How to Sleep Soundly Tonight: 250 Simple and Natural Ways to Prevent Sleeplessness


America is sleep deprived, and the consequences are serious. A good night's sleep may be all that most people need to build energy, improve mood, and even increase lifespan. Focusing on natural and herbal remedies, HOW TO SLEEP SOUNDLY TONIGHT offers more than 150 easy-to-implement tips for anyone who has trouble sleeping. Readers will learn how to relax with deep breathing, meditation, nutrition, exercise, visualizations, and other calming techniques. This handy reference also offers a resource list of ...

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America is sleep deprived, and the consequences are serious. A good night's sleep may be all that most people need to build energy, improve mood, and even increase lifespan. Focusing on natural and herbal remedies, HOW TO SLEEP SOUNDLY TONIGHT offers more than 150 easy-to-implement tips for anyone who has trouble sleeping. Readers will learn how to relax with deep breathing, meditation, nutrition, exercise, visualizations, and other calming techniques. This handy reference also offers a resource list of organizations and products.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"…a charming and inexpensive little handbook full of simple, easily implemented methods for assessing your night's sleep…"- Bookpage

"Presented on soothing pages of baby blue, sprinkled with quotes about dreams and sleep ("Enjoy the honey- heavy dew of slumber"), the text offers 250 natural ways to prevent sleeplessness." - Syracuse Herald American

"…suggestions for better sleep mix home and herbal remedies, science, feng shui and prayer." - New York Daily News

From The Critics
Whether sleep problems are intermittent or chronicle, author Heller provides over two hundred easy techniques which range from exercises and recipes for sleep-inducing foods to herbal baths and room sprays. Some, such as visualization and bedtime sleep rituals, may be familiar to any who have struggled with this problem; other suggestions, such as the recipes for herbal baths, are unique in How To Sleep Soundly Tonight.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580173148
  • Publisher: Storey Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/2001
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,489,781
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 7.22 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara L. Heller, M.S.W., is a psychotherapist, educator, and well-respected speaker on women's health care and complementary medicine. She lives in Afton, New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: How and Why We Sleep

If you heard about a new product guaranteed to increase health and productivity, would you purchase it? If the local gym promoted exercise classes that ensured improvement in your mood and behavior, would you sign up? Well, there is an activity, which can be practiced almost anywhere and at no cost, that can provide these benefits and more. The activity is sleep, and it can reward you with increased health and energy, and a fresh perspective.

Sleep is the physiological function that helps nourish our mind, body, and soul. It is essential for good health and upbeat spirits. During slumber, we experience memory consolidation and physical restoration and growth. Sleep also helps us recover from illnesses and enhances our resistance to disease.

Sound sleep can greatly improve our daily lives. When we wake from restful, refreshing sleep, we feel renewed and ready to face the day ahead. In addition, being well-rested enhances our mood, our ability to learn, and our coping skills. It also increases our capacity for communication, creativity, and concentration. When we increase the quality of our sleep, we age more gracefully.

Make Sleep a Star

Get more sleep! This is not often a rallying cry, or the topic of fantasies. Although other bedroom activity is given more press, better sleep gives you more energy, improves your mood, makes you less prone to accidents and less irritable, and increases your life span. And those benefits may also make you feel more romantic.

Often, we take sleep for granted. It is only when we are sleep deprived that those around us are most apt to notice. Family members, friends, or coworkers may comment, "Seems like you got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning." In some circles, being exhausted is worn like a badge of honor.

The National Commission on Sleep Disorders asserts, "America is seriously sleep deprived, with serious consequences." Lack of sleep decreases productivity, effectiveness, concentration, decision-making abilities, and physiological immunity. Consistently being deprived of sleep can increase the severity of diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and age-related disorders. Sleepiness has been implicated in accidents on the road, in the air, in hospitals, and at nuclear power plants. When sleep deprivation is combined with driving, the results can be as dangerous and as fatal as those of drunk driving.

On the other hand, sound sleep provides physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits. William Dement, M.D., Ph.D., a leading authority on sleep and sleep disorders, claims, "Healthy sleep has been empirically proven to be the single most important determinant in predicting longevity, more influential than diet, exercise, or heredity."

Sleep may also be crucial to spiritual well-being. Clark Strand, author and former Zen monk, ranks sleep number one of seven practices that will help you live more joyfully every day. He says, "Sleep is indispensable for the experience of 'enoughness' in our lives. The basis for clear awareness during our waking hours, it determines more than any other factor the overall quality of our days." Give sleep top billing and it will prepare you for peak performance.

