Stop INSOMNIA Now! How to get a good nights sleep tonight.
A complete guide to understanding and treating insomnia
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is the plague of at least one-third of the adult population worldwide. I don't know anyone who hasn't had insomnia at some point in their lives. Unfortunately the older we get, the more the likelihood of insomnia occurring. It is a very common problem in the elderly, and also in peri or post menopausal woman.
Insomnia is classified as too little sleep, or poor quality sleep. Insomnia is:
Trouble falling asleep, restless sleep with frequent waking during the night, waking with trouble returning to sleep, waking too early, or feeling not well rested after sleeping 7 -8 hours. An un-refreshing sleep.
No one wants to walk around feeling groggy the next day after a poor nights sleep. In addition to daytime fatigue, insomnia also causes foggy thinking, a lack of focus, and even depression and irritability. Most people find they need a good, solid seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and a great many of us are not getting anywhere near that much.
A chronic insomnia problem can eventually result in serious health problems, including a tendency towards insulin resistance, which can lead to weigh gain, and type 2 diabetes. In addition, insomnia can lead to weight gain through the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin levels are affected by sleep. Studies show that people who sleep five hours or less per night had higher levels of this appetite stimulating hormone, and lower levels of leptin, which is an appetite suppressing hormone.
What causes insomnia?
More things than you can imagine can alter your sleep...
Many of these are common sense things to avoid:
Avoid alcohol before bed as it leads to a restless sleep, despite it's reputation for making you sleepy. Passing out is not a substitute for sleep. Sleep occurs in a series of cycles, including light sleep, REM (rapid eye movement, where dreaming happens), and the deeper levels of sleep. Alcohol disrupts these sleep cycles, you do not get into the deeper levels necessary for a restorative sleep.
Avoid caffeine. Most of us think of caffeine as relatively benign thing, but it is a very powerful central nervous system stimulant. You may think that afternoon cup of coffee, tea or cocoa isn't bothering you, but chances are it is contributing to your problem. Did you know that decaf coffee still has a small amount of caffeine in it?
Caffeine can affect you for up to twelve hours. Watch for hidden sources of caffeine, such as chocolate, medications such as headache medications in particular. Some of these have caffeine as it helps with headaches. Soda can be loaded with caffeine; even some fruit flavored ones, so read labels carefully. Sunkist orange soda has more caffeine than Pepsi. Coffee flavored ice cream has caffeine in it, as does coffee flavored yogurt, over the counter weight control pills, and some herbal stimulants. Lots of food manufacturers are sneaking caffeine into a variety of foods, so start reading labels.Lose weight if this is an issue. Excess weight can cause sleep apnea, which will prevent a good night's sleep.Avoid fluids close to bedtime to avoid the need to get up during the night. You can't sleep if you are getting up to go to the bathroom, plus the light will disrupt your sleep. More on that in a minute.Avoid stimulating TV shows, books and computer games before bedtime. These can keep your brain too active. Better to watch a sitcom, read a relaxing story, and shut off the computer within an hour of bedtime. Avoid working on projects that stimulate your mind during the night. (I am guilty of this!) Try not to do any projects or computer work that keep you thinking too much. I have a habit of writing articles or trying to learn complex computer programs later in the evening, and inevitably my mind won't shut off when I try to go to sleep. Avoid exercise within an hour of bedtime. Exercise early in the day has been shown to help you sleep better at night. Thirty minutes a day is sufficient.
Avoid a too warm room. Temperatures over 70 degrees make it hard to sleep. Keep the bedroom temperature in the mid 60's if you can.Avoid noise. Too much noise naturally will keep you awake. Earplugs may be a solution for you if you have a noisy neighborhood, but with that come risks. I personally would not use earplugs except in case of emergency, and only when other people were present in the house. If you sleep or live alone, you will want to be able to hear fire alarms, prowlers, etc. To me this is an important consideration.
More things to avoid if you suffer from insomnia
Avoid prescription sleeping pills Yes, I am serious. Sleeping pills are occasionally affective for short-term insomnia, but are addictive - which leads to withdrawal symptoms when stopped suddenly after just weeks or months of use. In addition, once the pills are stopped the insomnia is usually much worse.
Avoid tranquilizers. Benzodiazepines (prescription tranquilizers, also called anti-anxiety medication, or anxiolytics) are highly addictive, causing withdrawal symptoms in as little as two weeks of daily use. If you think you sleep poorly now, just try adding tranquilizers into your routine. Chances are you will eventually be very sorry that you did. Some benzodiazepines include Valium, Klonopin and Xanax, among others.
How LIGHT disrupts your sleep
Changes you can make to your sleep environment
Avoid having too much light in the bedroom, and too much bright light late in the evening. Some people find that the light from a television or computer is too stimulating close to bedtime. Try to get off your computer at least an hour before bedtime as the light from it inhibits the production of melatonin. A television is not recommended in the bedroom for those who suffer from insomnia. The light is too disruptive to melatonin production.
It seems that electronic devices such as a TV, VCR, DVD player, stereo and alarm clock all have those little glowing red, green or blue lights on them. Even the presence of a tiny amount of light can disrupt the production of melatonin, the hormone that causes up to fall asleep. However, a RED light is LESS disruptive than a blue or green one, studies have recently shown.
