Insomnia is estimated to affect more than half of the U.S. adult population. Insomnia can take many different forms: difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early, or waking up feeling unrefreshed. In a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 58% of adults reported having insomnia at least a few nights a week.
Aside from the ever popular sleep aids and medications such as Ambien, what can one do if experiencing sleep difficulties? Good "Sleep Hygiene" is very important. Here are a few ways to naturally promote a good nights sleep:
Have a routine:Make your bedtime the same time every night. Even on weekends. Wake up the same time every morning.
The bedroom is a place for sleep:Make sure your bedroom is an ideal place for sleep: Keep it dark and avoid having bright lights from the alarm clock or television. Block out any noise. Also, try not to use the bed for activities other than sleep...train your brain to recognize the bed as a resting place.
Enjoy a snack prior to bedtime:About an hour or so before your scheduled bedtime have a small snack that contains some carbohydrate and protein. The carbohydrate increases your serotonin and melatonin production, which helps promote sleep. The protein is also very important in that it regulates your blood sugar levels throughout the night. Most people don't realize that when you blood sugar drops at night you will have trouble sleeping. Many times having protein before bed can be an easy fix to insomnia. Sometimes I even have patients have a bit of protein in the middle of the night if they are having trouble sleeping and they will usually fall right back asleep.
Shower hydrotherapy:If you are having trouble with sleep, one very easy way to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (the part of your body that helps your relax and sleep) is to take a shower before bedtime. This, however, is not just any regular shower. The key is to alternative between hot and cold water. Maybe 3 minutes hot water, then shock your body with 30 seconds of cold water. Repeat this cycle several times and it is very important to END IN COLD. Then jump out of the shower and hop straight into bed. Let your body warm up under the covers. Sounds bizarre, but this really calms the nervous system and promotes great sleep.
Lifestyle:Everything seems to revert to living a healthy lifestyle. But good diet and regular exercise cannot be overlooked.
Supplements:There are several OTC supplements and herbs that can help promote sleep. Always consult your physician before trying these, as some may interact with medications you may already be taking:
Valerian Root: Valerian has long been used for it's sedative effects on the body and as a calmant for nervousness and tension.
5HTP: 5 Hydroxytryptophan is the metabolic precursor to the neurotransmitter SEROTONIN and MELATONIN. 5- HTP provides the quickest, most effective, and most consistent overall results in treating insomnia. It is an effective alternative for dealing with sleep problems in a safe and natural way compared to sleep medicines. 5-HTP improves the quality of sleep. More importantly, clinical studies show that 5- HTP is also useful in the treatment of sleep disorders other than insomnia. 5-HTP increases REM sleep significantly (typically by about 25 percent) while simultaneously increasing deep sleep stages 3 and 4 without increasing total sleep time. 5- HTP accomplishes this by shortening the amount of time you spend in sleep stages 1 and 2, which in certain ways are the least important stages of the cycle. The higher the dose, the more time spent in REM.
Melatonin: Melatonin is naturally produced by the pineal gland in the body and helps to maintain the body's circadian rhythm. Melatonin decreases as we age and often times supplementation can aid in promoting good sleep.
Acupuncture: Chinese medicine and acupuncture can help identify and treat any imbalances that may be contributing to your sleeplessness.