It seems like sleep problems are on the rise—at least with people I know. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: “Studies suggest that sleep disorders affect 50 to 70 million Americans, representing approximately 20 percent of the population.” I think it has to do with too much overstimulation. We’re trying to do too much, too fast and all the time and after going, going, going all day long our brains are having a harder and harder time slowing down at night, and can you blame them? While we are driving we’re listening to music, talking on the phone (while on a headset, of course!) with a movie playing in the background for our kids. Later when we’re making dinner, again we probably have the music (or maybe an audio book if we want to change it up), television (probably with a scrolling ticker across the bottom) plus all the measuring and mixing of whatever dinner requires. I think the teenagers are even worse, they almost always have an ear phone in while they are texting multiple people and trying to do their homework. It’s no wonder our brains are fried at the end of the day!
There are multiple prescriptions available to help with one’s trouble sleeping, however it’s my understanding that they mostly come with numerous side effects and can be very addictive. According to WebMD.com: “In March 2007, the FDA issued warnings for prescription sleep drugs, alerting patients that they can cause rare allergic reactions and complex sleep-related behaviors, including “sleep driving”.” I don’t know about you, but “sleep driving” sounds really scary to me. So instead of risking some of the rare reactions that can come with prescription medications, a lot of people are opting to try some more natural alternatives to deal with their sleep problems.
Over the years there have been several natural options for trouble sleeping. Sharon Plank, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the University of Pittsburgh Medical School Center for Integrative Medicine suggests the following natural supplements for sleep problems: Chamomile tea, Melatonin, Valerian, and Kava.
Chamomile has been used around the world for hundreds of years for various medicinal reasons. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center “animal studies have found that low doses of chamomile may relieve stress, while higher doses promote sleep.” While the FDA considers Chamomile tea to be safe with little to no side effects, there are a few things to remember if considering it as a sleep aid. Chamomile tea shouldn’t be used by people who have an allergy to ragweed. Additionally, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should not use chamomile.
Melatonin has been used for a long time to aid in overcoming the effects of insomnia and jet lag. Our circadian cycles are regulated by Melatonin, which is a naturally occurring hormone in the human body. When our circadian cycles are off we can have trouble sleeping. Melatonin is optimal when used over a short period of time. Melatonin is not recommended for people who take blood thinners. Also, children with brain disorders can have an increased risk of seizure when taking Melatonin.
Valerian root is another option when looking for a natural sleep aid. The American Academy of Family Physicians says: “A potential advantage of valerian over benzodiazepines is the lack of sleepiness on awakening when used at the recommended dosages.” Known for its use as an anti-stresstreatment or a sedative, Valerian is found most beneficial when taken regularly, since it seems to work better over time. According to MayoClinic.com, Valerian may “reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and help you sleep better.”
Kava has been used for decades to help reduce stress. According to WebMD.com “The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that short-term use of kava is recommended for patients with mild to moderate stress” – however there have been reports that long term use of Kava can been linked to instances of liver damage, some cases very severe, so I would be careful about using this if you have trouble sleeping.
In addition to supplementation, another way to improve your sleep may be to make some changes to your lifestyle to reduce stress. People try meditation, yoga, massage or acupuncture to help elevate stress in their life. Other things I’ve read suggest limiting night time television viewing, exercise and caffeine intake as further ways to help promote a good night’s sleep. No matter how you choose to do it, we all need a good night’s sleep, so if you have trouble sleeping find what works for you and sleep away!
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