Nearly everyone suffers an occasional bout of insomnia, the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. Transient insomnia is the most common and can last from one or two nights to several weeks, and instead of being viewed as a medical problem it is most often considered to be a symptom of other problems. This common form of insomnia is often rooted in anxiety or even such things as jet lag and can often be attributed to external causes such as prescription medications or other food or drinks ingested too close to bedtime.
Acute insomnia is described as the inability to fall asleep easily or stay asleep throughout the night for a period of three to six months and when a person cannot sleep at all for a period of at least a month, it is considered chronic insomnia.
There are certain causes of insomnia that are fairly easy to diagnose, especially for those going through a stressful period in the life. Lying awake at night and working about finances or a personal relationship can cause transient insomnia and relieving the issue causing the stress will often allow the person to fall asleep in a timely manner. Drinking caffeinated beverages before bedtime can also make it difficult to sleep, as they stimulants in many of them will keep you awake.
Sleep Apnea is common sleep disorder
Obstructive sleep apnea is another sleep disorder that can cause a person to lose sleep and, although it is not considered to be a form of insomnia, its effects can be similar in causing the person to awaken many times during the night, often without realizing it, and leave them extremely tired in the morning. Many times obstructive sleep apnea is accompanied by loud snoring and a bed partner can probably shed some light on reason sleep seems to be interrupted.
When a person suffers from insomnia, they may suffer from known symptoms. Although the symptoms may be different for each person, any one of the symptoms should be monitored before any self-diagnosis of insomnia is considered. Obviously, the number on symptom is lying in bed, tossing and turning and being unable to fall asleep. Additionally, sleep may come quickly, but the person will wake up after a short period and have difficulty getting back to sleep. Read more on sleep apnea here: knoji.com/sleep-apnea-can-rob-you-of-a-good-nights-sleep/
Despite of work or home schedule, insomnia symptoms can include waking up too early in the morning or of not feeling refreshed after what they believe was a long night’s sleep. Many people suffering from insomnia also may feel irritable during the day with feelings of anxiety and feeling sleepy or may seem to be unproductive during a normal workday. With one or a combination of these symptoms, insomnia may well be a logical conclusion.
Although there are many sleep aids on the market, many available over the counter, the use of sleeping pills is rarely recommended, as many people will develop a dependency on them. Certain classes of sleeping pills can be addictive and can present withdrawal symptoms when the person attempts to quit using them. While some people come to rely on chemical sleep aids, their dependence may actually build up an immunity to a drug requiring a higher dosage to achieve the same effect.
Antidepressants or drugs to relieve anxiety may help some people fall asleep, but they are only treating the symptom and not relieving the root cause of the problem. For some people, drugs are used instead of the needed change of behavior to allow the body to steadily heal itself of bad sleeping habits. For some, it can be a simple matter of low magnesium in the system causing insomnia and returning it to a proper balance can alleviate the sleeping disorder. Other have found that pomegranates help insomniacs fall asleep and one they are sleeping, can help keep them asleep.
Alcohol can stimulate sleep disorders
While alcohol may make some people feel drowsy, its use as a sleep aid is doubtful at best, as its depressant qualities often cause severe interruption in the REM sleep stage waking them up throughout the night due to polyuria, which is the medical term for the frequent need to go to the bathroom. Additionally, alcohol can cause a person to wake up with a hangover or feeling sluggish in the morning.
While some of the age-old sleep methods, such as drinking warm milk before bed or taking a warm bath may help in the short term, they do not always work for everyone and those suffering from long durations of a lack of sleep often find themselves suffering depression and anxiety as well as having delayed reflexes. They can also suffer from slower metabolism and can be slow to recover from disease and injury.
With many sleep aids accompanied by nefarious side effects, natural remedies to help restore the body’s natural circadian rhythm and sleep patterns can be more effective in the long term. Instead of relying on short-term fixes for one or two nights, natural remedies can return the body’s memory of falling to sleep at night as well as staying asleep throughout the sleep period.
Lifestyle changes can have a positive effect on sleep patterns and working until a person is exhausted may help them fall asleep, but the sleep will not be quality sleep. Intermittent periods of waking up throughout the night can make a person remain unproductive during the day as they fight off the effects of too little sleep.
