Tag Archives: sleep apnea

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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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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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