Tag Archives: insomnia

Mature man, eyes open with both hands on alarm clock while checking time, cannot sleep at night from insomnia

What to Do When You Can’t Sleep

While establishing a sleep schedule and routine can help improve your sleep, you may still struggle with occasional bouts of insomnia. If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes of tucking in, don’t stay in bed. Watching the minutes tick by while you lay awake can increase your anxiety, actually making it harder for you to sleep.

Instead of tossing and turning, get out of bed and choose a relaxing activity. Go back to bed when you feel tired. Even if you don’t fall asleep at your regularly scheduled time, try to wake up at your normal hour. Sleeping in can make it harder to fall asleep the following night.

You might consider these relaxing activities to get your sleepiness back:

  • Reading a book
  • Take a walk (outside)
  • Stretching exercises
  • Practice yoga
  • Meditate
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Write

To Nap or Not to Nap?

Napping can be a great way for you to catch up on sleep and increase your performance during the day, but it can also have negative effects. For some people, daytime napping can cause grogginess and nighttime sleep problems. If you have trouble getting enough sleep at night, experiment with naps to decide whether they are helpful for you.

If you do want to try napping, follow a few simple rules to minimize negative effects. Keep your naps short. For most people, 10 to 30 minutes is enough to recharge. Take your naps midmorning or mid-afternoon. Any later, and your nap might interfere with your nighttime sleep.

If you follow these guidelines but still experience grogginess or trouble sleeping at night, napping may not be a good way for you to recharge. Instead, try to get enough sleep at night to keep you going during the day.

Managing Sleep Problems

While occasional insomnia or sleeplessness is normal, some people experience more frequent sleep problems, even when they stick to a sleep schedule and make regular sleep routines. If you find yourself having trouble sleeping or waking up frequently in spite of changes to your sleep routines, talk to your doctor, as these symptoms may be signs of a sleep disorder or other illness.

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Facts, Health

How Not To Lose Sleep Over Hypertension

The part of the nervous system in vertebrates controlling involuntary actions of the smooth muscles, the heart and the glands is called the autonomic nervous system. Sleep alters its functions and initiates certain physiological events important for normal functioning of the body. When there’s a lack of sleep, one of the outcomes is high blood pressure. This worsens the sleep cycle furthermore but let’s take things one at a time. We’ll start with nocturnal blood pressure (BP).

Sleep, or normal sleep makes blood pressure dip. Nocturnal dipping is between 10% and 20% (both in systolic and diastolic) compared to daytime. When blood pressure drops less than 10%, it is considered abnormal. It indicates an increased cardiovascular risk which translates to an approximately 20% greater risk in mortality. The reasons can be the development of chronic kidney diseases and diabetes due to the high blood pressure and may give rise to resistant hypertension, which is: you have grown tolerance to at least three optimally-dosed medications and not being able to keep your blood pressure under control. The other risk is OSA (obstructive sleep apnea, or… snoring), which occurs when you get to breathe less than you need while asleep.

Sleep Duration and Hypertension Statistics

Following are important statistics about how sleep patterns have changed over the years and is having an increasing impact on our day to day lives.

When high blood pressure doesn’t let you sleep

Really? But we thought it’s a lack of sleep that brings high BP. Yes, but also the other way round and that’s what we are actually interested in. It’s chiefly the BP medications that interfere with the sleep patterns; for example, Alpha-blockers (Uroxatral, Cardura, Minipress, Rapaflo etc.) cuts down REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. In case of Beta-blockers like Tenormin and Coreg, they often bring nighttime awakenings and nightmares by blocking melatonin. Over a long span, they can start chronic insomnia.

Those on ACE-inhibitors (Lotensin, Capoten, Vasotec) also run a risk of losing their sleep since these medications cause a hacking, dry cough. These also increases potassium levels in the body and can lead to diarrhea, leg cramps and body ache; all these add up to sleepless nights. Please ask your doctor if you can change into a safer benzothiazepine calcium channel blockers. If you are above 65 years, medicines like Avodart or Proscar shall prove better. Additionally, you must also try sublingual (under-the-tongue) doses of vitaminB12 (1,000 mcg daily) and B6 (200 mg daily) along with Folic acid (800 mcg daily).

