It’s 4am and you’re wide awake. You could be the one in three who have trouble sleeping. So what are the culprits and remedies for insomnia and how much sleep do you really need to beat the bedtime blues?
The truth: Everyone should sleep from seven to nine hours per night regardless of age, according to Edward L. Schneider, MD, dean of the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Sleeping less than seven hours weakens immunity and increases the risk for depression, falls and accidents.
NASA research shows the effects on driving after being awake for 20 hours is comparable to a blood alcohol level of 0.05.
Lack of sleep can also lead to raised blood pressure, headaches, increased appetite and weight gain due to increased production of cortisol. This hormone has the opposite effect to what you desire, particularly if you are overweight, because it stores fat and burns muscle.
A University of Pennsylvania study showed that getting two fewer hours sleep a night for one-week lead to reduced performance in vigilance tests and an increase in inflammatory markers in the blood stream.
So what can you do to get more sleep?
First – The bedroom
Make sure you have a comfortable bed and pillow. Your bedroom should be dark and quiet. It should also be well ventilated.
It should be peaceful. Jasmine, sandalwood or lavender scents can help.
A warm bath or shower before bed or playing tranquil music can also help. The aim is to slow your mind down. Watching TV in bed may not help, if you wish to relax your mind.
Caffeine in the evening. Sleeping tablets can be addictive if used continuously and should be avoided other than for very short time use. Eating heavy meals or drinking alcohol within two hours prior to bedtime can also disrupt sleep.
Bedtime snacks, particularly grains and sugars will raise your blood sugar and inhibit sleep according to Dr Joseph Mercola, author of The Total Health Program.
Regular exercise can reduce stress. A walk before bedtime can not only calm you, but the physical activity can aid digestion.
Your dog would also appreciate it!
Herbs and other Supplements
Mild herbal supplements like camomile tea, passion flower or valerian may help some people.
The extract from the root of this plant is a natural sedative and tranquiliser. It can induce relaxation and is very good at quieting the busy mind. It is also a rich source of calcium, potassium and magnesium, all calming and balancing minerals for the nervous system. This herb also appears to increase brain levels of serotonin, a relaxing neurotransmitter.
This mineral is particularly important for your general well-being. When combined with calcium, it is an important supplement for healthy bones and protection against osteoporosis. It is also important for sleep inducement, muscle relaxation and nervous system calming.
St John’s Wort
This herb is an effective option in helping to relieve mild anxiety and nervous tension. It can aid in the maintenance or improvement of general wellbeing.
A word of caution: St John’s Wort may react with some medications, including warfarin. It is important that you consult with your doctor before using this or any other supplements.
Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone produced at night by the brain.
Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have shown it to be safe, non-addictive and virtually free of side effects. It is helpful for those who have light or restless sleep or take some time to fall asleep.
With correct use, melatonin may help you to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer. It is an effective cure for jet-lag because of its ability to regulate our 24-hour sleep/wake cycle.
Many adults, especially those aged 65 and older have insufficient levels of melatonin to achieve restful sleep, according to Mark A. Stengler MD, a naturopathic physician in private practice in La Jolla, California.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Try 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with 2 teaspoons of honey in a glass of warm water, before retiring.
Sleep researchers have widely diverging opinions here. Some state that it can disturb night time sleep, while others say that it can compensate for a night time sleep deficit, especially if below 7 hours. Dr Schneider believes that most people should not nap for more than 20 minutes.
Researchers in the sleep research laboratory at Lougborough University, England have found that people are designed for two sleeps a day, the main one at night and a nap in the afternoon.
I have found that an occasional 15 to 20-minute cat nap in the afternoon, particularly if I am feeling tired, can help me sleep better at night.
The bottom line is: What works best for you?
Never start a new treatment before consulting your doctor, especially if you currently are taking medication. The information published in this article is not intended as a substitute for personal medical advice from your physician or other qualified health-care practitioner.
Beat Insomia – YouTube
14 very simple ways to beat insomnia – check out the video! We even give you tips on how to beat insomnia.