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How To Get A Good Night's Sleep

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If stress is keeping you awake at night, here are some simple tips to help you relax and get better sleep, courtesy of family and lifestyle correspondent Ylonda Caviness.

LISA: I'm Lisa Birnbach for howdini. Do you ever wake up in the morning feeling exhausted? It's a pretty good bet that stress of some kind was to blame. To help us find the elusive good night sleep is lifestyle editor Ylonda Caviness who reports about stress and family issues for many magazines. Thanks for being here Ylonda.

YLONDA: Thanks so much for having me.

LISA: People worry about falling to sleep and then they can't fall asleep.

YLONDA: Falling asleep is a big issue especially for women. We're twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men are.

LISA: Is it because of all the stuff we're worrying about, making lunch in the morning and what time do I have to be somewhere. All the little minutia?

YLONDA: We get caught up, we get caught up. And the best way to counter that really is when you try to go to sleep and you have a lot of things dancing through your head, you're not falling asleep; make a to-do list. Get it out of your head. Write it down. That can help you relax.

LISA: So in other words you take it from here onto a page.

YLONDA: Uh-huh.

LISA: And the physical removal will work? You can sort of let it go?

YLONDA: Well, you have to do that and some other things. I mean that can work, but you also have to stop working against yourself. People think, oh I'll have a nightcap or I'll sit and read this great novel or I'll sit in bed and watch TV. All no good for falling asleep. It's going to keep you awake. The drink may help you fall asleep, but it won't help you stay asleep. It will keep you from having a restful, deep sleep.

LISA: I understand not watching the news because that can really upset you late at night, but what about watching a comedy or reading a fashion magazine. Something that's a little bit less heavy and more mindless.

YLONDA: Well, your mind will still be going. You want to make your bed a sleep zone only. You don't want to bring your work into bed. You know you don't want to bring all the things you're doing into bed, you're reading. You want to make it a sleep zone. If you're having a hard time going to sleep, the sandman hasn't come after twenty, thirty minutes, get up. Do something non-stimulating. Maybe you need to fold a load of laundry. Let your mind relax. Let your mind just wander, cool down. It's best to have really a routine for going to bed. You can't just fall into bed and expect that sleep will come. Sometimes you need to just gradually take a warm bath, maybe have a warm cup of tea. Do some things that will gradually help your body to wind down. Get that stress out of your body.

LISA: Do you recommend that people use tapes or waterfall music and stuff like that--

YLONDA: Tapes and white noise can really be very effective, be very effective. Those are also good things to do.

LISA: Now you said more women have trouble sleeping than men. Is that because we have the weight of the world on our shoulders?

YLONDA: I think so, but doctors would tell you it's for other reasons.

LISA: Like?

YLONDA: Perimenopause, menopause, pregnancy. Hormonal things will work against you getting a good night's sleep. A lot of times it's important to remember insomnia can be a symptom of some physical ailment. It can be asthma, it can be in some cases high blood pressure. You want to check with your doctor if you are a chronic insomniac. It means you're having trouble going to sleep more than three nights a week.

LISA: And how do you feel about natural or pharmiceutical sleep aids?

YLONDA: That should be something you discuss with your doctor. You really want it to be a last resort.

LISA: So the idea is chill, right?

YLONDA: Chill and you know that's easier said than done, but make sure you're working during the day to provide yourself with a good sleep at night. Get some exercise, but not too close to bedtime. Get some daylight. Don't have caffeine after about 3 PM in the afternoon. You can't go, go, go, go, go and then expect when you get to bed you just fall asleep. You have to develop good habits throughout. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Even if it's a weekend. If you're having trouble going to sleep, you can't be loosey goosey about your habits. You have to be a little more regimented so that your body knows it's time to wind down.

LISA: And replenish itself.

YLONDA: Exactly.

LISA: Ylonda thanks so much for being here.

YLONDA: Thank you.

LISA: I'm Lisa Birnbach for howdini.

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