Don’t Get Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
“At night I cannot fall asleep or stay asleep. But in the morning, I cannot wake up or stay awake.” If this describes your sleep pattern, you are not alone. Nearly 70 million Americans suffer from insomnia. And now there is mounting evidence that sleep deprivation causes more than just grouchiness, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. Studies have shown that chronic insomnia can increase our chances of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and possibly even cancer.
Although we are desperate to get a good night’s sleep, many of us do not want to “pop a pill.” This leaves us feeling as though we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The good news is that there are a number alternative methods that may work for you.
Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: Home Remedies that May Help You Get Your ZZZ’s:
Aromatherapy Although not a cure, stimulating our olfactory senses can possibly help us fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. Part of the process of drifting off to la la land is calming ourselves and slowing our activities through bedtime routines and rituals. The fancy schmancy term for this is “sleep hygiene.” One possible way to “clean up” our sleep routine is to place a few drops of lavender, sweet marjoram, chamomile, sage, or jasmine essential oils on your pillow at bedtime. These scents are believed to evoke calming, soothing, relaxing, and warming feelings.
Melatonin “Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. Oh dear, oh my, I really hate mice.” Correction…I really hate not being able to fall asleep. When we hear people speaking about their internal clock, they are referring to melatonin. This naturally produced hormone coordinates our body’s physiological rhythms that help set the brain’s biological clock. Light inhibits its secretion from the pineal gland whereas darkness has the opposite effect and signals for increased melatonin secretion. That is why it is sometimes referred to as the “Dracula of hormones.” Normally, melatonin levels start increasing in the mid-to late evening, remain elevated throughout the night, and then taper off in the early morning hours. As we get older, our melatonin production decreases and can contribute to insomnia. If you are suffering from insomnia and want to avoid anything addictive, taking an over-the-counter supplement at bedtime may help you get your ZZZ’s.
Chamomile tea Among all non-prescription sleep aids, chamomile is one of the most popular. It is believed that this tea contains a chemical that provides anti-anxiety effects. However, not everyone is convinced that this is a magic bullet for insomniacs. Some believe that whatever sleepy effect it has is due to either being a warm liquid or having a placebo effect (we think it relaxes us, so it does!). But when counting sheep is not cutting it, this may be a safe, non-addictive alternative.
Valerian There has been a lot of recent buzz about this natural herb’s potential to help us fall asleep. It is believed to increase GABA levels—a neurotransmitter in your brain that has a calming and anti-anxiety effect. As a result, valerian appears to increase deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep. But before you decide to pop a pill of Valerian root, speak with your doctor and pharmacist for possible interactions with your prescription drugs. Herbal supplements may have unwanted interactions with your medications.
Turning to home remedies may force us to find better ways to sharpen our math skills. Afterall, when we have difficulty sleeping, we often find ourselves calculating how much sleep we will get if we could just “fall asleep right now.” In addition to these remedies, try to “turn down the noise” by creating a sleep hygiene plan that works for you, and your health. Sweet dreams. Dulces suenos.
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Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.