Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
I am in my early twenties, and I have such a problem sleeping at night that it leaves me in a state of anxiety and fear. How can I get to sleep?
A: For a young adult to have such difficulty with falling asleep and fear is out of ordinary. Do you have reasons to fear? Have you had a fearful incident? I would suggest you consult a therapist to make sure your emotional state is healthy.
In the meantime try this:
1. Consume a diet rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B, and vitamin E.
2. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables such as apricots, asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, brown rice instead of white rice, figs, and yogurt.
3. Avoid coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate. Alcohol and tobaccos are also discouraged.
It is important to prepare yourself for the resting period at night. Follow this simple regime:
• Do not eat at least two hours prior to going to bed; in fact, your last meal should be no later than 7 PM, and you should go to bed no later than 10PM.
• Take a 15-minute relaxing (not vigorous) walk in the fresh air about one hour prior to going to bed. Try to clear your daily calendar and not leave too many things unfinished, as these things tend to clutter the mind.
• Ten to fifteen minutes before going to bed find a quiet, uncluttered, and comfortable room and sit in a comfortable chair with a high back. Lean against the back and stretch your legs out. Cross your ankles so that your left (if male) or right (if female) ankle overlaps your other ankle. Place your hands on your chest or upper abdomen with your left (if male) or right (if female) hand overlaps your other hand, palms facing the chest or upper abdomen, and drape your arms on your body. This should feel like you are comfortably lounging on the chair. Close your eyes and for ten to fifteen minutes and practice deep, slow, and comfortable breathing into your lower abdomen. Do not take shallow breathes into your chest. With every inhalation your lower abdomen should rise without force. This deep breathing and placement of the hands and feet will create a comfortable zone for you to prepare your body and mind for sleep.
Do not return to daily activities afterwards, you should be ready to go to bed immediately after this exercise.
Additionally, you might like to try the Traditions of Tao herbal formulas “Calm-fort/Sleeping”, “Anxiety/Sleepless” and “Sleep”. Of course, discuss with your physician before beginning any new health regime.