A combination of melatonin and valerian, combined in a natural sleep aid named Melatrol, offers to help people fall asleep quicker, stay asleep long and, over time develop the ability to enjoy a long, deep sleep session without the use of any type of aids. Melatonin is produced naturally in the body and is used to help people fall asleep. Valerian, a product from the root of the valerian plant, helps maintain restful sleep for longer periods. The effects of valerian will not be immediately obvious as it can take the valerian from six to eight weeks to regulate the body’s sleep pattern.
One of the advantages of products such as Melatrol is that it is non-habit forming, helps reduce stress and not only helps a person get to sleep quickly, it also has long-term benefits of helping return the body to a natural sleep rhythm.
Several years ago professionals talked about the body’s natural circadian rhythm and how it controlled everyone’s daily activities, kind of like an internal clock, and every once in awhile some type of even will cause the clock to not run on time. This internal clock is what tells people that when it is dark outside, it is time to go to sleep. It can be silent rooster crowing when the sun comes up, allowing everyone to experience the different stages of sleep and wake up refreshed in the morning.
For those with a normal sleep pattern, stages of sleep last about 90-minutes and then repeat. From stage one, drowsiness and yet still capable of conscious thought, through stage four, deep sleep, a person will cycle through the four stages again, but going backwards the second time. Essentially, it will go from stages one, two, three, four, three, two, and one, although many times the second time the person is in stage one sleep, it will termed the REM stage for rapid eye movement.
It is during this fifth stage that while a person’s eyes make frequent, rapid movements that the body is almost paralyzed, possibly to prevent a person from acting out any dream they may experience during the REM stage. It is the stage four sleep, or deep sleep, that blood is fed into the muscles to help the body become refreshed and ready for the next day.
If a person’s circadian clock loses track of time, the entire sleep cycle sequence can be affected, leading to insomnia symptoms. It is important to learn how to reset each person’s circadian clock to get the sleep cycles back on track. Working different shifts or longer hours than normal can have a devastating effect on a person’s internal clock and if the schedule interruption lasts longer than about two weeks, without adjusting the clock to the new work and sleep times, insomnia will be the logical result.
Many people suffering from insomnia find themselves lying awake worrying about the daily stresses of life. Balancing their family budget, finding the cash for a new car or paying the utility bills can all rob them of needed sleep. While a few have the ability to turn off their worries when their head hit the pillow, others find the thoughts continue to invade their conscious efforts and even if they do manage to drift off into a fitful sleep, they wake up in the middle of the night, still fretting over their problems.
There are several natural methods, natural because they work without pharmaceutical interference with techniques to retrain a person’s brain into falling asleep as their head hits the pillow. Learning to turn off the switch in the brain and close it off to interfering thoughts can help provide the needed means of falling asleep fast and staying asleep through several cycles of deep sleep, waking up refreshed every morning.
Methods of retraining the brain may vary slightly, but most offer people the means to clear their mind of intrusive thoughts. When they lay their heads down and close their eyes, their brain recognizes that it is bedtime and shut off for the day.
Hypnotism has also allow insomnia sufferers to sleep better throughout the night after falling asleep quickly with the suggestion that when it is dark and time for bed, the brain needs to clear itself of any thoughts other than being rested for the next day. Sleep patterns are generally controlled by certain parts of the brain and if those sleep control centers are entertaining other ideas, they cannot do their job.
Hypnosis works well for some insomniacs by isolating the sleep control centers, closing them off for sharing thoughts with other parts of the brain and learning when it is time to sleep and when it is time to wake up.
Depending on the cause of insomnia, the care may be a simple lifestyle change or may be a more deeply rooted problem. If taking prescription medication for another ailment, read up on the medication. It may have side effects that include insomnia, and if so, talk to the doctor about switching for another medication that perform the same job without causing a lack of sleep.
Eating hot and spicy foods too close to bedtime may also cause problems falling asleep. Even if they do not cause indigestion or stomach upset, there are chemicals in many foods that can make sleeping more elusive. While alcohol may be considered a sedative, it can also trigger a rapid release of sugar into the blood stream, providing a quick boost of energy and causing a sleepless night.
