Cheap sleep remedies

Sleep Cheap!

by Sherry Ballou Hanson


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Improve Your Sleep for Less

Nighty Night

Getting Enough Sleep

Grandmother may have been right when she said a glass of milk at bedtime helped her sleep better. Whether the amino acid tryptophan in the milk did the trick, or she just liked the act of preparing and indulging, no one really knows. But it worked, and cost nothing more than the glass of milk.

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that two out of three Americans average no more than seven hours of sleep a night, with almost one in six getting no more than six hours. Medicinal remedies can cost outrageous sums and leave you feeling drugged. You may be surprised at some of the causes sleep experts have found for poor sleep, and relieved to know that there are simple and inexpensive steps you can take.

Sleep Apnea is the cessation of breathing during sleep and it occurs frequently among the obese, especially men, but is not always related to weight. Sleep Apnea causes brief, noisy arousals to restart breathing, which can disturb sleep night after night. Weight loss helps, and skipping alcohol late in the evening, which will save some serious money. Try and stay off your back when going to sleep. Ask your pharmacist or doctor about simple, inexpensive devices you can try.

Chronic pain can really disturb sleep and you need to find a way to manage it. Does a warm bath before bed help? Would stretching exercises or yoga be effective? These methods cost nothing, so start there. If you have to take medication for your condition, ask your doctor about generic products or a cheaper alternative.

Depression or stress can cause sleeplessness and pills are not always the solution. Antidepressants such as Prozac can cause sleeplessness. If your doctor agrees that you can consider alternatives to medication, try soft music at bedtime, reading in bed, meditation or conversation with a loved one.

Over medication with thyroid drugs can cause havoc with sleep so make sure your doctor checks your thyroid level on a regular basis if you are on medication. Once you get your level regulated, you should not have trouble sleeping because of your medication.

Irregular sleep schedule can cause havoc and the most dramatic example is jet lag. Travel from Boston to Portland, Oregon and you are tired at dinner time. You wake at 3:00 a.m. because it would be time to get up back home. Stay up until Portland bedtime and do something physical outdoors in daylight when you arrive. Rest in bed even if you wake early. Each morning you'll sleep a bit longer. Don't spend money on pills.

Smoking is costing you a pile of money, which is enough to keep anyone awake! If you haven't quit, try tapering off so you are not smoking at night. Nicotine is a stimulant. You'll sleep better and save money right away.

Caffeine in coffee or caffeinated soft drinks in the evening might be keeping you awake. You could save a tidy sum by drinking nothing after dinner except water. Or switch to decaf, a soft drink with no caffeine, juice or milk if you must have something, but limit fluid intake before bedtime or you'll be up to go to the bathroom.

Eating late will keep you awake. Several hours should elapse between dinner and bed time. If late night snacking is wreaking havoc with your sleep, consider the money you will save if you don't buy those tempting snack foods in the first place. You'll sleep better, save some serious change, and even lose some weight!

A nightcap at bedtime may actually cause you to wake up later in the night because alcohol interferes with substances in the brain that allow continuous sleep. Skip that nightly bedtime drink and right away you have saved the cost of at least seven drinks.

Pain medications may contain caffeine, and if taken before bedtime, they can keep you awake. Two tablets of Extra Strength Excedrin contain 130 milligrams of caffeine, so that medication you are paying money for may actually be keeping you awake. If you need it, take it earlier and consider a generic brand; it's cheaper. Try alternatives such as a hot bath, yoga or stretching.

Low-normal iron level, though technically within normal range, can cause restless leg syndrome, which will keep you from sleeping. Get your iron checked. If it's on the low end, add some more red meat to your diet, or spinach, chard or kale. You should not have to resort to paying for supplements if you eat right.

Vitamin E deficiency can also cause restless leg syndrome, and this deficiency, unfortunately, is common in the USA. Much of the natural nutrients like Vitamin E that occur in bread products are stripped when the flour is refined, making cereals and white breads deficient. Don't go and pay money for a supplement. Switch to whole grain breads and cereals and include some nuts and seeds in your daily diet and you can get enough.


Sherry Hanson lives and works on the coast of Maine and writes for many consumer publications.

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