By Frank Tabino | Category: Natural Remedies, Natural remedies for health, Natural supplements, SLEEP AIDS
Not getting enough sleep can make your life miserable. Just ask anyone who suffers from insomnia. And if you suffer from sleepless nights on a regular basis, you’re not alone. Sleeplessness is a big problem in America. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) 2008 Sleep in America Poll, nearly 65% of the American population report having insomnia at least a few nights weekly. Insomnia related costs in the U.S. are approximately $100 billion each year in medical costs and lower productivity. In the U.S., as many as 100,000 automobile accidents and 1,500 deaths from these accidents are caused by sleepiness. A review of Department of Transportation records indicates that a large percentage of the people involved in these accidents were taking prescription sleeping medications.
There is no doubt that chronic insomnia is frustrating, however, current research is uncovering evidence linking insomnia to serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression and the latest health concern to be linked to insomnia is obesity. That’s right; not getting enough sleep can make you fat. The 2008 Sleep in America Poll indicates that nearly 75% of insomniacs are overweight and 50% of that group is obese. In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at the University of Chicago found that individuals who do not get adequate sleep are more likely to develop calcium deposits in the wall of their coronary arteries. When Calcium accumulates at the site of arterial damage it contributes to the growth and hardness of lesions that will ultimately result in the formation and buildup of plaque.
Insomniacs are more likely to suffer mood disturbances and experience problems with interpersonal relationships. According to NSF, 40% of people with insomnia also had a psychiatric disorder; 70% of people with depression experience insomnia and as many as 25% of people with anxiety disorders also experience insomnia. Alcohol and substance abuse, and sedatives, play a role in an estimated 10 to 15 percent of chronic insomnia.
Sleep is Essential to Health
Have you ever noticed that people who don’t sleep well are always catching a cold or the flu? That’s no accident – sleep is essential to the immune system. Without adequate sleep, the immune system becomes weak, and the body becomes more vulnerable to infection and disease. When you sleep, your body enters a highly important phase of internal healing and rebuilding. Sleep is a time of rest and repair to neurons of your brain and central nervous system. Neurons are the freeways of the nervous system that carry out both voluntary commands, like moving your arm, and involuntary commands, like breathing and digestive processes. New research is uncovering evidence that restful sleep can improve memory and cognitive function.
Nutritional status plays an important part in beating insomnia. Any one of a number of vitamin or mineral deficiencies can initiate a cascade of biochemical events that will prevent you from sleeping. Check your diet for deficiencies that are linked to insomnia.
Prescription drugs should be a last resort effort and shouldn’t be thought of as a cure for insomnia. These drugs are addictive and long term use should be avoided. It is very easy to become dependent on these drugs, and once you are you won’t be able to sleep at all without them.
There is intriguing indirect evidence to support the possibility that lowered blood levels of certain fats may result in behavioral disturbances including insomnia. Rapid lowering of blood lipids by statin (cholesterol-lowering) drugs is associated with a large number of psychiatric disorders. Both cholesterol lowering therapies and low cholesterol levels, achieved through diet, have been associated with an increased risk of suicide; the prevailing theory holds that inadequate levels of cholesterol reduces levels of serotonin, a neuro-transmitter that is essential for mood stability and sleep.
Drug and diet therapies to lower cholesterol also alter essential fatty acid levels and there is a growing body of evidence suggesting an association between essential fatty acids and serotonin. If you don’t already supplement with omega III fish oil, you must begin immediately. There is significant scientific evidence linking a deficiency of omega III essential fatty acids to depression, cognitive function, memory, insomnia and developmental dysfunction in children. Adding high-DHA fish oil to your diet can be an important step in normalizing sleep. Your brain is comprised of fat and a high percentage of that fat is DHA. High DHA fish oil is brain food.
L-Tryptophan Essential Amino Acid
One of the best nutritional therapies for insomnia is L-tryptophan, one of eight essential amino acids found in the human diet. Essential amino acids are those that cannot be made in the body and therefore must be obtained from food or supplements. L-tryptophan plays a vital role in the body but by far the most important function of l-tryptophan is as a precursor to serotonin, an important neurotransmitter essential to balanced mood and sleep. Inadequate levels of serotonin can cause insomnia, depression and weight gain resulting from uncontrollable “emotional” eating. Remember, l-tryptophan is the only normal dietary raw material for serotonin synthesis in the brain and the reason supplemental l-tryptophan works so well for insomnia is that many people are sorely deficient in this important amino acid.
