Natural Sleep Solutions

Natural Sleep Solutions

Posted on 15. Jan, 2010 by in Nutrition

“A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow,” said Charlotte Brontë, and anyone who has lain awake staring at the alarm clock into the wee hours of the morning thinking, “If I fall asleep right now I’ll get three hours” knows this all too well. Worries about work, finances, and the ever- expanding to-do list make it too easy to go to sleep with a “ruffled” mind, and it’s not uncommon to suffer an occasional sleepless night. However, when one night of poor sleep becomes several, it takes a toll both physically and mentally. Fortunately, a variety of natural sleep aids can send you safely to dreamland and even help you unwind before your head hits the pillow.

A Common Problem

If you have trouble sleeping at night, you’re not alone. About 70 million Americans are affected by sleep problems ranging from chronic disorders to intermittent trouble sleeping. Just one night of poor sleep can affect your memory, productivity, and even basic conversation skills.

“Few appreciate the importance of restful sleep for health, longevity, and mental balance—until their sleep is disturbed,” says Jeremy Appleton, ND, CNS, author of Insomnia: How to Get Your Z’s. But the long-term effects of continued sleeplessness are far more serious. Sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of depression, high blood pressure, heart attack, decreased immunity, obesity, and diabetes. Getting enough sleep every day is just as vital to your health as eating well and exercising regularly.

Is It Insomnia?

While most of us can tolerate a night or two of poor sleep (even if we are more drowsy and irritable than usual during the day), our overall performance and personality are affected by more than three days of sleep deprivation. Habitual sleeplessness is classified as insomnia, which is the most common sleep disorder. Failure to get an entire night’s sleep on most nights over a one-month period is considered chronic insomnia. People with insomnia may have a hard time falling asleep, wake up too early and not be able to fall back asleep, struggle to stay asleep during the night, or wake up feeling unrested despite having slept through the night.

Insomnia is extremely frustrating (and exhausting), but it’s usually only temporary. In some cases, it can last for months or even years. “Like fatigue or fever, insomnia is a symptom, not a disease,” says Dr. Appleton. “Many medical conditions can cause insomnia, and these need to be thoroughly investigated, particularly when insomnia is severe. For many people, the most effective means of overcoming insomnia are also the simplest.” Dr. Appleton recommends reducing stress, getting regular exercise, and eliminating products that contain caffeine and nicotine or other stimulants.

Get Some Shut-Eye

Sleep problems can also be caused by nutrient deficiencies. Calcium and magnesium are particularly important when it comes to sleep. Stress depletes calcium and magnesium levels, and lack of these nutrients can cause you to wake up after a few hours and have difficulty falling back asleep. Calcium has a calming effect, while magnesium is needed to relax the muscles. In addition, magnesium helps relieve anxiety, tension, and nervousness, all of which can stand in your way of a good night’s sleep.

B-complex vitamins also play a role in helping us relax. They promote a restful state, help relieve stress, and enhance REM sleep. Vitamin C is important for reducing stress. It also works together with beta-carotene, selenium, vitamin E, and zinc to combat damage from free radicals caused by stress. Copper and iron deficiencies may also contribute to insomnia in women. Finally, 5-Hydroxy L-tryptophan (5-HTP) and the amino acid tryptophan may also be helpful for insomnia. Both support healthy serotonin production, which is essential for sleep.

Getting enough rest is right up there with a healthy diet and exercise as the cornerstone of good health, and you can’t afford to cross it off your to-do list. The quality of your sleep determines your quality of life while you’re awake. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your practitioner about which natural solution is right for you.

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