Ways to lower blood pressure naturally

Wonders of Nature comes again to rescue! These herbs exhibit blood pressure lowering potential.

  • Garlic: A very effective herb also against hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), it increases nitric oxide production and relaxes smooth muscles. Garlic decreases BP and lipid peroxidation only when it’s needed and not in healthy people. But it does increase levels of vitamins C and E, which are powerful antioxidants that repair you from within.
  • Prickly Custard apple: Use the leaf extract to decrease peripheral vascular resistance and lower an elevated BP.
  • Celery: Mix an equal amount of its juice and honey (8 ounces total) and take it orally, three times a day for one week. It will reduce both systolic and diastolic BP. With vinegar, it relieves dizziness, headaches and shoulder pain that often show up with BP.
  • Green Oat: Replaces antihypertensive medications effectively and improves BP control. However, don’t rush it; ask your doctor to guide you towards tapering down the dose of medications. Don’t worry, the oats shall fill in the place of the medications.

Gaining back a good night’s sleep by fighting hypertension is easier said than done. However, these recommendations will work better if combined with the methods and measures stated in the previous installments. Remember, Hypertension is more of a symptom and a sign of a disorder, not a disorder itself in most of the cases. Once you know how to eliminate the root cause, you cure a lot of other problems also that were troubling you all this time.

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Personal stories, Tips

The Best Natural Remedies for Sleep Disorders

For those of you who are tired -no pun intended- of staring up at the ceiling, hoping that you will eventually fall asleep, I may have some good news for you. First of all, you are definitely not alone. Almost 33 percent of the population suffers from insomnia. True insomnia is characterized by the inability to either fall or stay asleep, or both, consistently for more than a week. For some reason, women are typically more prone to this condition, likely in part due to the fact that we are always thinking, worrying or otherwise engaged mentally. It could also be hormone related in some cases. But as we age, the quality of sleep declines equally in both men and women.

There are many things that are thought to cause insomnia such as chronic stress, a noisy environment, some types of medications, changes in hormone levels, temperature (too hot or too cold), chronic pain and even anxiety about not being able to fall asleep… now that’s ironic! After time, lack of sleep can also cause depression, which only contributes to your insomnia. It truly is a vicious circle and the less sleep you get, the less likely you are to handle the stress that accompanies insomnia, bringing the whole situation back full circle.


Another cause of sleep disturbances is sleep apnea, which is characterized by shallow breathing and or pauses in breathing that can occur 5 to 30 times or more in an hour. During these episodes carbon dioxide builds up, which signals the brain to wake you up, ultimately causing you to be unable to sleep a night without waking numerous times. Almost 18 million people experience sleep apnea in the US alone. Studies also show that sleep apnea can result in high blood pressure and can even lead to inflamed and clogged arteries. You may not even be aware that you have sleep apnea, but when you wake in the morning you may feel exhausted or experience daytime grogginess. Other people can see what is happening, however, and if you are experiencing sleep apnea, you should talk to your doctor as this condition can actually be life threatening. A doctor can test you during a sleep study and determine if you are actually experiencing sleep apnea or if there is some other issue.

The treatment for sleep apnea is typically a continuous positive airway pressure mask (CPAP), which is a mask that is attached to a tube that goes into your throat and blows air to keep your airway open. The success rate is high (90 to 95 percent) but it can be hard to get used to at first. If you have mild symptoms you can also try a dental device that pulls your lower jaw forward in order to create a larger airway. From a natural standpoint, you can also try neti pots or saline drops to treat nasal congestion but you really should see your doctor to make sure you are not at risk for more serious issues. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary and/or helpful.

Medication vs. Natural Remedies

Luckily, I have not been diagnosed with sleep apnea. I have, however, completed three sleep studies, which have determine that for whatever reason, I do not get deep sleep. I actually wake every 20 minutes or so (not that I am aware of this most times.) Prior to these studies, I tried probably close to every natural cure there is for my insomnia. Some were helpful and actually seemed to work for a time, but as I got older and the insomnia got worse, I ended up having to resort to medications. I do however also use some natural remedies that only enhance my sleep and at times, allow me to reduce the medication significantly.