For the best chance of a restful sleep, you need to sleep in complete darkness. This means no light under the door, from outside, or from electronic devises. I know this sounds difficult, but I did it and you can too. It means making some adjustments. Isn't your sleep too important to ignore any possible help?
If you HAVE to have an alarm clock, and prefer a digital one, you can either cover it with fabric, stick it in the closet or put it in the next room. Make sure you can still hear the alarm however!There is a great alternative to a traditional alarm clock that I will tell you about later.
Those lights on the DVD player and cable TV box? You know what I did? I found that if I covered them with a piece of cloth then the remote controls wouldn't work on them, so that was no solution. What I did was take a bottle of black acrylic paint and used a Q-tip to simply black out the light It actually worked! No longer do I have little green glowing lights in my bedroom. The remote controls still work on them just fine. Maybe this will work for you too.
Another huge factor in controlling light is the windows. I tried room darkening shades, heavy drapes, all the usual methods and they all failed. They failed because none of them covered the light that comes in from the top and sides of the window. My solution? I researched this online and found that Ron Loc makes a fabric called Blackout. Jo-Ann Fabrics carries it. I bought enough yardage to cover all my bedroom windows.
I first tried using the fabric behind my curtains, which did not address the light leakage around the edges.What I ended up doing was cutting the fabric to the size that covered the entire window. I attached it to the window frame by using stick on Velcro on the window frame, and sew on Velcro on the fabric. (It will pull off if you try to use stick on Velcro on the fabric itself.) I then attached the fabric to the frame with the Velcro. This solution works for me, but if you are the kind of person who likes to have your bedroom flooded with light during the day, (or simply to open your windows) it will take some adjustment. You will have to either remove the blackout fabric each day, or find a way to secure one corner or the lower portion back away from the window to let the light in. This may not be the way you want to go, and if it isn't, read on- I have the answer for you.There is a fellow online who makes a room-darkening device from Ron Loc Blackout Fabric, that is removable in seconds. You can put it up at night and take it down during the day. It looks like it works like a charm, and if I had the money I would have bought his system myself. His website is ShiftShade.comHis product makes a room pitch black even in daylight. Sounds good to me.
An eye mask may work for you too, if you decide against light blocking fabrics.
Melatonin- The hormone of sleep
How you can help your own melatonin production to help you sleep better
More on melatonin:
Melatonin is produced out of serotonin by the pineal gland. If you are producing inadequate amounts of serotonin, you are likely not producing enough melatonin. (More on serotonin to follow.) If all is going well however, melatonin production increases after sunset, which signals the body it is time for sleep. Levels continue to rise into the evening, reaching a peak between 2 and 4 am. Light plays a key role in the production of melatonin and the regulation of the sleep wake cycle. Melatonin secretion is driven mostly by the amount of light reaching the eyes. A balance of daytime light and night time darkness is required for optimal melatonin production.
Insufficient light exposure during the day can make it impossible for you to produce enough melatonin to help you sleep. This can be a real problem for people who work in an environment where they get little to no natural daylight during the daytime. Make sure that you get as much natural light during the day as you can, even if this means going outside at lunch time, or changing your routine to accommodate your light requirements.
See if this very important cause of insomnia isn't the problem for you.
Insomnia help- some things you may not know
REAL Treatments that help
So now you know what may be causing you to stay awake. Lets talk about other measures you can take to help you sleep.Okay, don't laugh at this first one. It has worked for me many times. Count sheep. Or anything. Just count backwards from 1000. Chances are you won't get too far before you start noticing you are drifting away. This concentration stills the mind of stray and anxious thoughts through the monotony of counting, promoting relaxation.
Books on Insomnia at Amazon - Find help for your insomnia now
Some people recommend white noise or relaxation CDs. A sound machine is a good choice if you like the sounds of the ocean, or waterfalls, or rain.An evening snack (not right at bedtime though!) consisting of a mix of protein and complex carbohydrates can provide enough L-tryptophan needed to produce melatonin. More carbohydrates heavy with a smaller amount of protein is the most effective.What this means is, half a bagel with peanut butter, a few nuts and a piece of fresh fruit, a small piece of turkey or cheese with a few whole grain crackers, etc. No sugar, no cookies, no simple carbs. These cause a quick rise in blood sugar and a crash hours later, resulting in waking you from your sleep. Remember to mix a little protein with a complex carbohydrate to keep your blood sugar stable.
Nutritional and Herbal supplements
A little help from Mother Nature. Momma knows best!
There are a number of nutritional and herbal supplements that can aid in getting you to sleep.
I am going to give you a brief overview of these supplements as more detailed explanations can better be found if you do some research on your own with some of the resources I have listed in the links section.One of the most common supplements people usually try is melatonin. It can be purchased as a supplement in doses from usually 1 - 3 milligrams. With this hormone, however, more is not better. Too much can interrupt sleep. A starting dose of 1 milligram taken a few hours before bed can help you get to sleep. Melatonin supplementation is controversial, in that some studies show it does not really help with insomnia, and others claim it does. It can't hurt to try though. I have used it frequently with good results.
