Dreaming of getting a solid eight hours of sleep? You’re not alone. Nearly 60 percent of Americans are struggling with insomnia, thanks to everything from anxiety over Covid-19 to continued disruptions to our routines. As a result, more of us are turning to sleep aids. Trouble is, the medications don’t provide much benefit for middle-aged women when used long-term, says Daniel Hal Solomon, MD, of Harvard Medical School. “I often see women who start with a week’s supply of sleep medication, but a year later, they’re still taking them nightly,” he reveals. “While the medication may work temporarily, our research has found that long-term use doesn’t have a clear benefit.”
In addition to their potential side effects (including strange dreams, sleepwalking, and next-day grogginess), it’s easy to build up a tolerance to these medications. As their effectiveness wanes over time, you’ll need to take more to get the same benefit. Fortunately, experts promise you can get safe, deep slumber naturally. Here are three natural cures for sleepless nights:
Can’t fall asleep? Try This Trendy Tea
The hot new “health drink” sweeping social media for its ability to help you sleep? Lettuce tea. “If you’ve ever cut the stalks of romaine lettuce, you may have noticed a white sap — it’s filled with lactucarium, a calming substance,” says Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, author of Pain Erasers. (Buy on Amazon, $14.20) “When brewed as a tea in the evening, it helps us fall asleep.” To make your own subtly herbaceous “lullaby tea,” pack two cups of chopped romaine (it’s higher in lactucarium than other lettuce) in a pitcher and pour enough boiling water to cover it. Steep 10 minutes, strain and add honey or stevia to taste for sweeter dreams tonight.
Toss and turn all night? Drift Off to Soothing Tunes
If racing thoughts keep you up, “tune” them out: A new study finds that music with slower, longer note durations and non-danceable beats (think “Moonlight Sonata” or “You Are So Beautiful”) melts stress to help you sleep. “I thought only classical compositions would promote sleep, but we found that these musical features are more important than the genre,” says lead study author Thomas Dickson, PhD. “Once you find music that works for you, listen to it at the same time before bed for 30 days to develop an association with that music and sleep — it will help you nod off faster.” Also smart: Visit WholeTones.com for frequency-based therapeutic music that’s been proven to improve sleep.
Wake up tired? Crack a Window
Making sure your bedroom is getting enough fresh air means better ventilation and fewer indoor air pollutants, leading to better shut-eye. In fact, a new study found that folks who slept with an open window had lower levels of carbon dioxide in the air and as a result, enjoyed deeper sleep. What’s more, adds Rebecca Robbins, PhD. a professor at Harvard Medical School and author of Sleep for Success! (Buy on Amazon, $15.95): “A bedroom temperature of 70 degrees or higher often leads to fragmented sleep. Just opening a window will make it much easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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