance on any information in this article or on this site is solely at your own risk.

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Link between Sleep and the Immune System

A new study from the researchers at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has found evidence that there is a link between sleep and the immune system. Lack of sleep not only causes lack of concentration and moodiness, it can also reduce the effectiveness of vaccines. Their study’s link between the amount of sleep you get and the immune response to vaccines was analyzed by middle-aged participants in a sleep clinic who were monitored on a nightly basis to determine their sleep patterns than administered a three dose hepatitis B vaccine to see how strong their immune system responded.

Researchers have found a link between sleep and the immune system. 7 hours of sleep helps our immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. Those that got less than six hours of sleep on average each night verses those that sleep longer indicated a reduced, inadequate antibody response to the vaccine. In fact, they were more likely 11.5 times to be unprotected by the immunization. Dr. Aric Prather, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at UCSF and U.C. Berkeley stated that the study showed clear evidence of a link between the amount of sleep and an immune process relevant to infectious disease risk.

Today more that 30% of Americans get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night due to stress, staying up too late at night watching TV or talking to friends on Facebook and/or other sleep related disorders such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea. Lack of sleep not only is cause by health problems but is associated with obesity, diabetes Type 2, heart disease and even some cancers.

Melatonin levels change when there is a disruption to the body’s sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin is the hormone that is naturally released at night to prepare the body and mind to fall asleep. Getting too much artificial light at night due to work schedules or watching TV can interfere with the production of melatonin causing ones circadian rhythm to get out of control. Suppressing melatonin maybe the related to other hormones that influence health problems associated with sleep deprivation. Research has shown that adequate sleep is tied to the immune system and it specifically assists the production of protective antibodies that can eliminate bacteria and viruses. Prather also states that lack of sleep causes fluctuations in cell types important in antibody production including alterations in some hormones that influence the immune system like cortisol and human growth hormones.

This study consisted of 125 (70 women, 55 men) healthy, nonsmoking Pennsylvania participants between the ages of 40-60 to determine potential effects of hormonal changes. They kept a sleep journal detailing what time they went to bed, when they woke up and whether they fell asleep easy or not. Some wore actigraphs which electronically monitored their movements and could authenticate they were actually sleeping. Each participant received a standard three-dose hepatitis B vaccine; the first and second dose given a month apart while the final dose was administered at six months. Antibody levels were measured before the second and third dose then again six months after the final dose to establish whether they showed a clinically protective response.

Those that consistently failed to get 7-9 hours of sleep were found to have less vaccine effectiveness while those that had a full night’s sleep were more likely to have a higher antibody response and meet the threshold of protection. Of the 123 participants, 18 did not receive adequate protection from the vaccine. The purpose of this study allowed researchers to monitor immune response over the long term verses a lab-based study where most sleep deprivation results showed a short-lived decrease in antibody levels. Participants in short-term sleep deprivation studies recover quicker because they monitor those that are younger with more resilient immune systems. The current study tracked sleep habits over time and Prather’s team of researchers expected to see variations in people’s immune responses based on their sleep duration, but they didn’t expect to see such a persistently low levels of antibodies six months later.

Prather says, “Sleep needs to take on a larger priority when we think about our health. As scientific evidence continues to converge, it’s my hope that sleep becomes an important topic of discussion, both in the doctor’s office, in our schools and on the health policy level.” Sleep is important to our good health. This study is published in the journal of SLEEP.

Aric A. Prather received his PhD (2010) in Clinical and Biological & Health Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, and completed his clinical training internship in behavioral medicine at Duke University Medical Center. Trained in the field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), Aric’s research focuses on psychological, behavioral, and physiologic correlates of immune function, with particular emphasis on restorative processes (e.g. sleep) that may buffer the deleterious effects of stress on health.

The information in this site is for informational purposes only and not meant as a substitute for advice from your healthcare professional. This information should not be used to diagnosis or treat any health problem. Information and statements provided by about supplements that have not been evaluated by the FDA are not intended to diagnosis, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical condition. Reliance on any information in this article or on this site is solely at your own risk.

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