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10 Secrets to Better Sleep

May 30, 2013

Do you toss and turn all night long, only to dream of getting a good night's rest? Chronic sleep deprivation, which affects almost two out of every three Americans, may increase your risk of disease and compromise your immune system. Try the following natural remedies to help you rest more like Rip van Winkle!

During sleep, we cycle through five phases in which our body undergoes important organ repair and regeneration. During phases three and four, hormones are released and tissue repair begins. In order to receive the full benefits of rest, sleep should be uninterrupted. Read on to discover some pillow-friendly secrets to help you slip into a deeper slumber.

1. Snacks to Help You Snooze

Bedtime snacks: To nosh or not? As the evening progresses, our body naturally slows down in preparation for rest. It is therefore best to avoid a heavy meal right before bedtime which may result in indigestion and difficulty falling asleep. A light bedtime snack however, may help Mr. Sandman bring you a dream. Munching on a small serving of carbohydrates triggers the release of insulin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Another sleep-inducing nutrient to try is tryptophan, which converts to the sleep-promoting neurotransmitter serotonin. The following are all great snack choices: an 8-ounce glass of warm, low-fat organic milk, a small banana, or half a cup of unsweetened low-fat organic yogurt with a piece of whole grain toast.

2. Snacking Mistakes

Think twice before reaching for that roast beef sandwich! While certain foods can promote relaxation, foods rich in tyramine may have the opposite effect. Tyramine triggers the stimulating hormone norepinephrine, which keeps us alert. Processed meats and cheeses like bacon, cold cuts, and sausage should be avoided.

3. Don’t Espresso Yourself

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and may cause excess stimulation, anxiety, and a racing mind. Limit your intake of coffee and black teas. Instead, sip on soothing caffeine-free herbal teas like chamomile or Emotional Tranquility tea, an herbal blend that helps settle the mind and soothe the emotions--very useful for people suffering from stress and insomnia.

4. Night Cap No-No

Although alcohol is a depressant and may induce drowsiness for a certain period of time, the feeling wears off. Your body may then experience withdrawal, which will awaken you. For uninterrupted sleep, stay away from the spirits!

5. Peaceful Rest with Passionflower

Passionflower (or “passiflora”) tea can be made by steeping 1–2 tablespoons of the herb in a cup of hot water. Drink right before bedtime. You may also try taking 200 mg of passiflora as a supplement at night.

6. Very Relaxed with Valerian

Studies have shown that the herb valerian may be effective in relieving anxiety. You may try steeping 1–2 tablespoons of the herb in a cup of hot water as well before bedtime.

7. Jump into Bed with Jujube

Jujube seed, a traditional sedative, facilitates good sleep and can be taken as a supplement; a typical dosage would be up to 500 mg daily.

Bonus Tip: You might also try traditional herbal formulations that contain sleep-enhancing herbs. My Anxiety/Sleepless formula contains jujube seed and other herbs to help diminish insomnia, anxiety, and mental exhaustion.

8. Stretch Yourself to Sleep

Vigorous exercise several hours before bedtime may stimulate you and prevent you from getting your zzz’s. Instead, try gentle stretching and deep breathing to help your body and mind unwind. As you inhale, fill your abdomen and watch it rise, then fill up your chest, so that your ribs expand. Hold your breath for a few seconds and then slowly exhale, allowing the air out of your ribs, then out of your abdomen. Repeat this process five times until you find yourself drifting into dream land.

9. Bathe in Bubbles

A soothing soak in the tub may do the trick! Place a few drops of essential oil like lavender or vanilla in your bath to help decrease anxiety and induce sleep. Put on some relaxing tunes and soak the anxiety and stress away.

10. Create a Peaceful Place for Sleep

Your bedroom is your sanctuary so create a quiet and cozy atmosphere. Lighting should be dim or completely pitch black, and colors in your bedroom should be in the spectrum of blues, greens, and grays. Make sure your television and computers are off so you won’t be wired!  They emit electromagnetic fields and positive ions, which can create irritability and agitation. It may also be helpful to keep your pets out of your bedroom to avoid any unnecessary noise and movement.

I hope that these suggestions will help calm you for a more restful, deep sleep.

May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!

—Dr. Mao


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Mao Shing Ni, LAc, DOM, PhD
Doctor of Chinese Medicine

About Mao Shing Ni, LAc, DOM, PhD

Dr. Mao Shing Ni, also known as Dr. Mao, is a bestselling author, doctor of Chinese Medicine and an authority on integrative nutrition.  He practices with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica and Newport Beach, California, specializing in family medicine, women’s health and pediatrics. Dr. Mao is the co-founder of Yo San University in Los Angeles where he trains healthcare professionals in acupuncture and Chinese medicine.  He is a highly sought after speaker and has been featured in numerous media including the NY Times, Dr. Oz, The Doctors and PBS radio.  Dr. Mao writes as a Health Expert on Yahoo and Huffington Post.  For more information on his best-seller, Secrets of Self Healing, log onto

These are great! I definitely need to be better at having a better and more relaxing bedtime routine.

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