Most people will agree that spending many nights tossing and turning is the worst. If you have difficulty falling asleep or wake up frequently during the night, you may be suffering from insomnia.
Insomnia is habitual sleeplessness or the inability to stay asleep. 164 million Americans struggle at least once a week with insomnia. This number has raised by 94 million people since 2014. In fact, the CDC declared sleep deprivation a “National Health Epidemic’.
At some time or another, everyone will struggle to get a good night’s sleep, but insomnia is different. Insomnia is an ongoing, chronic problem of sleep disruption. That may be the inability to fall asleep when you go to bed, or the ability to stay asleep resulting in you waking up one or more times in the middle of the night.
There are several classifications of insomnia.
Acute insomnia is usually caused by a major life event, such as a stressful change in a person's job, receiving bad news, or travel, and usually lasts for only a brief period. Acute insomnia often resolves without any treatment.
This describes a person who has difficulty falling asleep when they go to bed.
This describes a person who cannot stay asleep. People with maintenance insomnia wake up during the night and have difficulty returning to sleep.
Insomnia is usually considered chronic if a person has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights per week for three months or longer.
Insomnia that occurs as the result of another health condition or medications. Certain medical conditions associated with sleep disturbance are:
- Back Pain
- Muscle spasms or joint problems
- Restless leg syndrome
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Antidepressants (SSRI’s – Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac)
- Anticonvulsants (gabapentin, felbamate, zonisamide, et al.)
- Corticosteroids (prednisone, methylprednisolone, Medrol, deltasone, sterapred)
- ADHD meds (Ritalin, Adderall)
- Anti-arrhythmic meds (amiodorone, Cordarone, flecainide, Tambocor, et al.)
- Beta-blocker Blood pressure meds (metoprolol, propranolol, et al.)
- Asthma medication (theophylline)
According to a 2010 poll from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), about 60 percent of the US population suffers from poor or inadequate sleep. Out of this, 30% to 50% of the general population is affected by acute (short-term) insomnia, while 10% have chronic insomnia, lasting more than several months.
Sleep is not a luxury...it is a necessity of life. In fact, it is the core foundation for good health.
According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, sleeping less than seven hours a night (without interruption) — can lead to a wide array of health disorders such as:
- Decreased attention span
- Difficulty with focus and concentration
- Atherosclerosis and Heart Disease
- Increased risk of stroke
- Insulin resistance
- Increased risk of metabolic syndrome or diabetes
- Weight gain or obesity
- Increased systemic inflammation
- Increased risk of fibromyalgia
- Decreased Immune system
- Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Premature aging
Dangers of Sleeping Pills
While prescription sleeping pills may provide temporary relief for insomniacs, they also pose a danger to those who use them. Prolonged sleeping pill use can lead to addiction and a number of health-related consequences.
Common side effects of prescription sleeping pills such as Lunesta, Sonata, Ambien, Rozerem, and Halcion may include:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Mental slowing or problems with attention or memory
- Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
- Loss of balance
- Burning or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
- Dry mouth or throat
- Gas, Stomach pain or tenderness
Benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Librium are anti-anxiety medications. They also increase drowsiness and help people sleep. While these drugs may be useful short-term, all benzodiazepines are potentially addictive and can cause problems with memory and attention. They are not recommended for long-term treatment of sleeping problems.
Improve the quality of your sleep
Poor quality of sleep can be directly related to insomnia (the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep), but not always. There are people who will fall asleep without a problem, and sleep through the night until their alarm goes off; but when they wake up, they don’t feel rested. They’re still tired and dragging. This is due to the fact that they are not able to cycle through all 5 phases of sleep.
It’s been proven that small adjustments to your daily routine and to your bedroom can help substantially with improving the quality of your sleep allowing you to wake feeling rested and recharged. Here are some very simple things you can begin to implement immediately.
1. Use your bed only for Sleep and Sex
Do not watch TV or use your computer when you’re in bed. If you work, read, watch TV, or use the computer while in bed, you may be too stimulated to fall asleep. You want your body and mind to associate the bedroom with sleep and relaxation.
Also, electronic devices emit blue light, tricking your brain into thinking it's still daytime. This will also suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep and regulates your sleep-wake cycle.
If this is unavoidable, wear blue-blocking eyeglasses. You can also install software that automatically dims your monitor.
