The best way to get maximum rest is to practice the following:
- Refrain from eating acidic foods, such as orange juice and tomato sauce, or spicy foods. These may induce heartburn that disrupts sleep. Eat your last meal at least three hours before bedtime, and make it small.
- Exercise regularly. This deepens and extends sleep. Those who exercise a minimum of four and a half hours a week fell asleep twice as quickly -- 12 minutes faster -- and slept almost an hour longer than sedentary people, found a Stanford University study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Don't work out within three hours of going to bed because exercise raises your body temperature, which can make sleep more elusive.
- Review your medications with a doctor. Antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medicine, beta-blockers, and pain medications can disturb your sleep.
- Consider buying a mattress with individual pocketed coils to avoid being disturbed by your partner's movements. Choose a pillow, preferably down, that keeps your head, neck, and spinal cord in a straight line. Replace the pillow if it won't spring back when you fold it.
- From three to six hours before lights-out, cut off any stimulants, such as nicotine, coffee, soft drinks, and tea. Also, avoid alcohol after dinner. It may make you fall asleep quickly, but it causes light, fragmented dozing.
- If you don't fall asleep within 15 minutes, don't fret. Go to another room to read or listen to soothing music.
If you suffer insomnia for more than three weeks, keep a sleep diary for four to seven days to show your doctor. Record the time you went to bed, fell asleep, woke up during the night, how you felt in the morning, and the timing of drinks and exercise.
Your doctor may prescribe -- usually for less than a month's duration -- drugs such as newly developed Ambien and Sonata, both of which leave the body quickly so you're not groggy in the morning.
Continued on page 5: Teens at Risk