Insomnia, Sleep On It and Feel Refreshed
Insomnia, a difficulty either falling or staying asleep, is America’s #1 health related problem.
A sleep study showed that 47% of adults and 57% of children in the U.S. do not sleep enough. The American daily average is now only 6 hours and 40 minutes, and still declining, far off the adult-recommended 8 hours, and far below the 9 hours that Americans used to sleep before electricity arrived.
People with chronic insomnia, are at great risk for: immune suppression, diabetes, insulin resistance, depression, chronic fatigue, heart disease, headaches, mood problems and memory loss. Physical agility, coordination and reaction time are impaired; insomniacs are also two and a half times more likely to have motor vehicle accidents.
Insufficient sleep also may lead to weight gain. Appetite-regulating hormones get disordered causing increased hunger and appetite for high caloric, starchy foods.
Stress, anxiety and parenting are the most common causes of insomnia; late night television viewing and computers also contribute. The compulsion of completing “just one more thing” before bed is also problematic.
Physiological factors often play a significant role with insomnia: neurotransmitter imbalance (serotonin and norepinephrine); urinary incontinence; stimulants (caffeine, decongestants, and thyroid medications); heavy metals; chronic pain; sugar; indigestion; alcohol; lack of exercise; restless leg syndrome; hormonal changes (e.g. menopause); vitamin/mineral deficiencies (e.g. B12, iron, magnesium); breathing disorders, including asthma and sleep apnea; low blood sugar and hyperthyroidism. Hidden/delayed food allergies may also contribute.
The naturopathic solution to insomnia is, of course, to treat any cause listed above.
The following are sleep strategies I often recommend:
- Get a sleep routine. For hormone stabilization, go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends.
- Keep bedroom quiet with comfortable temperature, and dark as possible to not interfere with natural melatonin rhythm. Invest in a good mattress.
- Use the bedroom for sleep and intimacy only. Read only if it enhances sleep. Keep work stations and televisions out of the bedroom.
- Do not drink alcohol or caffeine if it interferes with sleep.
- Exercise daily, but avoid intense exercise two hours before sleep.
- Use hydrotherapy before bed, taking a ten-minute hot footbath to draw blood toward your limbs. Hot baths are relaxing, at least two hours before sleep.
- Recommended dinner foods: high amino acid tryptophan-containing foods to stimulate serotonin: turkey, chicken, tuna, soy, live unsweetened yogurt, whole-grain crackers or milk (if not allergic).
- 500 mg of calcium citrate and 250 mg of magnesium glycinate before bed.
- Learn relaxation techniques.
- Make sure pets sleep elsewhere.
- Wash your bedding regularly. Sheets and pillowcases: weekly; pillows, blankets and mattress covers washed at least every quarter, pillows replaced every two years.
- Chamomile tea relaxes the nervous system. Valerian, hops and passionflower can also be extremely valuable sleep aids.
Work with a natural healthcare practitioner to help uncover your insomnia cause. Relying on pharmaceutical drugs for sleep often create another whole set of problems.
Dr. Dennis Godby, Doctor of Naturopathy, Sutter Medical Foundation.
He may be reached online or at his Sacramento Office (916) 446-2591.
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