We all produce this hormone naturally after the sun goes down. Darkness triggers our bodies to start pumping out the hormone that regulates our normal sleep/wake cycle. People with insomnia have been shown to have lower melatonin levels. Studies also show that supplemental melatonin can help improve the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. It is also quite good for occasional insomnia brought on by jet lag. I found this remedy to be the most effective of all natural remedies.


This is an amino acid derivative found in green tea. It is known to trigger the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA triggers the major calming neurotransmitters and thus promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety. Studies show however, that the body has difficulty absorbing supplements containing synthesized GABA. Naturopaths and other health professionals therefore typically recommend taking theanine, which the body does easily absorb. It then boosts GABA levels, which help with sleep issues.


This is a chemical made naturally by the body from the amino acid (L-tryptophan), which is a neurotransmitter that is essential for a good night’s sleep. Apparently, 5-Htp is better than L-tryptophan because it can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is another chemical that is made after tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP. Studies show that 5-HTP supplements help raise serotonin levels in the brain, thus helping with insomnia. 5-Htp is also used to enhance mood and decrease appetite so it is not recommended for people already on anti-depressants.


You likely know that magnesium is a mineral from high school science class. It is especially known to help with muscle and nerve functions. It is also great for your heart and immune system, and it is often combined with calcium because it is good for keeping your bones strong and healthy. Because lack of magnesium is known to inhibit nerve cell communication, it can lead to cell excitability, which results in nervous stress. Studies show that magnesium is helpful for reducing this anxiety, which helps calms the body and improve sleep quality and nighttime awakenings.


This herb to known to help reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have done studies that show that valerian has certain sedative properties, and it may increase the amount of GABA in the brain.


There are many natural supplements that actually combine some or all of the above. Like me, you may just have to go through various products to see which ones work best for you. But, with any natural product, you should talk to your doctor first before taking them as some can interact with certain medications. There really is no one ‘cure all’ for insomnia, but before resorting to medications, taking the natural route may be effective and save you from the side effects that often come with prescription or over the counter medications.

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Health, Herbal

How To Improve Sleep With Amino Acids

People all around the world struggle with sleep deficiency or sleep disorders and don’t even know it. We all wish we had more hours in the day to get an hour or two of extra sleep and some of us wish we could get on a normal sleep cycle without any sleep disturbance. But what if it isn’t the amount of hours you sleep each night that makes the biggest difference, but how much quality or REM (rapid eye movement) cycles you get? And how do you go about getting more? According to the European Sleep Research Society (ESRS) more than 10% of people exhibit sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and REM. In the United States, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention call Americans’ lack of sleep a national epidemic.

People have a tendency to turn to drugs for insomnia; a quick fix to a seemingly temporary but often longstanding problem. The problem is that sleeping medications are often addictive or leave you with a groggy sleeping pill hangover the next day. Alternatives to sleeping pills do exist but many people don’t know the first place to look. Instead they turn to caffeine, which seems to be the drug of choice for so many people who want to be productive at work or home. Unfortunately, chemically forcing your body to stay awake is a vicious cycle which can lead to severe sleep disorders and increase your risk of numerous chronic diseases.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein which make up twenty per cent of the human body. When we consume protein, our gastrointestinal tract breaks it down then puts it back together again through a body process known as biosynthesis. Since this transformation occurs several times per day, we must fuel our body with amino acids from food or supplements to keep muscles strong and our brain healthy.


5-HTP (short for 5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a chemical compound naturally created from tryptophan to produce the feel-good hormone, serotonin. Although it is primarily used as an antidepressant alternative, it is highly regarded as an effective treatment for insomnia and anxiety. Although studies show 5-HTP is effective for depression and anxiety, there is no clinical evidence supporting its use for insomnia. However, some supplements for insomnia used to treat various sleep disorders do contain 5-HTP, since many holistic practitioners believe that by reducing anxiety or depressive symptoms, you will also improve sleep. Some sleep aid supplements actually contain 5-HTP along with other amino acids or herbs to put you to sleep quickly and safely.


