Insomnia: the inability to fall asleep, remain asleep, or feel refreshed by sleep. Experienced occasionally by 1 in 4 Americans and chronically by 10% of Americans.
Potential Causes: stress, psychiatric disorders (anxiety, depression, anger), medications (central nervous system stimulants), supplements (ginseng, guarana, green tea, etc…) physiologic causes or underlying illness (anemia, heart or lung condition, sleep apnea, chronic pain, heart burn, etc…), jet lag.
Drug-Free Tips for Relieving Insomnia
- Wake up and go to sleep at or around the same time each day.
- Make sure that your bed is comfortable, yet supportive. Turn your mattress every few months or buy a new one if this is not the case.
- Ensure correct positioning so that your body can fully relax. Put a pillow under your neck and one between your knees while lying on your side (best to lie on your side).
- Do not watch or even keep a TV in your bedroom. The alpha waves keep your brain alert rather than letting your brain lapse into REM sleep patterns. Unplug TV if it must stay.
- Journaling and having a pre-bedtime routine to promote relaxation.
- Deep belly breathing or yogic breathing to quiet and calm the mind and body.
- Counseling and/or Stress reduction techniques (Biofeedback therapy, Hypnosis) can help you to gain control of your body responses with relaxation techniques.
- Regular Exercise improves sleep quality: perform in morning or early evening, not before bed. Moderate intensity ~ 20 minutes aerobic exercise. Optimal heart rate is 220 minus your age.
- Eat a small snack that is rich in fiber and protein.
- Progressive Relaxation: contract each muscle in your body (toe to head) for 1-2 seconds then relax it. Make sure your whole body is relaxed. Do more than once if necessary.
Supplements for Helping Normalize Sleep
Start with gentle treatments then work your way to more aggressive treatments. Only after exhausting all of the gentle and supplemental interventions should you consider moving to more aggressive treatments like over the counter or pharmaceutical sleep-aids. Please consult a physician before combining supplements and medications.
Calcium/Magnesium: Calcium is used by the body to assist muscle contraction, including the contraction of our hearts. Magnesium is used for muscle relaxation. Magnesium is also used in hundreds of metabolic processes in our bodies. Taking magnesium before bed can cause a sleep enhancing effect. Too much magnesium can lead to loose stool.
Calms Forte: this product is a gentle energetic (homeopathic) sleep aid. Very gentle, yet very effective. Safe to use in combination with other medications.
Vitamin B-6: B-6 is a co-factor for Serotonin synthesis. If serotonin is at an optimal level, the body can more easily drift off to sleep.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomillia): whether chamomile is sipped as tea or taken in capsules, it can be very relaxing and claming to the mind and body. My childhood favorite.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata): helps to calm the mind and the nervous system.
Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis): used as a sleep aid for centuries. May also help to lower blood pressure. Helps reduce time to fall asleep. Shouldn’t cause rebound daytime drowsiness.
Adaptogenic Herbs: If your stress level is high, your adrenal glands may be working overtime, which can cause your body to become confused about appropriate sleep and wake times. Taking Adaptogenic herbs (such as Siberian Ginseng, Ashwaganda, Schisandra and Rhodiola) during the first part of the day can help to bring the adrenal glands back into balance. Melatonin: helps to bring on sleep as well as keep people asleep. Only produces a sedative effect when melatonin is low. Can disrupt normal hormone secretion times (circadian rhythm).
L-Tryptophan: Serotonin is an initiator of sleep. Serotonin synthesis is dependant on L-Tryptophan. Enhances melatonin synthesis and helps to decrease time to fall asleep. May take a few days to start working. Take this with juice.
5-HTP: one step closer to serotonin than L-Tryptophan. Promotes and maintains sleep.