The Rhythm of Sleep

The American Heritage Dictionary defines sleep as "A natural, periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost, so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli." Although the adjective sleepy can be used to mean inactive, and that may seem true to an observer, sleep is really an active state.

There are two basic types of sleep. Nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, as its name suggests, is characterized by little or no eye movement. Physical changes that occur during NREM sleep include the slowing down of breathing and heart rate. NREM sleep occurs in four progressively deeper stages. When we initially fall asleep, we enter stage 1 REM sleep. We spend the longest period of our sleep time in stage 2 NREM sleep. The last two NREM stages, 3 and 4, mark our deepest levels of sleep but make up only about 20 percent of our total sleep time.

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is when most dreaming occurs. It is marked by a distinctive shifting of the eyes that can be detected by watching the sleeper's face. Most people experience four to six REM periods of increasing length during any given night. Paradoxically, REM sleep is both the most active and the most inactive sleep stage. People experience many physiological changes, including increased blood pressure, pulse, and respiration; erections; and a rise in body temperature. But during REM sleep, the muscles are temporarily paralyzed. This sleep paralysis is a form of physiological self-protection from the potential danger and damage we could experience if we were to act out our dreams.

There is a rhythmic pattern to sleep. During a normal night, adults cycle between REM sleep and NREM sleep in regular patterns. REM sleep occurs approximately every 90 minutes. During this cycle, people fall into progressively deeper stages of NREM sleep and then cycle back through the stages until they enter REM sleep again.

The Biological Clock

Although lacking a numbered dial and moving hands, an internal biological clock regulates all our major bodily functions. A tiny cluster of brain cells near the optic nerves, described as our internal biological clock, orchestrates the intricate cyclical connections of temperature, hormones, mood, appetite, alertness, and other physiological functions.

The activities governed by our body's clock follow a pattern that takes about 24 hours and is called circadian rhythm (derived from the Latin circa, meaning around, and dian/dies, meaning day). Scientists have found that the internal clock has a tendency to run from 10 minutes to more than an hour longer than 24 hours. What are the implications of this schedule? Our internal clock regulates our level of alertness, so to be healthy and attentive we need to coordinate our body clock with that of the cultural timepiece and calendar. Light is the major external factor that influences this natural rhythm. The brain also relies on social contact, regular meal and sleep times, and other outside influences to keep it on a 24-hour schedule. Insufficient light and lack of sleep can disturb circadian rhythms. The best ways to keep in sync with our internal clocks are to maintain consistent sleep schedules and get daily doses of early-morning light and evening darkness.

The National Sleep Debt

The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep to function well. This varies by age, gender, and personal physiology. Nearly one-third of Americans gets by on six and a half hours of sleep or less. Only 35 percent of adults sleep the recommended eight hours or more per night during the workweek. Since more than 50 percent of Americans get up at 6 a.m. or earlier, lights-out for most adults should be before 10 p.m. Skimping on sleep is a relatively recent cultural development. Prior to electricity, people rose at dawn and went to sleep soon after sunset. At the turn of the last century, the average American slept about nine hours a night.

One of the most important measures of adequate sleep is your level of alertness during the day. Sleep experts agree that most people need from 40 to 90 minutes more sleep than they get in order to be fully alert and to improve their overall health and performance.

When our sleep cycles are curtailed, either physiologically or by choice, we become sleep deprived. Sleep educators have coined the term "sleep debt" to describe how sleep deprivation works. "Each of us maintains a personal sleep bank account," explains James Maas, Ph.D., Cornell University professor and author of Power Sleep. "Any sleep you get is a deposit or an asset; any hour of wakefulness is a withdrawal or a debit.

Most people need to deposit at least eight hours of sleep in the account to cancel the sleep debt incurred by 16 hours of continuous alertness." Sleep debt is cumulative. The catch-22 is that trying to catch up on lost sleep - by sleeping more than two hours later than usual - may actually cause subsequent sleep problems.

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Table of Contents

1 How and Why We Sleep (1)

2 How Sleep Changes over Time (17)

3 Do You Have a Sleep Problem? (35)

4 Changing Habits That Hinder Sleep (49)

5 Dream up a Sleep-Inviting Environment (75)

6 Self-Help Strategies (87)

7 Relax, Are you Getting Sleepy (111)

8 Natural Remedies (137)

9 When Self-Help Doesn't Help (173)

Conclusion: It's Time to Say Good Night (178)

Resources (181)

Index (182)

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