Is insomnia robbing you of more than just a good night’s sleep?
There are two primary types of sleeplessness: the first is having difficulty going to sleep and the other is having difficulty staying asleep.
It is estimated that thirty to forty percent of Americans suffer from some form of insomnia. The most common way to combat this problem is to take prescription or over-the-counter medications, but most of these drugs have adverse affects on the normal sleep cycle, which means you become addicted to using them. Sleep drugs are like a dog chasing its tail: You don’t sleep, so you take them, they themselves eventually make sleep worse, so you stop taking them, but then you are still not sleeping, so you decide to take them again…
Not only that, but also many of these medications make people drowsy in the morning and the answer to that problem is to drink coffee, which can further disrupt the sleep cycle depending on when in the day you are drinking your coffee.
Normal sleep is much better than drug-induced sleep.
We spend a third of our lives asleep; it is vital to our health and well-being. Sleep not only gives us a rest, but many important bodily functions happen as while we sleep. Repair of the body is undertaken while we sleep. Growth hormone is released during sleep (my wife and I told our kids that they won’t grow if they don’t take a nap—not that that ever helped). Growth hormone is responsible for much more than growth; it is also the “night repair man” and helps your body to repair and rejuvenate. Detoxification also takes place mainly at night.
Not getting a good night sleep also makes concentrating difficult during the daytime. As we age, we sleep less. Poor sleep is associated with all sorts of illnesses, including increased risk for accidents, poor concentration and memory, but you are also more likely to feel stressed and overeat when you haven’t slept well. There is also pretty good evidence to support a link between poor sleep and heart disease, especially in women.
To stay away from the prescription and over-the-counter pills, try the following:
- Go to sleep and wake up at about the same time every day. This teaches your body to expect sleep at a certain time. People who travel a lot have notoriously bad sleeping habits because they are so often changing time zones. Following this suggestion means trying to stay on your schedule even on the weekends.
- Use your bed for sleeping only. Avoid watching TV in your bed. When you go to your bedroom it should be sleep only.
- Start a ritual. Always do the same things before you lie down to sleep. A good ritual is to read a book for 10 or 15 minutes before you go to sleep. Don’t read anything exciting or work-related. A novel that you are board with is perfect.
- Can’t sleep? Get out of bed. You want to learn to associate your bed with sleep. So if you try and go to bed and cannot after 20-30 minutes, get out of bed. Similarly, it you wake and can’t get back to sleep in 15 minutes, don’t toss and turn; get out of bed. Benjamin Franklin had 5 beds that he would travel to until he found the one that would allow him to sleep.
- Get a journal. If you wake at night, having a journal near your bed is a good way to get thoughts out of your head. So often when we wake and “The List” starts: “OK, tomorrow, I need to pick up the dry cleaning, stop by the store, start that project, ask Bill about…” Having a journal where you can put down your thoughts is easy and work amazingly well. You no longer have to think about those things because in the morning it is there for you to read.
- Sleep in the dark. Sounds silly, but even a little bit of light (including from a bright clock) can change hormone levels that make sleep impossible. Even if you get up at night to use the bathroom, leave the lights off. Make sure that lights from outside don’t light up your room too much.
- White noise. Some people have to resort to using white noise such as a fan, or better yet, an air filter in your room is a great way to block other noises from disturbing your sleep and get clean air.
There are many supplements that work for better sleep including Calcium, Magnesium, Amino Acids, and Hormones. Many Herbs are also helpful, including Hops, Valerian, Kava. Melatonin a hormone that contributes to a good night’s sleep is lower in adults than in children. Melatonin is effective to help combat stubborn sleeplessness, but is something that I use as a last resort owing to the fact that using one hormone can often disrupt others and should therefore be used cautiously.
Sleep is so important that you should consider it essential. Whatever you need to do to ensure you sleep health is worth the investment. Try the above and you will find your way on the path to a better night’s sleep and say goodbye to insomnia forever.