Calcium is a calming nutrient, and a deficiency of it in your diet can certainly contribute to sleep problems. Magnesium is also an important mineral for sleep. Magnesium deficiency can cause anxiety, which absolutely prevents sleep.A poor diet resulting in a lack of B vitamins can also contribute to insomnia. B vitamins are crucial for transmission of nerve electricity, health of nerve cells, heart pulse rate, and so much more. There are many different B vitamins, so the best sources of each will vary. It would be best to look up the foods that contain good amounts of these vitamins and see if you are getting sufficient sources in your diet. Supplementation may be necessary, but take them in the morning, as they can be too stimulating later in the day.
Back to serotonin for a moment. When you are deficient in certain neurotransmitters, you can easily become agitated or angered, experience anxiety or depression, and have sleep trouble. Neurotransmitters are made in the brain from the amino acids we get from foods, and their supply is dependent on the presence of these precursor amino acids.
Your brain makes serotonin from tryptophan and 5HTP. Tryptophan is converted into 5HTP, which is converted into serotonin, which in turn converts into melatonin, the sleep hormone. It is all one big connection and a disruption of this process will occur from poor diet.Do you eat adequate protein rich foods? Meat, chicken, fish, beans, eggs, cottage cheese, or nuts are protein rich foods. Without proper protein intake, the production of these important brain chemicals will be affected in a negative way.
Do you eat a highly processed diet full of sugar, junk food, processed foods and general nutrient deficient garbage? If you do, then you need to change the way you eat to ensure adequate nutrition for essential bodily functions.Now that you understand a little about brain chemistry, I will tell you about some amino acid supplements that can help normalize your brain chemistry, and should allow you a better sleep. The first is 5HTP. You can find this in any vitamin shop. 50 - 150 milligrams of 5HTP at bedtime can help you sleep through the night. I have used it many times myself and it works for me.
Natural Sleep Aids
More help to relax your mind and quiet your thoughts
GABA- Nature's Valium, & Help for Restless Legs Syndrome
If you know that your insomnia results from stress then this next amino acid supplement can work very well for you. GABA is gamma-amino butyric acid, is also referred to as "nature's valium." Valium (a benzodiazepine) was actually developed based upon GABA. GABA is produced by your brain, but can also be purchased as a supplement. GABA is very relaxing, this I can attest to. GABA can be purchased in conjunction with inositol (one of the B vitamins) and other relaxing compounds.
If you know you are troubled by restless legs syndrome, you may be deficient in folate or have iron deficiency anemia. Restless leg sufferers have been shown to have these nutritional deficiencies. Both are easily treated with appropriate supplementation. Have your doctor run an iron and ferritin test to see if you have anemia. Folate is a B vitamin that is essential for normal nerve function. Your doctor can test for this and recommend an appropriate amount of supplementation. Beware however; most doctors are fond of pushing medication to "cure" you of your problem. Although there are medications that are suppose to help RLS, they may have their own set of side effects, and they can be quite freaky!
Some of the stranger side effects, which the commercials for these drugs actually mention, (to my surpise!) are compulsiveness in gambling, eating, and sexual habits. I have read stories of people on these drugs who turned into compulsive gamblers while never having gambled prior to using these drugs. Weird huh? Remember, if you do not address the CAUSE of the problem, and only treat the symptoms, you will never get well. Medication only treats the symptoms, and at a high cost.
More help from Mother Nature's Pharmacy
The very last thing I want to leave you with is herbal supplements geared towards relaxation.
These herbs are relaxing and can be used as a tea (or supplement in pill form) in the evening; Chamomile, valerian, (Just a note- valerian smells like feet..LOL!), hops, catnip, (a party for cats, relaxing for you), or passionflower. A couple more you can try are California poppy root, lime blossom, and kava kava. Kava can cause liver damage in long term use,; so don't drink gallons of it, okay?
You have perhaps heard of aromatherapy? Many essential oils are very relaxing. Make sure you use actual essential oils, which are water-like botanical extracts (and are not actually oily at all), and not fragrance oils, which are synthetic imitations. You just cannot imitate the qualities of essential oils with any lab created synthetic, no matter how nice you think it smells.
There are a lot of companies producing synthetic fragrance oils that claim they work for aromatherapy. Clearly they are lying or clueless. I used to own a natural body care business, creating many products from essential oils, so I know of what I speak. Fragrance oils are usually dirt cheap, and are oily to the feel. Essential oils are watery and never oily, and are much more costly as they are the real thing.
A few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillowcase can help as well, or add some to a warm bath a couple hours before bed. Roman chamomile, neroli, rose, ylang ylang and sandalwood all have relaxing properties. *Just a note* Essential oils are toxic to cats. Their livers have no ability to metabolize them, so please keep them away from cats! The smell of essential oils is usually a disturbance to their ultra sensitive noses as well. Anyone who tells you they are safe for cats is completely clueless and wrong. Don't take the chance.
And that about wraps it up. I do have some sources for products and more information that you can find in the links and books section on Amazon. Take a peek and I wish you much success in your nocturnal sleep quest.
Good night to you.