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The Golden Rules of Sleep

Optimal Sleep for Optimal Living. According to Dr. James B. Mass if you want to be alert, dynamic, full of energy, in a good mood, productive, creative, healthy, have good concentration, a good memory, and good decision making skills then you need to get optimal sleep. Without the proper amount of sleep the body can’t function properly, while we sleep our bodies do an amazing amount of work. We need to make sure that we are getting enough sleep to ensure that our bodies will be at their best. Dr. James B. Mass gives us The Golden Rules of Sleep, four rules that seem simple and easy. But, with roughly 62% of Americans reporting that they experience sleep problems more than one night per week and another 70 million people suffering from insomnia, it’s harder to follow The Golden Rules than we may think.

  1. Get an Adequate Amount of Sleep Every Night.
    The amount of sleep needed each night differs from person to person, if you get tired or sleepy anytime throughout the day then you’re probably not getting enough sleep at night. At minimum the majority of people need to obtain at least 60 – 90 minutes more sleep a night than what they are getting now. A study by Dr. Roth at Henry Ford Hospital found that sleeping one hour longer boosted a person’s alertness by 35%, and that’s just one of many benefits of sleep!
  2. Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule.
    A regular sleep schedule involves going to bed and waking up without an alarm clock every morning, including the weekends. Keeping a regular schedule will make you feel more alert than sleeping the same amount of time but at differing hours across the week and weekend. Benjamin Franklin said “ Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” But in reality it’s better to say “Consistently to rise…” it doesn’t matter when you fall asleep or wake, its duration and regularity that counts.
  3. Get Continuous Sleep.
    For your sleep to be most rejuvenating you should get your required amount of sleep in one continuous block, if sleep is disrupted it will cause you to be drowsy during the day. For example, six hours of continuous sleep is better and more restorative than eight hours of fragmented sleep. Be aware that if you’re not getting good sleep at night and you start dozing off during the day to make up for the loss sleep that it may cause you not to sleep good again that night, causing a vicious cycle that can be hard to break.
  4. Make Up for Lost Sleep
    We are living in a 24 hour society and along with work deadlines, vacations, holidays, and social events it’s a given that our sleep bank accounts will be in debt from time to time. Occasional late nights won’t do much damage, but reducing sleep by one hour every night for seven nights has the same effect as staying awake for 24 consecutive hours once a week. That one hour a night doesn’t seem like much until it’s accumulated over the span of the week. It’s important for us to repay our sleep debt in a timely fashion and make up for our lost sleep as soon as possible. It’s also important to remember that you can’t make up for all your lost sleep at once, it’s the same as eating whatever you want throughout the week and exercising one day that weekend, it just doesn’t work and the same goes for sleep.

Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

“Sleeping Disorder Statistics.” Statistic Brain. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2013. <http://www.statisticbrain.com/sleeping-disorder-statistics/&gt;.

Feng Shui for the Bedroom

Feng shui is becoming more popular as people’s lives are becoming more stressful, it’s easy to find a variety of books, magazines, classes, and videos on the subject.  Feng shui simply translates to wind and water and is derived from the ancient Chinese art of placement. Feng shui is being used all around us and in many different ways, some popular feng shui arrangements are used for wealth, prosperity, fame, social life, family, relationships, children, health, good fortune, creativity, wisdom, career, spiritual life, and travel just to name a few. But, can feng shui really have that big of an effect on your life, and what about your sleep? Here are a few tips to get you started on how you can use feng shui in your bedroom to create a peaceful retreat, in hopes of losing all negativity to get your most restful nights of sleep.