L-theanine helps transmit nerve signals to the brain and is a common supplement for anxiety and insomnia. It is also recommended for people with neck pain from stress or tension as well as those who have trouble winding down. Since it is a milder natural sedative, it is only recommended for people with mild insomnia. One study in 2011 found that a daily dose of 400mg of l-theanine safely and effectively improved certain aspects of sleep quality of young boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Green tea is also a great source of l-theanine, although you cannot get the same amount as you would get from a supplement. A study in Japan found that l-theanine effectively improved sleep quality for 200 volunteers who took 200mg daily. They found that although the volunteers didn’t sleep longer, they felt much more refreshed as if they had slept several extra hours! The general dose is 100-200mg per day, but it is always best to start with the lowest dose to see how your body reacts, then build up your dose if you need to.


L-tryptophane is an amino acid that naturally makes people sleep. Most of us know that turkey contains l-tryptophane which is why we get sleepy from eating it. But did you know that there is actually more l-tryptophane in chicken than turkey? Of course, an l-tryptophane supplement will supply you with more amounts than you will get from food and will provide this amino acid to those who don’t eat meat. One study conducted in 1979 found that 3 gms l-tryptophane helped put insomniacs to sleep whereas 1gm didn’t do anything. The conclusions of this study find that l-tryptophane is an effective hypnotic.

Adding these amino acids to your diet will likely help you fall asleep and improve your sleep quality. If you want to start slowly, adding them to your diet is as simple as blending a smoothie. Since many of nutritional protein supplements contain these amino acids, you can simply add a scoop to your favorite recipe for a nutritious shake that will also help you sleep. Superfood greens usually also contain these amino acids which you can add to smoothies or taken with apple juice or water. Whether you choose to take daily amino acid supplements or would rather eat them, your sleepless nights and groggy days can become a thing of the past with just a few simple changes to your daily regimen!

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Facts, Health

How Insomnia Impacts Your Health

In an earlier post we explained how sleeping issues have an impact on the people around us and society in general. But from a personal health standpoint, sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss are associated with: diabetes, heart diseases and high blood pressure. In fact, according to numerous studies, if you suffer from insomnia, a disorder characterized by trouble both falling and staying asleep—you have a 90 percent chance of also having a secondary health issue.

Insomnia, the natural fat

As an added bonus, lack of sleep can also make you fat—literally. Studies now show that too many sleepless nights can increase your appetite and hunger levels. A 2004 study revealed that people who get less than six hours sleep a night are close to 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who’ve slept even one hour more. The study showed that: “Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin,” the peptides that regulate appetite. So all of you late-night bingers, rest assured; there really is a reason for your insatiable 3 am hunger. And of course, this hunger isn’t for the food that is actually good for us. We crave fattening, high-carb snacks as we search the cupboards in our zombie-like states. Chips, candies, ice cream, chocolate… anything to fill that late night or early-morning hunger. Enough studies have now made this correlation that a recommendation for 7-9 hours sleep may be part of all weight loss regimes.

Deprivation causes Frustration

It also stands to reason that continued lack of sleep can lead to frustration and eventually depression. I get that. But apparently, insomniacs are actually five times more likely to develop depression than people who actually sleep. And this can easily become a vicious cycle: less sleep can heighten depression and deeper depression can cause more sleepless nights.

Another obvious effect of lack of sleep is that it can affect our sense of judgment. When you are exhausted, it becomes increasingly harder to see things clearly. Whether we believe we are functioning well or not, studies show that people who get even as much as 6 hours sleep perform worse on mental alertness and physical performance tests compared to people who get 7-9 hours of shut eye every night.

