By Lambeth Hochwald
Sleep can be an elusive thing. Experience a couple nights of tossing and turning in bed, and it's all too tempting to reach for a sleep aid. But before you do, consider that several recent studies conducted at major institutions all over the country show that, despite their ordinary nature, simple behavioral strategies -- like going to bed at the same time every night and avoiding afternoon naps -- really do work. What's more, over-the-counter sleep medications can leave you feeling sluggish the next day, and "there's very little evidence that these sleep aids actually result in significant sleep," says Mark Mahowald, M.D., director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis.
What about prescription sleep drugs? For acute, short-term insomnia -- such as that brought on by a stressful event, like a death in the family -- experts say these medications can help. "In fact, by treating acute short-term insomnia [with prescription sleep aids] when it first occurs, we can actually prevent the development of long-term insomnia," says Dr. Mahowald. But for the occasional sleepless night, consider the following 10 tips. You may find they help you get to sleep just as well as popping a pill!
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Lambeth Hochwald contributes to such publications as Eating Well, Health, Marie Claire, Parenting and Redbook and is an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.
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