  • Place your bed flush against a wall as far away from the door as possible while still having a direct view of the doorway; this will add a feeling of safety and security.
  • Your bed should also be centered on the wall with two rounded night stands on each side to create symmetry. (tables with hard edges can create “poison arrows” or harmful energy)
  • Mattresses – choose wisely and invest in one that will give you the best sleep and relaxation, the better you sleep at night the better your health is during the day.
  • Use different levels of lighting in your bedroom, dimmer switches are highly recommended as are lamps on either side of the bed to keep the symmetry; but candles are the best feng shui bedroom lighting choice.
  • Indulge your senses – Invest in luxurious bedding, pillows (pair these up to keep the room symmetrical), and plush rugs.
  • Paint your walls a soothing color, feng shui experts recommend staying within the so-called “skin colors” which vary from pale whites to rich browns. Bring in color by adding touches of “passion colors”.
  • Artwork is an important part of a bedroom, but use caution because art and images carry powerful feng shui energy. Your choices should be soothing and inspiring, not scary or depressing.
  • Open windows as often as possible to let in fresh air and if that isn’t an option then air purifiers are a great option to leave the air clean and full of oxygen.
  • Bring in nature, just not too close to the bed – flowers, plants, a sand/rock garden, or a water feature.
  • Try saying no to having TV’s, computers, exercise equipment, and office space in your bedroom. If this just isn’t an option try using a room divider or a folding screen to keep these out of view when falling asleep.
  • Clutter free is key when it comes to feng shui, the more organized the room the more peaceful it becomes and is easier to sleep at night. Experts also suggest cleaning out from under the bed so the energy flow isn’t interrupted or blocked off.

If you’re feeling drained and not getting the best sleep at night as you could be, then try to incorporated as many of these tips as possible. These little changes can make a huge difference in your sleep and quality of life.

Barrett, Jayme. Feng Shui Your Life. New York: Sterling Pub., 2003. Print.

“Feng Shui Tips to Turn Your Bedroom Into a Retreat.” Health.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2013. < http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20307149,00.html >.

Hennen, Leah. “Feng Shui Your Bedroom.” Home & Garden Television. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. < http://www.hgtv.com/decorating/feng-shui-your-bedroom/index.html >.

Tchi, Rodika. “How To Feng Shui Your Bedroom.” About.com Feng Shui. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2013. < http://fengshui.about.com/od/love/qt/perfectbedroom.htm >.

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes overwhelming sleepiness and frequent attacks of sleep throughout the day. Narcolepsy is caused when the brain doesn’t have the ability to regulate a normal sleep-wake cycle; which can lead narcoleptics to fall into REM sleep instead of falling into a light to deep sleep cycle. Narcolepsy seems to affect both genders equally and begins showing signs in adolescence or young adulthood, and is often left undiagnosed.

Narcolepsy is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, hypnagogic hallucinations, sleep paralysis, cataplexy, interrupted nocturnal sleep, leg jerks, nightmares and restlessness. Along with excessive sleepiness and sudden onset of sleep the next primary symptom is cataplexy; a momentary loss of muscle tonus typically causing the person to fall to the ground, this usually results from a strong emotion such as surprise, laughter, anger, or elation. Hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis are also common and can be extremely scary symptoms of narcolepsy, causing feelings of suffocation, being on fire, drowning, or being attacked.

What causes narcolepsy? While there isn’t one definite answer, doctors have found that people suffering from narcolepsy have low levels of Hypocretin and even lower levels were found in people who also suffered from cataplexy. Hypocretin is a chemical that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles and REM sleep, what causes the loss of Hypocretin producing cells in the brain is still unknown. There are studies being conducted on Hypocretin replacement, Hypocretin gene therapy, and stem cell transplant in hopes of finding a more effective treatment or cure.

How to cope with narcolepsy: start by adding several short naps to your daily routine, establish a routine sleep schedule, eat and exercise on a regular schedule, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. If the above behavior treatments don’t work on the narcolepsy then there are different treatment options available. Medications for narcolepsy include stimulants, drugs that stimulate the nervous system to help them stay awake during the day. If stimulants aren’t effective then amphetamines may be prescribed, but can produce side effects such as nervousness, heart palpitations, and can be addictive. Tricyclic antidepressants may be used with people who also suffer with cataplexy; and in more extreme cases Sodium Oxybate can be prescribed, but can include some serious side effects.

Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

“Narcolepsy and Sleep.” Narcolepsy Symptoms, Treatment & Remedies. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. <http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/narcolepsy-and-sleep&gt;.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Narcolepsy.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/narcolepsy/DS00345/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs&gt;.

 

Sleep Talking

Sleep talking, often times accompanying sleepwalking and other sleep disorders, is known as somniloquy. Most sleep talkers are completely unaware that they are speaking in their sleep until informed by a bed partner or housemate.