In any normal diet l-tryptophan is the least plentiful of all amino acids. A typical diet provides only 1,000 to 1,500 mg/day of l-tryptophan. This may sound like a lot but there is a lot of competition in the body for this small amount of l-tryptophan. Aside from being a vital component for the production of serotonin, l-tryptophan is used to make other amino acids and protein structures in the body. In people with low-to-moderate intakes of vitamin B3(niacin), l-tryptophan may be used to make B3 in the liver at the astounding ratio of 60mg l-tryptophan to make just 1mg of vitamin B3
Supplemental l-tryptophan results in an almost immediate increase in serotonin, which is the primary neurotransmitter involved in sleep. In those people with low serotonin levels, l-tryptophan supplementation has been shown to help establish and maintain healthy levels, which will help to improve mood and reduce stress and improve sleep patterns. In those people with serotonin levels already within the normal range, tryptophan supplementation acts as a natural sleep aid, not only helping people fall asleep, but also helping them stay asleep throughout the night and wake without grogginess.
Experts agree that tryptophan can be a safe and effective sleep aid when added to your diet as a supplement. Supplementing your diet with tryptophan may mean a more restful night’s sleep, a brighter mood, and a host of other benefits. In a study published in the Journal Obesity, increasing the tryptophan levels in blood plasma resulted in an appetite-suppressing effect that mainly impacted carbohydrate consumption. Researchers concluded that the supplemental tryptophan could enhance the release of serotonin from brain neurons to diminish appetite for carbohydrates, which helps with loss of body weight.
Recommendations and natural insomnia remedies:
First of all, take a close look at your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene can be defined as the behavioral and environmental factors that precede sleep and may interfere with sleep. In fact, your insomnia may be nothing more than a result of poor sleep hygiene. Here are ten tips to improve your sleep hygiene:
- Establish a sleep schedule. This involves setting a regular bedtime and wake-up time and making every attempt to stick to it, including on the weekends. This will help to set the body’s clock in a way that will make nighttime sleep deeper and more consistent.
- Get regular exercise during the day. You should exercise at your personal level. Regular exercise can stimulate the endocrine system to make stress relieving and calming hormones called endorphins. Exercise during the day. Exercising in the evening may impede your sleep. Leave 5-6 hours between exercise and bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day or at night.
- Avoid taking naps in the afternoon, especially after 3:00 PM.
- Eat dinner at least 2 to 3 hours before your scheduled bedtime.
- Follow a routine to help relax and wind down before sleep, such as reading a book, listening to music, or taking a bath.
- Drink a cup of herbal tea before bedtime. Chamomile tea is my favorite; however there are some very good herbal blends available that contain chamomile along with calming herbs such as valerian and lemon grass.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, a fan, or a “white noise” machine to cover up the sounds.
- If you can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes or don’t feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not too active until you feel sleepy. Then try going back to bed.
- Use your bed for sleep only, not reading or watching television.
Nutritional Support for Insomnia
Start taking 1500mg of high DHA fish oil. If you are already taking a fish oil product, check the label for the amount of DHA in the product. You’ll need to get about 1000mg of DHA daily. If your fish oil doesn’t meet these criteria, try the ProDHA by Nordic Naturals, specifically formulated for the brain and central nervous system. Take two Pro DHA softgels, three times daily.
L-Tryptophan works so well because many of us do not have adequate amounts of this essential amino acid. Take 2-3 capsules (500mg) of L-Tryptophan before bedtime.
If you still have problems falling asleep, here’s a sure-fire method to get you some zzz’s. It works for me when I’m experiencing an occasional sleepless period. I take a Chinese herbal complex called Sed-8. You can order this product by calling toll-free 1-(866) 866-3320. There are no side effects and I’ve seen immediate results using Sed-8 as a stand-alone therapy for occasional insomnia. You won’t wake up feeling like a zombie. Take 3-4 Sed-8 tablets about one hour before bedtime. Then take 2-3 L-Tryptophan about thirty minutes before bedtime.