6 Remedies for Sleep Problems—Do They Work?

By Rachel Johnson, Ph.D, M.P.H., R.D., March/April 2008

Can anything we eat or drink help? Here’s what the science says.

"For years I have woken at around 2-3 am. I am usually awake for hours, 2-4. I used to try to get comfy and follow my breathing, dream about a warm island holiday etc, hoping to drop off. But I find it is my mind that keeps me awake with...

Unrelenting insomnia has become a part of my life. Colleagues joke about my 3 a.m. e-mails; my husband groans at my late-night online shopping. (He knows I’ve had a bad stretch when packages pile up at the door.) There are weeks when I’d give just about anything for a good night’s sleep. I also know that I’m not alone.

Fifty to 70 million Americans suffer from insomnia. It’s more common among women (I know the hot flashes keeping me awake are caused by declining estrogen and hopefully will pass as my hormones even out). It is also common among people who are obese or have high blood pressure, anxiety or depression. And more and more studies are linking weight gain with sleep loss. A new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests that adults should sleep eight to nine hours per night to help maintain a healthy weight. One theory is that lack of sleep disrupts hormones, such as leptin and insulin, which regulate appetite and body weight. Another explanation is that sleep deprivation leaves us too tired for exercise. And since losing sleep can also make us moody, we may turn to food to cheer us up.

I could take one of the many sleep medications touted on TV, but I’d rather not; their long-term use can lead to headaches and possible dependency. Instead, I’m channeling my late-night energy into researching the science behind some common advice.

Next: 1. Drink some warm milk before bedtime »

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