“Tossing and turning
Ah tossing and turning all night”

No More Tossing and Turning: Improve Sleep Patterns, by Valerie Bennis, MASSAGE MagazineRemember that song (“Tossing and Turning”)? It was written in 1965, and here we are in 2009 with sleep difficulties reaching epidemic proportions. Women, men and even children are affected by this stressful condition. A good night’s rest is the foundation of health and well-being. More and more evidence points to lack of sleep as a contributor to declining physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Along with good eating habits, happy and healthy relationships, work we enjoy and exercise, a good night’s rest is an imperative ingredient in our health regime. 

Some people fall asleep easily and then wake up at 3 a.m., while others take many hours to fall asleep. These are the two common patterns. Anything less than seven hours of sleep is not considered enough. Even those of us who are good sleepers may not be getting enough rest.

I  believe most of these difficulties are due to stress and from some of the foods we eat. So what can we do to cut down on stress levels, and what foods should we avoid to safeguard our sleep health? Here’s how to get started: 

Substances to avoid 
Coffee, soda and alcohol. These are substances that affect our energy in some way, be it stimulating or sedative.  Try drinking water and herbal teas, which contribute to your well-being and create balance in your body, mind and spirit, rather than a roller-coaster effect.

Sugar. The impact of sugar is a spike in energy and then “a fall down,” followed by a vicious cycle of “ups and “downs.” There are many healthy treats you can find in the health-food store that can satisfy your sweet tooth without causing damage. 

Nicotine. This one I think goes without saying. 
Stress. I put this under “Substance” because it has become a metaphorical substance in all of our lives. It is a common refrain-–“I am so stressed out”—that we all speak and hear, and that in and of itself is stressful. 

How do we eliminate the toxin of stress? We can empower ourselves to significantly decrease its impact on our lives by doing things that ease stress levels. Here are some of stress busters:

1. Restorative yoga (gentle yoga)
2. Exercise
3. Dancing
4. Listening to music
5. Talking to someone really positive
6. Writing in a journal
7. Taking a bath
8. Positive affirmations
9. Drinking herbal tea, such as chamomile
10. Rescue Remedy or other Bach Flower Essences
11. Aromatherapy
12. Getting a massage or self-massage
13. Helping a friend or stranger
14. Acupuncture

And the list goes on and on.   

Just start seeing how wondrous you are and how deserving you are of putting the best substances into your being, so you can maintain optimum health, which includes a great night’s sleep. Once your body is in a healthier state, your sleep patterns will improve naturally. 

Other ideas for improving sleep:

1. Keep a regular schedule in terms of when you go to sleep and when you wake up.
2. Do not eat a heavy meal before bedtime.
3. Keep sound and light out of your bedroom as much as possible.
4. Take a relaxing bath prior to getting into bed. 
5. Use natural products instead of prescription medication or over-the-counter products.
6. Do some breathing exercises and listen to relaxation tapes.
7. Do not listen to the news before bed.

In closing, you deserve not only to get a great night’s sleep each night, but to maintain optimum health. The two, I believe, go hand in hand. Start today on your health (sleep) regime, because you are the most precious being on the planet.

Valerie Bennis, No More Tossing and Turning: Improve Sleep Patterns, MASSAGE MagazineValerie Bennis is founder and president of Essence of Vali (www.essenceofvali.com). When she started her practice as an aromatherapist, Bennis did not know how prevalent the issue of sleep difficulty was until one of her private clients asked her to create a sleep blend to help her sleep. As her private practice grew, the launch of her line, Essence of Vali, and the demand for the sleep blend also grew. That was nine years ago, and this blend continues to be popular. Bennis may be contacted at (212) 242-0576.