Sleep talking can be classified as simple mumbling, strange sounds or even long drawn out speeches or conversations. The sleep talker also varies in volume from whispers to shouting. Many sleep talkers’ bed mate (or house mates depending on volume) are disturbed by the noise and suffer from insomnia as consequence.

The condition is more common in males and children, but can affect anyone. 1 Also, episodes can occur in any stage of sleep; however, the lighter the sleep, the more intelligible the content. 1 In stages one and two, individuals may appear to be continuing a conversation from moments before or talk about the day’s events. In stages three and four, the speech may be limited to gibberish and mumbling, but can consist of comprehensible conversation.

Half of children between ages 3 and 10 carry out conversations during their sleep as do about 5 percent of adults. 2 Sudden commencement of sleep talking for the first time may be associated with mental disorders. 1

Normal episodes of sleep talking occur for no longer than 30 seconds; however, the content of the talking can be alarming, erotic and vulgar. 2 Content of sleep talking should be taken lightly as it is associated with no known psychological significance. 3

While sleep talking is thought to be genetic, various circumstances and behaviors can trigger episodes, such as:

  • Drinking alcohol before bed
  • Stress
  • Mental disorders
  • Certain medications

Other symptoms of sleep talking may include:

  • Sleep Terrors
  • Sleepwalking
  • Nocturnal Seizures
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea

While the disorder may be a serious problem for some, it typically does not require treatment. If the disorder is thought to be a side effect of a corresponding sleep disorder, treatment may be necessary. See your doctor if sleep talking is a problem and regularly disrupts sleep.

Bibliography

1. National Sleep Foundation—Sleep Talking; http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/sleep-talking

2. WebMD—Talking in Your Sleep; http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/talking-in-your-sleep

3. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993.

Teeth Grinding and Sleep

Bruxism or teeth grinding affects 85 to 90 percent of people during their sleep. 1 Only about 5 percent of those are chronic teeth grinders. Most infants and children grind their teeth when they first come in during teething and when adult teeth come in. 2 Most people are unaware they are engaging in teeth grinding until they are informed by their sleep partner.

Signs of teeth grinding include a dull consistent headache the following morning and jaw or gum soreness. Teeth grinding typically does not disturb the grinder’s sleep, but can be very disruptive to the sleep partner.

Teeth grinding is most likely stress related and, therefore, can be remedied by decreasing stress. This can be done through medication, increasing exercise and getting more sleep. In some cases, teeth grinding is brought on as a side effect from other medication. In such instances, medication should be changed according to your doctor’s orders.

Teeth grinding has the potential to cause serious dental problems such as fracturing, loosening or loss of teeth. Extreme cases of chronic teeth grinding can result in damage to the jaw affecting hearing or even changing the shape of the face. Grinding can wear the teeth down resulting in the need for expensive dental procedures needed to fix the problem. 3

Treatment

Treatment for teeth grinding is limited but effective. Dentists can fit the mouth for a soft plastic mouth guard to prevent damaging the teeth. Mouth guards may become dislodged over time or increase the severity of teeth grinding in some individuals. Splints are similar to mouth guards, but much thinner, harder and more expensive. The reason for teeth grinding may also be crooked teeth, in which case braces and other teeth alignment treatments may correct the problem. 2

Other factors can help prevent teeth grinding such as:

  • Reduce caffeinated beverage and alcohol intake as they tend to increase the severity of teeth grinding. 3
  • Avoid chewing gum as it gets the jaw used to clenching as a natural motion. 3
  • Relax the jaw before bed by holding a warm washcloth to your check in front of the earlobe. 3
  • Train yourself to not clench your teeth. If you find yourself grinding or clenching during the day, place the tip of the tongue in between your teeth in order to train the jaw to relax. 3

Bibliography

1. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

2. Mayo Clinic—Bruxism/Teeth Grinding: Treatments and drugs; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bruxism/ds00337/dsection=treatments-and-drugs

3. WebMD—Teeth Grinding (Bruxism); http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/teeth-grinding-bruxism

Sleep and Depression: An Endless Cycle

A common symptom of many sleep disorders is depression. Those with depression report having difficulty sleeping. This correlation represents that both sleep and depression affect and are affected by each other. It is not certain whether one disorder is more dominant; however, sleep deprivation affects mood and a negative mood affects sleep, making an endless cycle of mood and sleep disorders.

