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from Insomnia - Here's What To Do
Yourself with These Three Approaches
Everybody's likely to experience
insomnia sometime - so you might as well prepare yourself now so that when it happens to you, you're all
ready and you won't 'lose sleep over it.'
After all, not being able to sleep is a lonely experience. There you are in the dark, and even if someone else is
sleeping next to you, they can't help you. So the longer you can't sleep, the more likely you are to feel, not just
frustrated, but isolated as well.
But you're not really alone in your misery:
37% of U.S. adults reported insomnia or sleep difficulties in
the previous 12 months.
20-40% of all adults have insomnia
in the course of any year.
1 out of 3 people have insomnia at some point in their
Over half of those over the age of 65 experience
Women are twice as likely as men to have difficulty
Pregnancy can worsen sleep patterns, as can
hormone changes and
menopause. (2008 [US]. Princeton, NJ; Consumer Health Sciences; June2008.)
Still, that's not very comforting. What is wanted is not companionship in misery, but
the sweet relief of
Many people are reluctant to turn to the choice advertisers promote
-prescription drugs. There's the hangover problem in the morning to start with, and then there's all those
chemicals. Currently the most popular one is Ambien -its active ingredient is Zolpidem tartrate in a tablet with
other chemicals: hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, lactose (milk sugar), magnesium stearate, micro-crystalline
cellulose, polyethylene glycol, sodium starch glycolate and titanium dioxide. The 5 mg tablet also contains a
chemical food die and colorant, FD&C Red No. 40, iron oxide colorant and polysorbate 80.
Then there are the side effects. The list includes: allergy, daytime drowsiness,
dizziness, drugged feeling, headache, indigestion, nausea, unusual changes in thinking and/or behavior and memory
loss, including 'traveler's amnesia' when taken for an overnight flight of less than 7-8 hours. Older adults are
cautioned that they may be more apt to fall, and people with breathing problems may notice worsening of
symptoms.Discontinuing too rapidly may provoke withdrawal symptoms including vomiting and cramps.
Is ingesting this chemical soup and being exposed to these side effects the only way
to get a decent night's sleep? Absolutely not. People have been using non-chemical, yet effective sleep aids
probably since the world began.
Here are some approaches to deal with insomnia that are free of side effects and/ or
chemicals. As you consider them, we suggest you identify what kind of sleep disturbance you've needed help with in
the past, and select/ have on hand some of these way to deal with it before it happens again. Loosing sleep is no
laughing matter - that's when your body heals, renews, refreshes and
rebuilds. Miss too much sleep and your body will literally fall apart.
1. Reverse Sympathetic
Just like every human, you have two parts to your nervous
One is the voluntary part - it responds to your commands, such as
to pick up a pencil or a glass of water, for example. The other is
the involuntary part - it runs your body without your having to
think about it. It makes you breathe automatically, makes your
heart beat, processes food through your metabolic cycle, handles
elimination. This second, involuntary part has two modes of
operation, and this is the part that can make for trouble falling
asleep or even a whole sleepless night or series of them.
The two parts of your automatic, or involuntary nervous system are
called sympathetic and parasympathetic. In the first, the
sympathetic, your body's geared for an emergency. It's putting out
the signal to man the lifeboats, or to run from the lion. It puts
all your available energy into your survival systems - increasing
your heart rate, pumping lots of blood through your system to get
the resources into your muscles.
But sweet sleep doesn't come from that system, it comes from the
parasympathetic system, which is the automatic rest, recover,
repair and heal mode. And it doesn't matter what your conscious
brain is saying... you can give thousands of orders to your body to
go to sleep... if the sympathetic system is activated for whatever
reason, you can lie in the dark all night and your automatic system
is still acting as if it should run from the lion.
What this means is that if you want to sleep, you need to find and
eliminate the causes of sympathetic dominance. One of the most
effective and immediate ways to do this is to consume minerals that
leave an alkaline ash when metabolized, because those are the
minerals the nervous system uses in the recovery phase after firing.
Say you've had a particularly stressful day and you can feel your
nerves are on edge. It may be many hours since your last cup of
coffee or caffeine tea, but you feel like you've just had some.