There is also concern about the number of hours of sleep required for different individuals. Throughout the ages, the magic number has been eight, with the theory that people work eight hours a day, spend eight hours with family, friends and recreation and eight hours for sleeping. Past research however, has shown that it may not be the number of hours spent sleeping that matters as much as the quality of sleep a person gets every night.
There are many people who can sleep considerably longer than eight hours and still feel tired throughout the day. This is because the quality of their sleep is not allowing them to experience all sleep phases in the order in which the body requires it to be fully rested. There are also those who strive on less sleep, some as few as four or five hours a night, yet wake up feeling refreshed and full of energy.
Most infants sleep much more than eight hours, often sleeping for long periods several times during the day. As people get older, many seem to require less and less sleep as they grow older. In many cases, the elderly population survives quite nicely on six hours of sleep or less.
New indications are beginning to confirm that the body’s overall health plays a key role in curing insomnia. Insomnia may also be a symptom of vitamin deficiency, especially those suffering from anemia and it has been found that when some insomniacs are able to overcome these deficiencies their quality of sleep improves dramatically. Menopause has also been cited as a cause for insomnia and there are natural cures available to help people following this natural life cycle get back into the groove of falling asleep quickly and staying asleep longer.
For those unwilling to turn control of their sleep pattern over to the pharmacy, there are several insomnia treatments using complimentary and alternative medicine. Learning better sleep habits is possible through cognitive behavior therapy. The belief is that everything a person thinks, feels and does is interrelated and by changing one will have an affect on all. For example, if a person feels negative about themselves and thinks negative thoughts, their actions will be negative.
By translating this to insomnia, learning what makes a person feel negative about themselves and changing how they see themselves to a more positive portrayal, their subconscious thoughts when they try to sleep will be more positive and more conducive to entering the sleep mode. Many with insomnia have preconceived notions about why they have trouble and what it will take to allow them to sleep.
They may believe they cannot sleep without the help of chemicals and by changing the way they think and behave can help them eliminate the underlying cause of their insomnia.
Some of the more traditional methods of reducing the incidents of insomnia, in addition to the warm milk taught as children, the timing of eating as well as the quantity being consumed can also play a role in insomnia. Eating habits, unfortunately are often dictated by the lifestyle and eating large meals just before bedtime can not only increase the probability of insomnia, can also cause other health problems, such as indigestion and weight gain.
To help reset, or maintain the setting on the internal clock, establishing a set bedtime and a time to get up can help move the hands on the internal clock to match the schedule. Going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning will help the body understand what is expected of it and teach it the rights and wrongs of sleep time. The old saying of “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” may have been more about establishing a good sleep pattern than doing well in business, although most studies conclude the two are related.
Chinese theories center on practices such as acupuncture to solve sleeping problems and herbal cures for insomnia have long been used along with other subtle changes is sleep behavior.
Sleep studies also conclude that the more relaxed a person is, the quicker they fall asleep and improve their odds of sleeping through the night. Aromatherapy has been successful in providing the relaxation needed to get a restful night’s sleep using aromas such as jasmine, lavender and other relaxing scented oils. Still, others believe that relaxing music will help set the tone for sleeping and listening to relaxing sounds while lying in bed promotes restful sleep.
Some of the sleep techniques available to those suffering insomnia are to see a doctor as insomnia may be a symptom of other problems. Tension, stress and anxiety are the most common causes of insomnia and once a doctor has concluded there are no medical reasons for the insomnia, relaxation techniques may help the no sleep problem.
Taking a bath just before bedtime can help the body relax but not too long of a bath as spending a lot of time lying in the hot water can reduce vitality. Using Epsom salts and baking soda in the water often helps with relaxation and they have the added benefit of helping to remove toxins from the body.
Tension can often be relieved by massage therapy, but it needs to be done in the home, preferably in bed, just before trying to go to sleep. If the spouse or a significant other cannot perform a full-body massage, even a backrub will help. A slow, gentle face and scalp massage can help work out muscle tensions and set the stage for falling asleep relaxed.
A time-tested method of inducing sleep that usually works better than counting how many sheep jump over an imaginary fence in an imaginary field is drinking warm milk. However, for those who may be lactose intolerant herbal tea can have a similar effect. Camomile, catnip and fennel teas all contain natural ingredients to induce sleep.
