A number of readers have asked if there are medication-free ways to improve their sleep. Small wonder they're concerned: better sleep can help improve your day to day quality of life, reduce your cortisol and stress levels, and keep you energetic and optimistic.
This month's Consumer Reports magazine surveyed more than 26,000 readers about their sleep habits, and discovered many have successfully tried non-drug ways of catching more zzzz's, like meditation, yoga, progressive relaxation exercises, and deep-breathing. Since they don't cause any side effects, why not give them a try?
One of the best and most simple sleep aids I've discovered is a small, inexpensive and portable noise machine that generates nature sounds like ocean waves or a waterfall. Sleep expert psychiatrist David Neubauer, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center, tells me he uses a fan at night, because the white noise helps block out background sounds that are distracting. I've even given them as baby gifts to help newborns (and new parents) catch a bit of elusive shut-eye.
Apparently many people find them effective: another Consumer Reports survey from 2008 suggested sound machines were almost as effective as medication for getting problem sleepers down for the night.