That's the time to replenish those particular minerals - otherwise
you might just be looking at a sleepless night.
These minerals are readily available in kelp and alfalfa, and can
be taken as a tea. We also use MinTran (a Standard Process
product) because it contains exactly those minerals. Get them into
your circulation and you can actually feel your body calming down,
your breathing deepen, your heart rate slow as you enjoy a big sigh
2. Reduce/ Eliminate Circulating
When you're stressed, even if it's a wonderful stress, your
circulates an adrenal hormone called cortisol. If sympathetic
dominance is the involuntary priority list of your body, then
cortisol is the messenger that circulates the orders to keep
manning the lifeboats and running from the lion. It doesn't take a
rocket scientist to figure out that sleep is likely to remain
elusive with lots of cortisol circulating. The solution, of
course, is to break down the cortisol right away, and get the
levels down so your body quits getting those hormonal orders. This
job falls to your liver.
Supplements that aid this process so it can be carried out quickly
include Magnesium, Omega 3 fatty acids and certain food enzyme
products that help the liver break it down.
3. Keep Sleep-Promoting Herbs on
Certain herbs carry a reputation for promoting relaxation and
sleep. Some of these are available as drops, as pills or as teas.
Before you purchase a supply, be sure to check and make sure they
are suitable for your unique situation, including whether or not
you are pregnant or lactating or whether they might interact with
any other medications/ supplements you are taking.
RNA - If your insomnia
might be due to jet lag or an otherwise
disturbed diurnal cycle, consider giving your brain the exact
nutrition it needs to reset your diurnal cycle quickly and easily.
The handy part of using this supplement is that if it's daytime and
you're feeling tired, you can take 4 or 5 to help you wake up and
get with the daytime program. And if you can't sleep, you're wide
awake and it's night time, 4 or 5 will help your brain realize it's
time to sleep. It's not a sedative or hypnotic - instead, it's
feeding your brain what it needs to reset itself to be in synch
with the rhythms of day and night as they're actually occurring.
Here are a few of the time-tested herbal favorites:
Chamomile - excellent for
promoting sleep, very soothing to the
nerves, helps transform restlessness and irritability into calm and
Valarian - is the herbal
model for later anti-anxiety medications
such as Librium and Valium. It works on the nervous system
especially at the juncture where the nerves fire into the muscles.
Thus it promotes muscle relaxation, and therefore is especially
helpful when inability to sleep is related to restlessness.
Hops - has a long history
of being used to promote sleep - even put
in pillows. Especially good for insomnia due to nerve weakness and
California Poppy - is
considered to be the 'go to' herb
practitioners use for nerve pain. Therefore it is the perfect herb
when sleeplessness is the result of nervous overstimulation,
anxiety and pain.
Lavender - is considered to
be a strengthening tonic for the
nervous system, and a stronger nervous system is able to adjust
more easily from 'run from the lion mode' to 'rest, recover and
flower - especially helpful when sleeplessness is
result of overwork and nervous exhaustion.
Kava kava - Used especially
throughout the South Seas, including
Fiji, as a sedative to promote sleep and dreaming.
Skullcap - There are two
kinds of Skullcap. American Skullcap
(Scutellaria lateriflora) has been used since the founding of the
United States to promote relaxation and sleep. Chinese Skullcap
(Scutellaria baicalensis) is also used to reduce nervousness,
distress and irritation.
St. John's Wort -has been
helpful to people with chronic insomnia
when related to depression and possible low serotonin levels.
As you get your sleep difficulties in order, you will be
contributing to a better world for everyone, and you will also be
contributing to lower health care costs. It's estimated that sleep
problems cost hundreds of billions of dollars every year in doctor
visits alone, and that's not counting all the costs from lower
productivity, motor vehicle accidents and failed relationships.
Pamela Levin, R.N., is a Teaching and Supervising
Transactional Analyst in private practice over 40 years. She draws on over 500 post graduate hours in clinical
nutrition, herbology and applied kinesiology along with a network of experts in various health fields to offer the
content provided in Better Health Bytes.
Pamela Levin, R.N.
March 12, 2012
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