Because sleep disorders are so closely related to depression, misdiagnosis is very common. Misdiagnosis makes treatment difficult and costly as trial and error with expensive medications can add up with little relief from symptoms. This correlation also makes it so that some treatments for depression work for certain sleep disorders such as prescription medication that treat depression and cause drowsiness.

Many of the same neurochemical and physiological processes involved in regulating sleep are also used in regulating mood. 1 Women and older individuals are more likely to experience depression. 2 These groups are also amongst those that report the most difficulty sleeping. Those with depression also commonly report fragmented sleep and early morning awakening before fully rested. 1

Common sleep disorders that list depression as a main symptom include:

  • Narcolepsy
  • Insomnia (chronic and irregular): Those with insomnia are ten times as likely to become depressed. 2
  • Restless legs syndrome: Forty percent of those diagnosed with RLS experience symptoms of depression if a sleep disorder were not already considered. 2
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: Those with depression are five times more likely to develop OSA based on a European study; however, with regular use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, both OSA and depression symptoms were suppressed. 2

It is not certain if depression causes sleep disorders or sleep disorders cause depression, but it is clear that the mind is truly affected by sleep deprivation. Because some sleep disorders influence the ability to do certain tasks and can affect activities while awake, it is reasonable to believe that depression could stem from this added difficulty in life. Additionally, it had been shown that depression and related trouble sleeping could be genetically related just as restless legs syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea are thought to be genetic. 1

Studies have also shown that those experiencing symptoms of depression tend to have decreased amount of slow wave sleep (SWS) and increased brain activity during rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). 1 Therefore, those with depression experience more dreams.

Though the depth of the connection between sleep and depression is not yet certain, one thing is evident: Do not undervalue sleep. It is vital to well-being and happiness and can make the difference in living a fulfilled life. Taking steps to improve sleep hygiene and sleep environment can help to ease the symptoms of both depression and sleep disorders and stop the endless cycle of sleep and mood disruption.

Bibliography:

1. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993.

2. National Sleep Foundation—Depression and Sleep; http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/depression-and-sleep

Acid Reflux (GERD) and Sleep Difficulty

If you wake up coughing and experience a burning in the chest, you a likely suffering from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or, more commonly, acid reflux. Acid reflux affects six to seven percent of the world population and is commonly dismissed as heartburn.

Symptoms

Main symptoms of GERD are heartburn, acidic regurgitation, inflamed gums, chronic bad breath and belching. Because of acid buildup in the body, it is not uncommon for tooth enamel to deteriorate.

Some individuals may not experience any symptoms at all. Many of the symptoms of GERD may be confused with heart problems, therefore misdiagnosis is common.

Those with acid reflux symptoms should also be tested for sleep apnea as the disorders seem to occur simultaneously, especially in overweight individuals. Traveling may also increase GERD symptoms. Fifty percent of travelers say that in addition to jet lag they suffer from gastrointestinal issues. 2 This is possibly due to eating during times you would normally be sleeping.

Overcoming GERD

  • Elevate the upper body during sleep. This can be done with special wedge pillows, adding blocks under the mattress or purchasing an adjustable bed.
  • Do not lie down immediately after eating a large meal.
  • Avoid eating within three hours of bedtime. This is recommended for all individuals who experience trouble sleeping.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that increase acid in the stomach such as chocolate, onions, spicy food, citrus fruits, soft drinks, alcohol, caffeine, vinegar, ketchup, mustard and fatty foods.
  • Some medications are calcium-channel blockers such as aspirin and other pain killers, which can worsen acid reflux symptoms.3 Check with your doctor before stopping any medications.
  • Do not wear night clothes that fit tightly around the chest, stomach or waist as they can irritate GERD symptoms.
  • Laying on the left side of the body has been proven to help with digestion. 3
  • Smoking may irritate symptoms and cause other sleep disruptions.
  • Chewing gum in the evening can increase saliva production. Saliva counteracts stomach acid.
  • If overweight, losing weight may be the best way to reduce symptoms.
  • Treatments include over-the-counter medications, prescription medications and antacids that prevent acid buildup and help to heal the esophagus. Surgery typically follows if medications do not prove effective.