2. Avoid harmful EMFs (electromagnetic fields) in your bedroom
EMF interfere with melatonin production which will result in insomnia. Exposure also causes gradual damage to human cells and tissues, resulting in many health issues including cancer. Although we can’t avoid harmful EMF’s we can limit our exposure, especially while sleeping. Here’s how:
- Move the Wi-Fi routers out of the bedroom. The further away from the bedroom the better.
- Keep cell phones out of the bedroom or place in airplane mode
- Remove baby trackers, camera’s and Wi-Fi’s from you children’s rooms.
- Remove your laptop from the bedroom
- Remove your computer from the bedroom
- Take the TV out of the bedroom. If you refuse to do this, at least unplug it while you sleep.
3. Sleep in total darkness
Cover your windows with blinds, drapes or blackout shades or use an eye mask. The smallest amount of light in your bedroom will decrease your melatonin production.
4. Use a red night light
If you need a source of light to navigate through your home in the middle of the night (like having to go to the bathroom or letting the dog out) use only red nightlights. The bandwidth of red light doesn’t interfere with melatonin production.
5. Keep your bedroom cool while you sleep
Comfortable sleeping temperatures will vary from person to person, but the average temperatures to help you sleep best are between 65 degrees to 69 degrees.
6. Get 30 minutes of daily sun
Your circadian rhythm needs bright light to reset itself. Start with 10-15 minutes of morning sunlight, then make a point of getting outside for at least 30 minutes during the brightest portion of the day. This will help keep your internal clock on track.
Natural Remedies for Insomnia
A good night’s sleep can improve your learning, memory, creativity and mood. Even your ability to execute good decision making. Furthermore, getting 7 or more hours of sleep each night has been linked to a lower risk of stroke, diabetes, and obesity.
If good sleep habits aren’t enough to conquer your insomnia, then try the following sleep-promoting remedies.
Melatonin is a hormone your body produces naturally, which signals your brain that it’s time to sleep.
This hormone’s production and release is influenced by the time of day and light — melatonin levels naturally rise in the evening (when it’s dark) and fall in the morning (when the sun rises).
Several studies report that melatonin improves daytime sleep quality and duration. This is particularly beneficial for night shift workers who must sleep during the daytime.
Moreover, studies have shown that melatonin can improve overall sleep quality in individuals suffering from sleep disorders. Specifically, melatonin appears to reduce the time people need to fall asleep and increase the total amount of sleep time.
Another benefit of melatonin is that it stimulates human growth hormone (HGH) secretion. Growth hormone plays a key role in growth, body composition and lean muscle mass, cell repair and metabolism. Healthy HGH levels boost muscle growth, strength, and exercise performance. It also helps you recover from injury and diseases. Growth hormone secretion begins to decline by the time you reach 30 years old.
Take 2mg – 8mg half hour before bed
Magnesium is a mineral that’s important for brain function and heart health, but it’s also involved in hundreds of processes in the human body.
Studies show magnesium has a relaxing effect that helps quiet the mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep.
Magnesium also appears to increase brain levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a brain messenger with calming effects.
Studies report that insufficient levels of magnesium in your body may be linked to troubled sleep and insomnia, while increasing your magnesium intake by taking supplements may help you optimize the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Take 100mg – 200mg before bed.
L-theanine is an amino acid commonly found in green tea and some types of mushrooms.
Studies indicate that L-theanine promotes relaxation and facilitates sleep by boosting GABA, serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters. L-theanine also has the ability to reduce hormones and neurotransmitters that increase anxiety and stress.
Research indicates that L-theanine may help people fall asleep easily at bedtime and it also improves sleep quality.
Take 250mg - 400mg.
4. Passion Flower
Passion flower is a flowering plant found on several continents. There are over 500 species of passion flower but studies suggest that only certain species, known as Passiflora incarnata may help treat anxiety and insomnia as well as improve sleep apnea.
Passion flower has been found to quiet the mind and improve quality of sleep
Teas: Tea made from 4 to 8 grams of dried herb, daily
Liquid extract: 10 to 30 drops, 3 times daily
Tincture: 10 to 60 drops, 3 times daily
5. Valerian Root
Valerian is an herb native to Asia and Europe. Studies have shown that valerian root improves sleep quality while promoting sleep and reduces anxiety.