And for all of you women (and men) who are worried about the inevitable signs of aging, people who suffer from lack of sleep show just that, marked signs of aging such as sallow skin and puffy eyes even after just a few sleepless nights. For you chronic insomniacs, sleep loss can lead to those horrible dark circles under your eyes that even the best concealer can’t hide. Your skin will also lack that youthful luster, not to mention the growing number of fine lines and eventual deep wrinkles that seem to come out of nowhere. This is due in part to the stress hormone cortisol, which can break down your skin’s collagen that keeps your skin smooth and elastic.


Lack of sleep can be especially serious for younger people since too little sleep causes the body to release too little human growth hormone (HGH). As we get older, HGH helps to increase muscle mass, thicken the skin, and strengthen our bones. And this hormone is only released during deep sleep, a type of sleep insomniacs rarely get.

Another issue caused by lack of sleep is lowered libido. While this is easy to understand, when you’re exhausted, sleep is all you can think about, this will probably not bode well for your partner, or your ego for that matter, however.
While all of this is bad enough, if you are getting 5 or fewer hours of sleep a night, a 2007 study shows that you are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease. In fact, you have essentially doubled your risk of death from ALL causes. Yikes!

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Close up of a tired guy.

The Real Cost of a Sleepless Night

You know when the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) states that sleep disorders have become a national health epidemic that the issue is probably pretty serious. For those of you who are part of this ‘epidemic,’ you know the toll that countless sleepless nights can take on you, both physically and mentally. But that is only part of the real cost of sleepdisorders according to several new studies. The issue has become so widespread that employers are now able to put an actual dollar amount on the negative effects caused by their exhausted employees. And overall, it’s in the millions!

Sleep Disorders And Nuclear Meltdowns

While many people can have a few nights of interrupted sleep here and there and cope just fine, it’s those of us who suffer with the curse of chronic insomnia and other sleep-related disorders that truly understand how seriously lack of sleep does affect us.
Did you know that sleep deprivation was actually a factor in the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island? What if I were to tell you that the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl was also related to lack of sleep? How about the horrific Exxon Valdez oil spill that killed close to 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, close to 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs according to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council? Yup, you guessed it. Lack of sleep coupled with an excessive workload was stated as the cause behind why the third mate failed to properly maneuver the huge vessel. While there were other factors involved, it is actually sad that just a little sleep could have possibly prevented this unfathomable disaster.

Lack of sleep is also the cause of close to 100,000 car accidents in the US every year. And surprisingly it’s people under the age of 25 who are more likely to cause these accidents. Studies have proven that drowsiness behind the wheel can slow your reaction time as much as if you were drinking. The difference is that the majority of people who know they are drunk don’t get behind the wheel. We don’t hesitate in most cases if we are tired, which is pretty scary when you think of the consequences.

Drowsy Drivers Road Sign

How Sleep Disorder Affects Your Memory

Lack of sleep also affects your ability to pay attention. It can also severely affect your ability to stay alert and concentrate. Reasoning and problem-solving abilities decline significantly with lack of sleep. For students, this can make learning more difficult, especially since many of the different sleep cycles we are supposed to undergo, help us to “consolidate” memories, meaning if you don’t get enough sleep, you will have a very hard time remembering what you learned or experienced during the day.

In 2009, researchers showed that specific brain events called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for this memory consolidation. These ripples also transfer any information we may have learned from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep… sleep that insomniacs and others who suffer from various sleep disorders rarely get.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons


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Health, Tips

How to get rid of your Chronic Sleep Problems once and for all

Everyone suffers from occasional sleep problems, like insomnia or poor sleep quality. However, if you’re someone who regularly has trouble getting a good night’s rest, you may have a sleep disorder and need special treatment. There are many common disorders that may be interrupting your sleep. While some may be serious, and even life threatening, they are all treatable or manageable. If you suspect you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.

Commonly, doctors will refer patients to specialists for diagnosis and treatment of sleep problems. These specialists will first ask you questions about your sleep and then may refer you for further testing. Sleep specialists commonly have patients undergo a sleep study, during which you would spend the night in a laboratory while diagnosticians monitor your sleep. You can help your medical team by making notes on your sleep (for example, the number of hours and quality of sleep) before your appointment.

