Time to revisit this topic again because it is so vital to staying in good health. Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep) is a worldwide problem and is the number one reason why you may not age with quality.
Seven to nine hours of quality sleep is critical to repair your body and mind. Here’s how it is supposed to work: From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. your body makes physiological repairs and from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. it makes psychological repairs. During sleep, melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland during sleep. It is a powerful antioxidant, reduces stress, regulates other hormones, protects organs, lowers blood pressure, and maintains the body’s circadian rhythms. The darker your bedroom the more the pineal gland will secrete melatonin. Growth hormone, known as the anti-aging hormone, is secreted by the pituitary gland. The largest surges happen during deep REM sleep. Growth hormone in adults maintains muscle tone, decreases fat, makes sleep more restorative, gives energy and stamina, reduces anxiety, supports the immune system, protects organs, and develops strong bones.
It is normal to have a night or two where your sleep is interrupted. But if this is the case for you on an ongoing basis of weeks, months, and even years, it will greatly weaken your immune system, which can lead to a whole host of symptoms that affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally.
When insomnia becomes a pattern, a vicious cycle can ensue. Your body has a natural circadian rhythm, a 24-hour biological clock, which causes you to have more energy as the sun comes up and causes your body to wind down when it becomes dark. Insomnia over time will disrupt your circadian rhythm; you will wake up feeling tired and you will feel ramped up or restless at bedtime, making it difficult to fall asleep. To compound this problem, anxiety starts to set in as you start having thoughts of not being able to fall asleep . . . thus more insomnia.
What Causes Insomnia?
- Caffeine - espresso, coffee, black tea, soda, energy drinks (Red Bull), chocolate, and green tea (if you are very sensitive to caffeine)
- Stress - continual feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) - waking up in the middle of the night is usually a sign of dysglycemia (imbalance of blood sugar metabolism)
- Eating late a night - digesting while trying to sleep can keep you awake
- Sugar and alcohol intake in the evening - not only do sugar and alcohol promote inflammation in the body, they can also disrupt your sleep cycle
- Medication side effects - many medications can interrupt sleep, particularly decongestants, steroids, and ADD medications
- Exercising at night - exercise stimulates your brain, heart, and muscles and for some can interfere with falling asleep
- Electronics before bed - working or playing on computer and laptops close to bed can keep you awake
- Traveling - particularly for those that fly frequently
- Sleep apnea - a serious sleep disorder where one’s breathing is interrupted during sleep
- Shift work - those that work at night vs. during the day
- Anxiety from the thoughts of not being able to fall asleep
Detriments of Insomnia:
- weight gain
- limp hair
- dehydrated skin
- weak bones and muscles
- suppression of the immune system
Some Solutions for Quality Sleep:
- If you are having stubborn insomnia, cut out caffeine altogether because even your morning cup of coffee can be affecting a good night sleep; or at least avoid caffeine after 3 p.m.
- Be consistent and try to go to bed at, or near, the same time every night; preferably no later than 10 or 11 p.m. to ensure body and mind restoration.
- To help avoid hypoglycemia, incorporate protein at each meal, snack in between meals, and try not to eat carbohydrates at dinner, only vegetables and protein. Stay off sugars, refined carbohydrates (pasta, bread, crackers, cookies), and alcohol, in general.
- Avoid sweet desserts and alcohol, especially in the evening.
- Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible at bedtime.
- Do not fall asleep with the television on, especially the news, as this input goes into your subconscious mind and can disrupt sleep.
- Completely power off or remove electronic devices from your bedroom one hour before sleep. Electromagnetic frequencies from all your electronic gadgets create more inflammation in the body.
- Try taking an Epsom salt bath one to two hours before going to bed. This can help relax you and your muscles.
- Steep for 20 minutes a cup of organic chamomile tea and drink one hour before going to bed.
- Read a book.
- Deep breathing exercises, breathing in and out slowly from your abdomen.
- Meditate for five to ten minutes before going to bed.
- Self hypnosis - breathing and sending relaxation into every part of your body starting with the crown of your head slowly down to the toes of your feet.
- Visualization exercises that allow you to put away your work or outstanding tasks so you can rest: For example, imagine an empty chest or box at the foot of your bed (or in another room altogether). Give yourself permission to put all your work projects, family stresses, and unfinished business into that box or chest, thereby allowing yourself to only focus on sleep (knowing that you can open up your chest in the morning).
Supplements to Help With Insomnia, if Needed:
(Vitacost.com or Amazon.com will carry many natural sleeping
aids along with those mentioned below)
- Melatonin - a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that assists with a healthy sleep, restores the circadian rhythm of the body, and helps with jet lag
- Passionflower - a plant that helps with restlessness and stress
- Valerian - a plant that contains gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter to produce calming effects
- L-theanine - an amino acid from green tea that has a calming effect and helps balance GABA in the brain
- Calms Forte - a mild homeopathic remedy for nervous tension and insomnia
- 5 HTP - an amino acid that converts to serotonin in the body
ANNOUNCEMENTS & BOOK/FILM RECOMMENDATIONS
- Dow Chemical company is currently requesting an unprecedented USDA approval: a genetically engineered (GE) version of corn that is resistant to 2,4-D, a major component of the highly toxic Agent Orange. Click to sign the petition to stop this from happening: http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/1881/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6981
- The NDI draft guidance if passed would pull many of the supplements you have access to now and greatly limit new ones from coming out. Please sign and help preserve our freedom of choice: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/750/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8806
BOOK/FILM RECOMMENDATION OF THE MONTH:
- 2012 - A Message of Hope - a 25 minute You Tube Film worth watching http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_YOG3jMlV4