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Relaxation Is Key to a Good Night's Rest

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If insomnia is your constant nighttime companion, some changes in your life may help you sleep better and longer. After all, how well-rested you are determines how pleasant you are and how much you enjoy your day, said Dr. Kimberly Zoberi, a family practitioner in Des Peres, Mo.

"Not getting enough rest ruins your quality of life," Zoberi said.

The secret to sleeping well is simple. "Basically, relaxation leads to sleeping, but people don't know how to relax," Zoberi said. "Because of that, we don't know what we've lost in mental acuity or contributions to society or mental health."

Having trouble falling asleep, of course, contributes to stress, and that can make insomnia worse. "Adults tend to wait until sleep deprivation is a crisis," she said. "If you are not getting the sleep your body needs, see your doctor."

Here are some simple suggestions to help you sleep:

- Plan to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Any less, and Zoberi says you're cheating yourself.

- Avoid eating big meals and drinking caffeine six hours before going to bed.

- Schedule your workout or any strenuous exercise at least one hour before going to bed.

- Establish a pleasant, calming ritual for the hour before heading for bed. Take a warm bath, read a book, pray or enjoy quiet conversation with a loved one.

- Go to bed and get up at the same time, even on weekends. After a while, if you're getting the optimum amount of sleep, you likely won't need to set the alarm.

- Do not watch TV in bed-it leads to associating time in bed with being up and entertained. Also, the light from the TV keeps your body from turning on its natural sleep hormones.

- Run a fan or play a tape of ocean waves to create relaxing "white noise."

- If you wake up in the middle of the night, do not turn on lights or the TV and do not look at the clock. Lie quietly until you fall back to sleep.

- Massage therapy, yoga and meditation all help reduce stress - and relaxation leads to sleeping.


(c) 2003, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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