Once diagnosed, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medications, medical devices, or other therapy. Treatments vary depending on your diagnosed condition and the severity of your sleep problems.

Common Sleep Disorders

Insomnia: Although most people associate insomnia with difficulty falling asleep, it can also refer to waking during the night or poor sleep quality. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder and can be a symptom of other problems, such as anxiety, depression, or a physical condition. Although medications can help in the short-term with insomnia, in most cases, the best long-term treatments are lifestyle changes to improve your sleep.

Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a disorder in which you stop breathing briefly during sleep because your airways become blocked. These interruptions cause you to wake up frequently, although many people do not remember waking. Sleep apnea can lead to feelings of exhaustion or fatigue during the day, as well as irritability, depression, and decreased productivity. Symptoms include loud snoring, pauses in breathing, gasping or choking, and waking with shortness of breath, headaches, or a dry throat.

Narcolepsy: This sleep disorder involves excessive daytime sleepiness, which often results in falling asleep at inappropriate times. Symptoms include intense dreams, dreaming immediately upon falling asleep, losing muscle control, or feeling paralyzed while falling asleep or waking up.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS): This disorder causes an irresistible urge to move your legs or arms. You may feel uncomfortable sensations that are often worse at night or while seated.

Circadian rhythm disorders: Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by circadian rhythms, which release hormones for sleeping and waking. These rhythms may be disrupted by jet lag, irregular or rotating work schedules, or a condition called delayed sleep phase disorder, all of which can be managed.

If you experience severe symptoms, like extreme sleep deprivation, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Severe sleep problems may be signs of a medical condition or may lead to serious complications.


The most medications prescribed for sleep are used to treat insomnia or circadian rhythm disorders. Medications like Ambien and Lunesta are taken right before bed and can help you fall and stay asleep. Caution should be taken when using sleeping pills to treat these disorders. If you use them daily or over the long-term, you may become dependent on them for sleep. Prescription medications are best used on an as-needed, short-term basis, while other treatments, such as lifestyle changes, can help in the long term.

Sleeping pills should only be used when you have enough time for a full eight hours of sleep. Do not drive or drink alcohol while using a sleeping pill.

Although medications are most commonly prescribed for insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders, some other conditions can be treated with prescriptions. For example, doctors may prescribe stimulants or other medications to treat narcolepsy, while dopamine agonists are most commonly prescribed for restless leg syndrome. Medications are sometimes, but not often, prescribed to treat sleep apnea.

Breathing Machine

For moderate to severe sleep apnea, doctors might prescribe the use of a breathing machine, such as a continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) device. A CPAP increases air pressure into your airways, helping you breathe more easily and avoid awakening. The CPAP comes with a mask that covers either your nose and mouth or just your nose. It may take time to become adjusted to sleeping with the mask on and your doctor can give you suggestions for making the adjustment. A CPAP machine is the most common treatment for people with sleep apnea and has been shown effective at improving sleep quality and reducing daytime sleepiness.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

For people who suffer from insomnia, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) may also be an effective treatment. CBT is a psychotherapy that focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors that have a negative impact on your sleep. This structured program may include keeping a sleep diary to track your problems and progress.

Your CBT therapist may try a variety of techniques with you, ranging from improving your sleep hygiene to learning relaxation skills. This therapy is usually short-term, ranging from a few weeks to a few months. Sometimes CBT is combined with medications.

Lifestyle Changes

For many people, making simple lifestyle changes can dramatically help improve their sleep quality. If you have trouble sleeping at night, try these strategies to improve your rest. First, set a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Make a relaxing sleep environment that is dark, quiet, and a comfortable temperature. Invest in cozy bedding and good pillows.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine in the hours before bed, as these can reduce your sleep quality. Also avoid large meals within two hours of going to sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep within 20 minutes of crawling into bed, get back up and do something relaxing until you feel tired.

For many sleep problems, these and other lifestyle changes may be the best long-term solution. Talk to your doctor or a sleep therapist about all your treatment options for your sleep problems.


