Valerian: Among herbal remedies, this is the most widely used. In a Menopause study of insomniac women ages 50 to 60, a regimen of 530 milligrams taken twice a day for four weeks improved the quality of sleep for 30 percent of the subjects—and caused no adverse reactions in anyone.
Melatonin: This sleep-inducing hormone is involved in regulating the circadian system, which, among other things, determines your cycle of sleep and wakefulness. The Mayo Clinic reports that “the weight of scientific evidence does suggest that melatonin decreases sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), increases the feeling of sleepiness, and may increase the duration of sleep.” However, the Mayo report adds, “Better research is needed in this area.” Start with 0.3 milligram of melatonin an hour before bed.
It may be a struggle to improve your sleep life, but experts encourage you to keep exploring different options. “Good sleep is so important for your overall health, it’s worth the effort to find a solution,” says Collop.
[IS YOUR NOSE WAKING YOU UP?]
Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) is a breathing problem that’s milder than obstructive sleep apnea but might still be ruining your rest. Whereas apnea happens when the breath completely stops in the throat, UARS occurs when air is getting through but is partially obstruc-ted. As a result, you half-wake repeatedly throughout the night, which prevents the onset of deep, restorative REMsleep. Women are more prone to this condition than to sleep apnea.
The cause of UARS is almost always that your nasal passages are congested or that your soft palate or tongue has collapsed in a position that blocks breathing. Women with small jaws and thin necks are particularly at risk for this condition, says Steven Y. Park, MD, an otolaryngologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York and author of Sleep Interrupted: A Physician Reveals the #1 Reason Why So Many of Us Are Sick and Tired. “If you had orthodontics as a child for overcrowded teeth, watch out—that’s a sign you have a small jaw and palate, and there’s a good chance you will develop UARS,” he notes.
Changes in hormones play a role in breathing difficulties as well, Park says, because progesterone helps keep the muscles of the tongue and throat strong.
UARS and related breathing troubles can betreated with a spectrum of interventions. You may need to get a gadget from a dentist, sleep specialist or ear, nose and throat doctor. Or, if your condition is mild, you might respond to a simple over-the-counter solution. Here, some of the most common and effective treatments.
CPAP mask Air can be flowed into your nose and mouth by a mask that provides continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), ensuring that you get enough oxygen to remain asleep. Typically prescribed by sleep specialists, it’s the most reliable and successful nonsurgical treatment for apnea and UARS. Compliance is a problem, though: Many people find the mask uncomfortable.
Breathe Right: You attach these simple adhesive strips, available at drugstores, to the bridge of your nose to help open the nasal passages.
Nozovent: Designed to prevent snoring, this Swedish device, sold at amazon.com and health food stores, inserts plastic balls into the nostrils to hold them open.
Saline nasal spray: This solution irrigates and expands nasal passages. If you use it before bedtime, it may prevent nasal congestion during sleep.
Jaw positioners: Available in one-size-fits-all or custom-made by dentists, these push the lower jaw forward and keep the tongue from blocking the throat.