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Deborah King

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Can't Sleep? 7 Steps to the Land of Nod

Posted: 03/01/2012 10:52 am

Can't sleep?

Well, according to his interview in The Hollywood Reporter, neither can George Clooney. Don't you feel better already? Clooney goes to bed by 10 p.m. (very un-star-like) and wakes up five times a night. And he has trouble falling asleep unless he keeps the screen of his television flickering to numb him out so he doesn't get caught up in his thinking.

Clooney's not the only heartthrob who struggles to fall asleep. Justin Bieber's mind also races at night and he sometimes has to deal with insomnia. And girls, he's probably not thinking about you. He says he thinks "about all the things I didn't have time to think about during the day -- like family and God."

No matter how rich and famous, sleep is the one thing not even celebrities can buy.

Heaven knows Michael Jackson tried to buy sleep with powerful anesthesia-type drugs, and look where that got him. Heath Ledger was another who accidently left the planet while mixing prescription drugs in order to get some sleep.

But what about you? There are two types of insomnia: Some folks have trouble falling asleep and toss and turn till the wee hours of the morning, and others hit the pillow and they're out like a light, but then wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. No matter which version of insomnia is yours, you know how miserable you feel as you struggle to get through yet another day of work and family obligations while totally exhausted.

Some people turn to pharmaceuticals to help them sleep, which can lead to even more problems. There are also all the reports of strange sleepwalking activity that can take place on Ambien -- not too dangerous if you're raiding the refrigerator (except for the waistline), but terrifying if you wind up driving while still actually asleep.

So what can you do?

Work with nature, not against it. Nature is impersonal; it doesn't care if an avalanche wipes out a top-notch skier, or if a tsunami kills thousands of people. It's neutral -- just doing what it does according to the physical laws of the universe. Your body is part of nature; you can't defeat its inborn programming -- which for most of us is to go to bed when it gets dark and wake when it gets light. Our biological rhythms, controlled by our body clock, affect everything from body temperature to appetite to hormone secretions and to sleep timing.

Here are seven steps to help you get a good night's sleep, every night, without drugs.

1. Stop watching stimulating images on your TV, iPad or phone an hour before bed. Read a book, take a bath, have mind-boggling sex, but stop playing Angry Birds no matter what level you're on.

2. Make sure your room is dark. If you need to, wear an eye mask.

3. If you need to have an alarm clock or other digital device in your bedroom, find one that has red ambient light instead of blue. Red does not disturb melatonin production in the same way blue light does.

4. Try to get in your major physical exercise before noon. It's better to wake up early enough to go to the gym before work rather than going in the evening.

5. Learn to meditate. Meditation (and I'm talking about real meditation, such as mantra-based as opposed to guided meditations) is an excellent way to relieve the mental stress that can keep your mind churning as you toss and turn in bed.

6. Go to bed by 10 p.m. Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

7. First thing in the morning, step outside for a moment and take in the light. The daylight will shut down your melatonin production and set you up to be more awake during the day.

So the secret to getting your Zzs is to get in harmony with nature -- think of it as Mother Nature tucking you in -- rather than relying on habit-forming and potentially dangerous combos of drugs and/or alcohol. Sweet dreams!

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