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Health, Tips

The effect of Vitamin D on your sleep

It is always a good idea to have your vitamin D levels checked, especially if you notice you have insomnia, gained weight, have strange muscle aches or joint pain, are often tired during the day, need several caffeinated drinks to function or are having symptoms of depression. People in the medical community often don’t recognize the link between depression and lack of vitamin D and instead of focusing on vitamin deficiencies, will prescribe drugs to treat depressive symptoms or insomnia. Since depression can play a major role in sleep disorders, vitamin D can help several symptoms along the same spectrum. When we don’t get enough good quality sleep, there is no question that your physical body, mood and entire well-being suffers. Lack of REM sleep can lead to serious health conditions including hypertension, heart disease, cancer and stroke.

If you have enough vitamin D in your body and you keep your bedroom completely dark, you will produce melatonin while you sleep. It is important to keep the tv or computer off, since studies have found even a small amount of light disrupts your body’s natural ability to produce melatonin. Melatonin helps your body go into REM or the stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement; it is during this stage that you will have the most dreams and your body’s natural healing processes can begin. Since vitamin D helps the body produce melatonin, there is no need for melatonin supplements if you are getting enough vitamin D.

People think that we get sufficient amounts of vitamin D from the sun, but the truth is many people don’t. If you work indoors you probably don’t get enough sun for your body to produce this often underestimated but so important hormone. If you tend to be more of a night owl, you also might be at risk of having low vitamin D levels. Or maybe you are on a dairy-free or vegan diet, which limits the amount of vitamin D from foods since egg yolks, meat and dairy contain some amounts of vitamin D but not nearly enough for for your daily intake. To get your intake from the sun, you have to sit outside for half the time it takes before you begin to burn and with all of the risks from too much sun exposure, many people would rather go for the supplements. The darker your skin is, the more likely you will need a vitamin D supplement, since melanin reduces the amount of vitamin D your body produces and the older you are, the slower the body gets at producing what it needs.

Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol is the best supplement to take and comes from lanolin (wool grease) or fish organs. The supplements come in capsule and tablet form, and either as an oil or in a vegetable base. In order to properly absorb vitamin D, you have to be eating a well-balanced diet with sufficient amounts of magnesium and vitamin K. You can find vitamin K1 in green leafies like kale, chard, spinach or wheatgrass. Vitamin K2 comes from proteins, especially liver, eggs and hard cheese. Sure, your body will produce vitamin D if you’re outdoors on a sunny day and fully exposed, like you are on the beach, however you would need to do this daily for the amount of time it takes for your skin to turn half a shade darker or pink, whichever comes first. However, the time involved in going to the beach daily with perfect weather conditions is just not realistic for most people. Eating magnesium-rich foods like legumes, broccoli, nuts and avocados will also help prevent leg cramps and headaches some experience when first starting vitamin D supplementation. Magnesium also helps to balance your calcium levels which is good for your heart.

There are numerous reports and testimonials online by people who swear that supplementing with vitamin D3 helps them to sleep deeper, longer and feel well-rested each day. It takes time for your body’s levels to adjust to your final dosage so don’t expect immediate results. Its also a good idea to take the vitamin D3 in the morning, since it temporarily cuts off melatonin production; this way, once its time for you to sleep, your body can produce melatonin at optimal levels.

The FDA recommends a vitamin D daily requirement of 400-800IU per day; a fairly low range adequate enough for good sleep and low enough to avoid accidental vitamin D overdose. Too much vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia, which can result in constipation, kidney stones and bone pain. Symptoms of hypercalcemia include excessive thirst and increased urination. Its best to talk to your doctor first about taking the vitamin D test, also known as the 25(OH)D level test to see where your levels fall. This way you can determine what dosage you need since everyone absorbs vitamin D differently and some may need more than others. For those without health insurance, The Vitamin D Council offers tons of up-to-date information about vitamin D as well as vitamin D testing for a fee less than a doctor’s visit.

Who knew that vitamin D could really have that much of an effect on sleep and sleep disorders? If you haven’t tried it yet, its definitely something worth looking into. The power of a good night’s rest does not have to be a daydream anymore; with vitamin D you could likely turn that dream into reality.

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