Eating a light snack about an hour before bedtime can help many people sleep better. Not just any snack as some will actually cause sleeplessness, but snacks such as juice and cookies and especially those high in amino acid-L trytophan help attract sleep. Tryptophan is the acid in turkey that puts many people to sleep following a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Warm milk, chicken and cashews can often provide the same benefits.
Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine before bedtime as they all work as stimulants. Nicotine is known for its ability to spark the thought process and is something not needed when a person is trying to clear their mind for sleeping. Caffeine is often consumed in the mornings in order to wake u p and remove the grogginess from a night of restless sleep and can have the same effect at bedtime.
Sleeping conditions should be sleep-friendly and having a well-ventilated room can help breathing and promote good sleep. Additionally, having a comfortable mattress will prevent the constant tossing and turning while trying to get comfortable, keeping a person awake. Firm mattresses are often suggested to not only promote sleep but also for better support. With the added support the odds of waking up in the middle of the night with a back or neck ache are diminished.
The bedroom should also be used as a bedroom. Avoid installing a home office as part of the sleeping area as it can cause mind stimulation. When a person goes to bed, sleeping should be the priority.
A majority of those suffering from insomnia are those with mental jobs such as office workers. Those with physically demanding jobs seem to rarely suffer from insomnia. Getting at least 15 minutes of exercise about an hour before bedtime can improve circulation, improve the oxygen supply in the blood and help a person fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer.
Those having trouble falling asleep, but sleep well once they do, may want to try getting up earlier than necessary, at least for a few days. While no one wants to up and about when the alarm clock starts ringing getting up even 30-minutes before needed can help establish an earlier bedtime. Once sleep becomes easier at night, go back to the normal wake time. However, if sleep is unattainable for 30 minutes or more, instead of tossing and turning the rest of the night, get up. Spend some time on something that will not stimulate the mind and when feeling tired again, go back to bed.
Once established sleep times are imbedded in the brain, do not confuse them by sleeping in. Getting up at the same time every day will help people fall asleep at about the same time every night. Even on days off, get up at the same time. When the eyes open in the morning, it is time to rise and start the day.
Illuminated alarm clocks may be easier to see in the morning, especially if waking up before the sun comes up, but they can have the same effect at night when trying to sleep. The dim light in the room can make the mind continue to work and they will only add to the anxiety when it is realized how long sleep has been unsuccessful in attaining.
Establishing an alignment with the Earth can also help with insomnia and many believe that sleeping with the head pointing north brings the body in line with the planet’s polarity. Although it may sound somewhat different, many firmly believe that being in harmony with the planet promotes sleep as well as offers many other benefits pertaining to how they live their lives.
Reading and watching television may help some people relax before bedtime, but for most insomniacs the stimulation will have the opposite effect. Even reading in bed until feeling sleepy can stimulate the brain so that once the light goes off, the reader is still thinking about the book or magazine.
Some reflexologists understand the need for both the mind and body to be relaxed before sleep can come. If the mind is not relaxed or the body is not relaxed, sleep will continued to be elusive. One method they believe helps insomnia is toe wiggling. By lying on the back and wiggling the toes up and down, at least 12 times, the body’s channels of energy end in the feet. By wiggling the toes they help relax the body as well as the mind, making sleep possible.
It is has been shown that many people can actually think themselves to sleep. While brain stimulation is often a cause of insomnia, imaging being in a place that is quiet and serene can help induce sleep. Lying in a hammock outside or lying on a beach can provide the mental relaxation needed for sleep. If thinking about a quiet place does not help, think about being in a boring place. A business meeting during which sleep threatened to end the meeting or while listening to a particularly boring person drone on about something that did not demand attention, often induce a feeling of drowsiness. Visualize the situation and imagine what could happen had you been able to sleep during the presentation.
Most people suffering from insomnia dread the sound of the alarm clock. The feeling of being able to roll over for just a few minutes more can be overwhelming. If thinking about someplace peaceful or someplace boring does not help going to sleep, imagine the alarm has gone off and the snooze button was handy. By pretending the alarm has gone off and sleeping a few more minutes is possible, the mind can easily trick the body into going to sleep.
