We’re over-stimulated and we don’t give our bodies what they need to properly rest. Here are some tips to help you get back your zzz’s.
While this topic is certainly on the tip of everyone’s tongues these days, it is certainly no less apparent in that we aren’t getting enough sleep on a nightly basis. Even the most well-intentioned health professionals are suffering from a lack of sleep. If one were to walk into any naturopathic physician’s office, or health food store, or even the corner market, the shelves of sleep aids and remedies would be sparse at best, and probably completely sold out.
If one were to ask a health professional what the most effective means of helping the average person sleep, there is no quick fix answer. Many factors need to be considered, as well as a personal health profile of the sleep-deprived individual, to understand the underlying complications as to why we aren’t acquiring at least seven solid hours of sleep.
Studies have concluded that it takes roughly seven hours for the body to repair overnight from the remnants of stress and activity from the previous day. Usually, any more sleep than seven hours can result in being too tired for the demands of the upcoming day. It all depends of the nature of the person, their age, their occupation, their health history, and possibly patterns through hereditary factors.
If you are someone who acquires an average of five hours or less of sleep the likelihood of irritability is high, depression looms, you might be anxious, overweight, unproductive, and have some seriously dark circles under the eyes. The REM sleep cycle needs four hours minimum to reap the benefits of rest, recovery, and recharging.
There are a number of suggestions that can be made to help the average man or woman with sleep deprivation, commonly referred to as “insomnia”. Insomnia plagues millions of Americans each and every day, and the following remedies and practices will help. While not the cure-all to the problems of insomnia, this is definitely a road worthy to a better sleep:
This is (by far) the most effective way to calm the mind. Whether you decide to meditate prior to bed time, or first thing in the morning, the outcome and rewards far outweigh the time taken to sit and be quiet for a minimum of 5-10 minutes. Meditation can be the aid to many issues beyond insomnia, and several people who meditate over the course of numerous years find themselves with a sense of greater peace and well-being. Sleep improves, work productivity increases, creativity is strengthened, family and friend connections are healthier, and illnesses are likely to dissipate over time. Enough can’t be said about the great benefits of meditation and its impact on our overall heart, mind, and body health. Getting in touch with your inner Buddha has lasting effects beyond sleep deprivation.
2. Chamomile tea
Another remedy for powering down is this simple herbal tea. It aids in calming the mind and preparing the body for slumber. Sometimes it is the mere ritual of tea-drinking itself that appeals to the senses. Whenever the senses are stimulated in a positive and relaxing way, the body will follow and be prepared for a good night’s rest. A warm or hot cup of chamomile tea prior to bedtime will ease the nerves and stimulate relaxation. Just don’t have any sugary treat alongside the tea, as the sugar alone will rev up the body, hence perpetuating a restless night. Sugar is an inflammatory food, so it’s best to avoid altogether, if you can.
A minimum of 30 minutes per day, every day, will get the endorphins flowing, release the mind of tension and stress, and sweat out the toxins from each day. As the body eases into the evening hours, the serotonin levels start to elevate giving the body a sense of well-being and happiness. Also, the mind senses the physical exertion, and there is a sense of relief and accomplishment to exercising early in the morning or late afternoon. If you were to physically exert too close to bed time, it could disrupt the sleep pattern, as the body is still amped up from the energy of blood flowing and movement. Exercising earlier in the day is preferable and will aid in a quality sleep cycle. Plus, you’ll need to shower off all that sweat, which is part of the entire exercise/powering down ritual. Who doesn’t love a clean body prior to bed time?
4. Melatoninn, Valerian Root, Magnesium, GABA
All of these sleep aid are a means to shed light on several different herbs, minerals, and even hormones that are popular with the sleep-deprived person. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in the body. If you are lacking in too much melatonin due to stress and other environmental factors, the sleep cycle can be disrupted. Also, if you are working around too much unnatural light, it robs your body of the melatonin needed to stay healthy. Aging will contribute to reduced melatonin in the body, and will interfere with the circadian rhythm of the natural cycle of sleep. Taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon for no less than 20 minutes will enhance the amount of melatonin the body produces.
If the insomniac continues to suffer, then adding a minimum of 1 mg. would suffice, however it is best to consult with a professional, as this is a hormone that was once a prescription. Valerian root is derived from a hardy pink flower grown in the summer months, which has been demonstrated to be an effective sedative after the dehydration process. The amino acid valine is named after this plant. If valerian is combined with melatonin and other herbs and minerals, its effectiveness rate goes up.
Magnesium is a mineral that is highly absorbable in its ionic state. A crucial element to a fully functioning healthy body, magnesium is used primarily as a laxative and for muscular recovery. The calming properties of this mineral surpass many other over-the-counter remedies. Deficiency in magnesium can lead to leg cramps at night, which will disrupt sleeping patterns and cause lots of discomfort. 300 mg (maximum) per day of magnesium is an average recommendation, and to increase this amount would depend on the absorption rate of the body. If there is a surplus of magnesium, the body will excrete it more rapidly.
The proper amount of magnesium will result in increased recovery after intense bouts of exercise, as well as creating stabilized nerve function to help with sleep and calming. GABA is an amino acid that is the second most prevalent neurotransmitter in the brain. It has an inhibiting effect, calming excited nervous impulses. Without GABA, a person would constantly remain on edge and anxious, and not have the ability to relax. It can be found in combination with melatonin, valerian, and other natural sleep supplements in an integrative pharmacy or health food store. You don’t need a prescription for GABA, yet if you are stressed out, you might have an imbalance in your nervous system that requires more of this amino acid.
Insomnia can be habitual, if the necessary precautions are not taken to alleviate the sleeplessness. Night after night of sleep deprivation is no fun. It can result from too many prescription drugs, hypoglycemia, muscle aches, indigestion, asthma, pain, and stress. A lack of good nutrition, too many inflammatory foods (alcohol, white flour products, sugar, all processed foods) will cause you to wake up after a few hours and then not be able to return to sleep. The body is merely trying to digest all this ugly nutrition, and power down. It is very difficult when a poor diet and alcohol are not happy in the gut. Also, caffeine should be avoided prior to sleeping, as the stimulant will not allow the nerves and cells to relax.
Sleep deprivation continues to be a hot topic in all aspects of health and wellness, but there is hope. If you consider all the aspects of healthy living, take into account all the changes that you are willing to make, and approach each one with much guidance, your powering down days are about to improve. Having a good night’s sleep is truly the answer and sometimes, hope is all that’s needed to amend a viable health situation.
Photo credit: Flickr / CarbonNYC