Acid reflux is among the main causes of disturbed sleep in middle-aged individuals. 1 While inconvenient, GERD is not an unmanageable disorder. Simple lifestyle changes can reduce painful symptoms as well as more intensive medication use or surgery.

Bibliography:

1. National Sleep Foundation—GERD and Sleep; http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/gerd-and-sleep

2. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

3. WebMD—Tips for Sleep without Heartburn; http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/tips-for-sleep-without-heartburn

Memory Retention and Sleep

Among the many other functions of sleep, memory formation and retention is perhaps the most important. The brain processes memories in two ways: through helping learn and focus and through helping with memory retention and recall. 1

The brain must go through a process that allows memories to be created and restored. First, acquisition or the actual learning or performing a new task must occur. Next, consolidation or making the memory stable in the brain occurs. Finally, recall or the ability to access a memory is the completion of the memory. Researchers feel that consolidation must happen while asleep. 1

Any college student will report at least one instance of pulling an all-nighter to study for an exam or finish a project, but how effective is this method? College students are among the most sleep deprived in the nation, presumably because newly established freedom, class and work load and social pressures.  Sleep deprivation on its own will reduce mental functioning, and, therefore, pulling an all-nighter is counterproductive. Many studies have been done all concluding that, while immediate recall of information is possible, retention is ultimately nonexistent. Staying up all night and “cramming for an exam will not be nearly as effective for students as the same amount of effort followed by a good night’s sleep.

The same intense neuron firing during REM sleep that is thought to produce dreams is also responsible for aiding in memory retention. This explains why we may dream of things that happen the previous day.2 REM sleep is vital to the memory making process as shown by PET (positron emission tomography) scans of the brain. There is a great deal more brain activity during REM sleep after a period of intensive learning such as college students studying for finals (those who decide to sleep, that is).

Sleep apnea is also thought to have a negative effect on memory retention because of the frequent disturbances in the sleep that occur during apnea episodes. 1 The obstruction of oxygen actually destroys tissue associated with retaining memories in the structures called mammillary bodies. 3 Patients with Alzheimer’s disease also show shrunken mammillary bodies. During an episode, the blood vessels in the brain constrict killing cells and tissue.

In addition to the list of health benefits gained from sleeping, memory retention is also aided by adequate sleep. Through sleeping and getting help with sleep breathing disorders such as sleep apnea, you can insure that you are remembering and retaining information.

Bibliography:

1. WebMD—Sleep Deprivation Effects on Memory; http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-deprivation-effects-on-memory

2. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

3. University of California at Los Angeles Newsroom—Study links sleep apnea to memory loss; http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/ucla-study-links-sleep-apnea-to-51534.aspx

Are Sleeping Pills Safe?

Sleeping pills have possible negative effects on your body and your sleep. Those with insomnia or experiencing jet lag may find the use of sleeping pills an effective way to combat symptoms. Similar to alcohol, sleeping pills seem to aid in falling asleep and having a deep sleep when they actually produce a disrupted, fragmented sleep that can cause one to feel drowsy during the day. 1 It is important to figure out which medication, if any, would work best for your particular sleep situation.

Common Side Effects:

All medications have side effects, and sleeping pills’ side effects tend to happen more outside of sleep. Some side effects include:

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Loss of balance
  • Appetite changes
  • Tremors
  • Constipation/Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Stomachache
  • Unusual dreams
  • Fatigue

Some side effects will be worse for certain individuals, especially those with existing disorders.

Dependence:

Sleeping pills have been proven to work well when used over a short period of time of no longer than six months; however, after an extended period of time, your body will begin to develop a dependence on the medication. 1 This dependence is found in addictive medications such as Benzodiazepines (the type of pill most often prescribed for insomnia). Benzodiazepines are typically anti-depressants and cause drowsiness.  2

Medication to help with sleep should never be taken when pregnant. This is because the same addictive qualities that cause adults to become dependent on medication can also happen to a child. No sleeping medication has been proven to be safe for unborn children.

Even after just a few nights using a sleeping pill the body begins to depend on the medication making it harder to attempt to sleep without it. Minor withdrawal symptoms such as bad dreams and worse insomnia than before use of the medication may occur just a few days after beginning use. 1

While some medications are being developed that claim to be non-habit forming, all medications used consistently will strengthen your tolerance to them requiring more of the medication for the same effects. 2 Any medication is excess is harmful to the body.

