Remedies for Insomnia
Sleep is an important function of the body. It is not just a state of inactivity – in fact, the body undergoes repair and restoration of its functions during sleep, while growth and metabolism continue as the body is resting from its usual activities. Getting enough sleep, therefore, is important for everyone to maintain good health.
A chronic lack of sleep does not only make us feel drowsy at daytime, but it can also jeopardize our health and safety. Many people make mistakes, forget important tasks, and even get into accidents after missing hours of sleep. A lot of us are not aware of it, but some of our health problems are probably related to the amount of sleep we get every week. These medical problems include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Excessive daytime sleepiness can also put one’s life at risk, especially those who are driving or operating heavy machinery. Mental health problems such as chronic anxiety and depression may also be related to a lack of sleep, which reduces one’s ability to manage stress.
A common sleep problem that people experience at some time in their life is insomnia. People with insomnia have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. They may wake up several times at night or wake up too early in the morning, feeling tired and unrestored. There are many things that can cause insomnia, including stress, changes in sleep schedule, illness and medications, discomfort, depression, and other environmental factors.
How to Beat Insomnia
In most cases, insomnia is a temporary problem that is brought about by anxiety and stress, life events, changes in sleep schedule, and physical discomfort. People with this type of sleep problem can usually improve their sleeping patterns and quality of sleep by following simple sleep hygiene practices such as:
- Trying to sleep at the same time every night.
- Trying to get up at the same time every morning.
- Making the bedroom comfortable for sleeping – dark, cool, and quiet.
- Using the bed just for sleeping (and sex), not for working or watching television.
- Avoiding a heavy meal just before sleeping or late at night.
- Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, or smoking at night or late in the day.
- Getting regular exercise during the day, but not around bedtime.
- Finding a relaxing routine before sleeping, such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or listening to quiet music.
- Managing stress and finding ways to relieve anxiety, such as yoga, meditation, exercise,etc.
Experts also recommend maintaining good health to avoid medical conditions that can affect the quality of sleep. Obesity, for example, can lead to obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that can make one feel sleepy all day long from lack of quality sleep at night. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle can help control weight and maintain well-being.
Many people consult their doctors to obtain prescriptions for sleep medicines when simple measures do not work. Some of the medications doctors prescribe include antidepressants (such as Elavil), benzodiazepines (such as Ativan), other non-benzodiazepine sedatives (such as Ambien and Lunesta), and many more. They may also recommend over-the-counter drugs such as antihistamines for short term use. However, these drugs have a number of side effects such as daytime drowsiness, and may even have the potential for abuse.
Other remedies for insomnia, which many people prefer, include health supplements that are available over-the-counter, and are considered safe and effective when used properly. These health supplements may contain:
- Melatonin, a natural sleep-inducing hormone that may help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Studies indicate that it helps people to fall asleep and enhances the quality of their sleep. Melatonin supplements may be effective in treating jet lag and other sleep disorders. They are considered safe for short-term use. Side effects include daytime sleepiness, headaches, dizziness, and abdominal discomfort.
- Chamomile, an herbal remedy that is traditionally used for its calming effects. It is usually used as a tea drink, but extracts may also be used. It is usually safe and have no side effects, but pregnant and nursing women, as well as people who are allergic to ragweed must avoid using it.
- Valerian root extracts are effective for relieving anxiety and improving sleep problems. It is recommended for older people because it does not affect their mental function. Children with chronic sleep problems and ADHD may also take these supplements. Side effects include upset stomach and headaches.
- Kava, a plant known to belong to the pepper family, has been found to help reduce anxiety and improve sleep in people who experience stress-related insomnia. However, doctors warn that it should not be taken by people who use alcohol or take medications that are metabolized in the liver. It has also been linked to liver damage, so it is best to consult a doctor before using these supplements.
Chronic sleep problems such as insomnia may affect your health and reduce the quality of your life. If you have a trouble sleeping that is not relieved by simple home remedies, consult a doctor for proper evaluation and treatment.
This information should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.
WebMD. An Overview of Insomnia. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/insomnia-symptoms-and-causes
MedicineNet. Sleep. http://www.medicinenet.com/sleep/page7.htm#sleep_aids_prescription_and_otc
WebMD. Sleep Supplements: Melatonin, Valerian, and More.
HelpGuide. Natural Supplements That Work.
Mayo Clinic. Sleep aids: The options.