I have written before about the supplements I like as sleep aides. And I am not in favor of any kind of knock-out pills. I consider all pharmaceutical “hypnotics” as they call them to be dangerous and detrimental, not only because of their toxicities, but because they interfere with and corrupt the sleep process. They dig you in deeper. Truly, it’s like being stuck in a hole and digging yourself in deeper when you take those drugs.

But things I do feel comfortable taking and recommending are melatonin, magnesium, the amino acid taurine, the amino acid glycine, and some of the calming herbs, my favorite of which is lemon balm. Another good thing is the amino acid L-theanine from green tea. You could take every one of those things- every night- and it wouldn’t hurt you or pose a problem.

But, what I really want to talk about at this time are other things you can do to foster good sleep. The first is to ensure that you have good bedding. You want a firm mattress. Not too firm, but firm enough to support your spine and allow your body to lengthen, as much as possible, on the bed.  And remember that mattresses don’t last forever. Think about replacing your mattress at 10 years, and if not then, at 12 years. You don’t want to be keeping a mattress for 20 years.

The second thing is darkness. Get your sleeping room as dark as possible. There is light from electric alarm clocks, from phones, cell phones, etc. And people have computers in their bedrooms, which may emit light from modems and routers, even when the computer is turned off. Of course, light may also be entering the room through windows. So, do everything you can to make the room as dark as possible.

The third thing is temperature. A lot is written about keeping the room temperature cooler at night, since body temperature drops during sleep. But obviously, being chilled is no good either and may prevent sleep. So, pay attention to room temperature on both sides of the spectrum and make sure you aren’t being affected by a room temperature that is too high or too low.

The fourth thing is quietness. But, I realize that there is a limit to how much people can control noises. How many times has my sleep been interrupted by a neighbor’s barking dog? Numerous times, but fortunately, it hasn’t been a problem lately. Absolute quiet is the goal, and you should try to establish it as much as possible. But, definitely have ear plugs available because you never know. And by the way: I think you should avoid Motel 6 and motels like it when you’re traveling because they are invariably built very close to major freeways, and the traffic roar is likely to keep you awake all or most of the night.

The fifth thing is particularly valuable if you have a problem sleeping, if you know you are inclined to insomnia. Realize that a vicious cycle occurs in which your worrying about sleep raises the bar of difficulty for you to fall asleep. Your insomnia becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’ll confess that I am not the best sleeper, by nature. I have struggled with sleep issues all my adult life. It started when I was in college, and I have never really been free of it. But, what helps me is to always have good reading materials available at my bedside. Nighttime before sleep is when I do my enjoyable reading; when I read for fun.  I don’t favor novels so much, but rather, biographies and non-fiction, including history. Currently, I am reading a book about World War II, which is a period of history that I am very interested in, and the book is so interesting to me, that I look forward to going to bed at night so that I can read some more. I start reading and continue until my eyes get heavy, and then I turn out the light. But, having good, interesting reading materials takes the pressure off. It distracts you. And it allows the natural sleep process to take place spontaneously without interference.  

I let my cell phone charge at night, but put it in another room. You don’t have to do it in your bedroom. And with my landline, I turn off the ringer at night, and I silence the answering machine too, although it is still operational. And people ask me: what if there is an emergency?  Well, if there is an emergency, then I am just going to have to find out about it the next morning. If that is a selfish act, then so be it.

Well, I hope this has helped you some. And remember that despite everything you do, sleep results are going to vary. You are going to have good nights, great nights, but also not so great nights, where you wrestle with sleep despite doing everything you can that is constructive. But, don’t be tempted to start taking drugs because that is not the answer. You want to avoid that like the plague. Safe supplements yes;  drugs no.