Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Sleep deprivation places significant stress on the body, releasing the stress hormone cortisol, which can adversely affect overall health.
- Trouble falling asleep
- Waking during the night and having trouble getting back to sleep
- Not feeling refreshed when you wake up
- Feeling tired or falling asleep during the day
Studies have shown that insomnia is responsible for an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, depression, substance abuse, diabetes, heart disease, lowered immunity, poor concentration and even obesity.
- Worry and stress
- Poor sleep patterns
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Factors in your environment (i.e., lumpy mattress, bed companion that snores, flickering street light, etc.)
- Sleep apnea or snoring
- Alcohol can help you go to sleep but can interfere with your sleep cycles
Things You Can Do
Low-blood sugar levels can cause you to wake up after sleeping for only a few hours. If you wake up hungry, try eating a snack at bedtime that consists of protein and carbohydrate to sustain blood sugar levels.
Avoid caffeine, tea, chocolate, guarana and cola. Energy drinks have so much caffeine they can affect your sleep at night even if you drink it in the morning.
Avoid drinking a lot in the evenings so you can avoid getting up during the night to use the bathroom.
A vitamin B complex taken each morning is good for the nervous system. Don’t take it at night as it may be overly stimulating.
Calcium and magnesium are soothing minerals. Taken at night, they can help you sleep.
Having a routine bedtime and getting up at the same time each morning can set up good sleep patterns.
Exercising regularly can help relieve stress and make you tired enough for a good night’s sleep.
A hot shower or bath at bedtime can help you sleep better. The early hours of the morning are when the body reaches its lowest temperature. When the body is heated, the internal thermostat kicks in trying to lower the basal temperature which makes your body think it should be deeply asleep.
Avoid or limit daytime naps to a half an hour.
Warm milk, honey and nutmeg is a traditional remedy that works well because milk contains tryptophan and calcium. Tryptophan converts to the soothing neurotransmitter serotonin, and calcium relaxes the muscles. Honey is soothing and helps the tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier to be converted to serotonin. Nutmeg has a slight sedative effect. Turkey, figs, dates and bananas also contain tryptophan.
According to MayoClinic.org, there are alternative therapies you can try:
Melatonin-An over-the-counter supplement that is marketed as a way to overcome insomnia. The body naturally produces melatonin. It begins releasing it into your bloodstream at dusk and tapers off in the morning.
Valerian-This dietary supplement is sold as a sleep aid because of its sedating effect. People who have used valerian long-term or in high doses have experienced liver damage. When stopping this supplement, it has to be tapered off in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Acupuncture-There is some evidence that acupuncture is beneficial for people suffering from insomnia.
Yoga-Some studies suggest that the regular practice of yoga can improve sleep quality.
Meditation-Studies suggest that meditation, along with conventional treatment, may help improve sleep. Research suggests that mediation can also reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure.
Beim, Mim, N.D. “Insomnia.” Natural Remedies. Laguna Beach: Basic Health Publications, 2014. 206-10. Print.