Take 300mg - 600mg between 30 minutes to 2 hours before bed.
Tea, soak 2 to 3 grams of dried herbal valerian root in 1 cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Magnolia bark
Magnolia bark acts as a sedative and can directly influence and promote sleep. It also boosts GABA to increase a state of calm and peace. Research has also revealed that Magnolia bark can lower anxiety, stress and improve depression.
Studies reveal several other benefits of magnolia bark. It’s a powerful antioxidant lowering levels of inflammation. It activates cannabinoid receptors and it reduces adrenaline.
Take 300mg - 600mg.
7. Essential Oils
Studies suggest that lavender essential oil works as a natural sedative. It can improve your sleep quality and eliminate insomnia; while, chamomile, whether in tea, tincture or essential oil form, is one of the best medicinal herbs for fighting stress and promoting relaxation, according to research from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and Pharmacognosy Review. Bergamot essential oil has been shown in studies to slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety to improve sleep quality.
8. Detox Bath
Relax with a detox bath in the evening or before bed. Add 4 cups of Epsom salts and lavender and chamomile essential oil and soak for 15-20 minutes. This will help decrease muscle tension, tightness and spasm and will relax your brain in preparation for sleep. This bath also helps relieve your body of toxins.
If you frequently toss and turn for hours each night you know the anxiety and frustration of not being able to sleep. It’s estimated between 50 – 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, and close to 12 million of these people are taking prescription medications for sleep.
Sleeping pills are only meant to be prescribed for very short terms, then discontinued. Unfortunately, most doctors will give patients long term extended prescriptions for Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata, Xanax and valium to name a few. Moreover, some patients will also take it upon themselves to increase the prescribed dosage out of desperation to get a few hours of ‘shut eye’. As a result, sleeping pill addiction is quite prevalent and on the rise.
There are many natural alternatives to get you sleeping again without the risks of dangerous side effects.
For our patients we use 2 prominent remedies: Sleep EZ and Sleepy Time
Sleep EZ is a liquid non-synthetic melatonin-based supplement cultured from beneficial probiotic organisms. This can be easily adjusted to achieve a suitable dosage for each individual up to 8mg. Unlike synthetic melatonin’s, this formula has a better absorption rate into the body.
Sleep EZ is used to promote the onset of sleep. If you have difficulty falling asleep at night, you definitely want to use this formula. I take this formula, prophylactically, each night to increase my HGH production and ultimately cellular regeneration.
This formula is not designed to keep you sleeping throughout the night. If you fall asleep with no problems but wake in the middle of the night, you’d want to use Sleepy Time. However, Sleep EZ can be used along with Sleepy time. While you’re resetting your biological sleep rhythm, when you wake in the middle of the night, take only 1-2 drops of melatonin to help you fall back to sleep within 5-10 minutes.
- Sleepy Time features a blend of ingredients from magnesium, L-theanine, passion flower, valerian root, magnolia bark, lavender and more. This formulation is very effective at resetting neurotransmitters that allow you to achieve a healthy and restful sleep throughout the night.
Along with these formulations, we are very large fans of essential oils and good sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits necessary to achieve a good night’s sleep. Here are somethings you can do to improve your quality of sleep and overall insomnia.
- Cut caffeine off by 12 pm
- Don’t drink alcohol 2 hours before bed
- Do not eat rich foods, fatty foods or processed foods before bed
- Avoid drinking fluids 2 hours or less before bed
- Remove electronics from the bedroom
- Make sure to put your phone on airplane mode if you use it for an alarm
- Limit daytime naps to no longer than 30 minutes.
- Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable
- For optimal sleep, cool your bedroom down to 65-69 degrees.
- Cut off computer time (includes phones and tablets) 2 hours before bed
- Wind down your mind before bed
- Use a sleeping mask to block out light
- Don’t watch TV in bed…EVER!!!
This blog has been provided by Dr. John Coppola, D.C. and Dr. Valerie Monteiro, D.C. Dr. Coppola and Dr. Monteiro are the founders of the San Antonio Neuropathy Center, and Precision Sport & Spine. They are the leading experts in the field of neuropathy and specifically drug free nerve repair. They are the authors of the critically acclaimed book "Defeat Neuropathy Now .... In Spite of Your Doctor. The doctors have over 25 years of clinical experience.
If you would like to reach the doctors regarding a specific health problem, you may email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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