Complications:

If suffering from a respiratory disorder such as asthma or sleep apnea, sleeping pills and accelerate the problem and make breathing more difficult. This is because some sleeping pills are respiratory depressants. Additionally, complications with sleep apnea and depressants such as sleeping pills and alcohol have been reported to cause the individual to be too medicated to realize they have stopped breathing so the body’s natural reaction that corrects the problem is subdued. Additionally, taking a sleeping pill regularly before determining the cause of the insomnia can make it difficult to every identify the true problem.

Caution:

It is advised to always talk to your doctor before using any sort of sleeping pills. Some sleeping pills can have extremely negative side effects, and, because all individuals respond differently to different medications, it is extremely important to insure sleeping pills are the right choice for you. It is best to take less extreme measures when it comes to sleep such as making the bedroom more conducive to sleep or considering natural sleep remedies such as melatonin, herbal teas or aromatherapy. Sleeping pills should always be the last option. When using sleeping pills, it is necessary to read all directions and side effects so as to not unintentionally misuse the medication.

Bibliography

1. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

2. WebMD—Understanding the Side Effects of Sleeping Pills; http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/understanding-the-side-effects-of-sleeping-pills

Natural Sleep Remedies

Natural Sleep Remedies

Natural remedies to help induce sleep have been used for thousands of years all over the world. Natural sleep remedies tend to be used in teas, supplements,  as well as forms of aromatherapy, and have been proven to help relax the mind and body.

Melatonin

Melatonin is the best know natural sleep remedy. Store bought supplements work by mimicking the natural melatonin that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain that helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin lowers core temperature and causes individuals to feel drowsy. 1 Melatonin is popular amongst older individuals because, as we age, we produce less melatonin naturally. Taking a higher dosage of melatonin will not necessarily help you to sleep better because the smallest dosage sold is at least three times higher than that which exists naturally in the human body. 1

Valerian

In the form of a root, valerian is widely used in both Europe and the United States. 2 Valerian also helps with anxiety and most individuals who use it have reported falling asleep quicker and feeling more refreshed upon awakening. Some users report feeling stimulated when using valerian while others experience headache. There is evidence that using valerian consistently over a short period of time may be more effective than using sporadically.

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps to increase serotonin, which helps to regulate relaxation and sleep. Tryptophan is not sold as a supplement but can be easily incorporated into the diet. Certain foods contain tryptophan naturally and are said to be good bedtime snacks. Dairy foods like cheese and milk are often teamed with carbohydrates like crackers or grain cereal to help induce sleep.

Hops

Hops is the dried flower used in brewing beer that has been shown to aid in anxiety, excitability, insomnia and various other disorders. Hops can be used as tea alone or teamed with valerian to help induce sleep. Avoid using hops as a sleep remedy when pregnant or suffering from depression as they tend to make symptoms worse.

Catnip

The flower of the plant catnip is often used as a tea to help with anxiety and insomnia. The same remedy that keeps your cat preoccupied for hours can help you get to sleep sooner. Catnip is said to work similarly to valerian and is often teamed with other natural sleep aids. Drinking catnip tea in excess can cause sickness and headache and should be avoided. 3

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils extracted from roots, bark, leaves and seeds of plants. These oils are used through massaging into the skin, inhaling steam, or in bath water. 3 Lavender and chamomile are popular plants used in both aromatherapy, but can also be used in teas.

Caution: Many natural sleep aids come in teas that will sometimes contain caffeine. Teas can also be extremely sugary, so it is recommended to use honey as a sweetener because it contains tryptophan. Read the label on any tea you are considering buying as a sleep aid before you purchase as to not counteract any sleep aids with stimulants.

Natural sleep aids, while helpful, can prove harmful when used long term. Individuals should only turn to natural sleep aids once all other sleep methods such as making the room conducive to sleep and changing bedding, mattress and pillows have been attempted.

Bibliography:

1. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

2. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993. 248

3. WebMD—Natural Sleep Aids and Remedies; http://women.webmd.com/pharmacist-11/natural-sleep-remedies

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