Nature can help with sleep disorders
Long before pharmaceutical companies began dispensing chemicals, plants and flowers provided the needed remedies for many ailments. Today’s traditional forms of medicine are based on many of the same herbal treatments used for centuries. Studies show that nearly 100 of today’s plant-based pharmaceuticals are used in the same fashion as the original plants were used. While using botanicals for health has been around for centuries, many of today’s physicians and pharmacists are reluctant to endorse their use in lieu of modern, traditional medicine.
Their argument is that there have been very few documented studies that show the effects of herb used for medicinal purposes. Additionally, since most herbal treatments are not classified as drugs, they are not regulated. This lack of regulation has invited some companies to offer little more than placebos in place of actual botanicals at a cost savings to them and a price for no return to their customer. For this reason, buying herbal cures should be done only through reputable companies.
Many herbalists and holistic healers firmly believe in the non-traditional approach to medication, allowing the Earth’s natural healing powers to be used instead of the manufactured versions to achieve the same effect. Their primary argument is that many manufactured drugs also include potentially danger side effects, usually not found in natural cures.
Passion flower, for example, has a calming effect and issued for inducing sleep. While also doubling as a pain reliever and for reducing muscle spasms, it can provide the mental and physical relaxation needed for sleep. It is often used in the treatment for insomnia and especially insomnia for those also suffering from asthma. The ancient Aztecs used passion flower as a sedative as well as an analgesic.
A passion flower relative, harmine has the power to create a mild euphoria and induce quiet thinking. During World War II the Germans used harmine with other compounds as a truth serum. Since it inhibits the break down of serotonin, its use also had a potential addictive effect.
Another top herbal cure for insomnia is valerian. It is known to lower blood pressure and relieve muscle spasms. It is used in treating insomnia caused by pain, tension, anxiety and stress. It is non-addictive and induces sleep with no morning-after effects often experienced by those using chemical sleep aids.
It is widely used in botanical medicine as a sedative and a treatment for hypertension. Double-blind studies reported valerian was able to improve patient’s ability to fall asleep as well as improve their quality of sleep. There was also no indication of reduced concentration or a lowering of physical performance abilities.
Jamaica dogwood offers calming effects as well as relieving pain. Persistent thought that can make sleep elusive are also said to be eliminated by this herb. While it has shown to be powerful remedy for nervous tension and pain, it is also considered danger if the recommended dosage is frequently exceeded.
Many other botanicals are often recommended for those who shy away from synthetic sleep aids. Plants such as hops, chamomile and California poppy are recommended due to their sleep-inducing qualities as well as their ability to relieve anxiety and pain. By reducing the physical tensions as well as helping to clear the mind of sleep-impairing thoughts, they are used as natural cures for insomnia.
Herbal infusions are often used to calm the nerves and induce sleep and tea made from Peppermint leaves, the blossoms and leaves of St. John’s wort, orange blossoms, horsetail and fennel seeds have been shown to be successful Mixing together equal parts of skullcap, valerian root, lemon balm and lady’s slipper have also shown to have the same effect.
Since most of today’s pills and elixirs are the culmination of research from botanical remedies used for centuries, the original herbal cures are far less likely to cause any serious side effects than their artificial chemical versions.
If a person is currently taking prescription or over the counter medications, before they begin adding any herbal medications they should consult with their physician about possible interactions between the two. If a person is on prescription medicine for high blood pressure adding herbal cures that lower blood pressure could cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
Insomnia is usually a symptom of some other disorder and finding the root cause of sleep be elusive can go a long way in solving the problem. Since most instances of insomnia have nerves, stress or tension as a contributing cause, using herbal remedies to reduce stress and nerves can be a good first step without resorting to chemical alternatives for inducing sleep.
A change of lifestyle may also be necessary to help the body become acclimated to a regulated sleep pattern and a change of diet can also help promote quick and long-lasting sleep periods. Do not be fooled by advertisements for sleeping aids as they often become addictive as well as allow the body to build up a tolerance for them, requiring higher doses to achieve the same results. They can also cause the body to become dependent on their use in order for insomnia to be defeat