Sleep is essential for everything our bodies do for us. Without it, we risk gaining unwanted weight, aging quicker and having a higher susceptibility to infections. It can also be a contributing factor to a low libido. What may not be well known is that even depression is one of the dangers of insomnia because the stress of sleeplessness reduces serotonin, our feel good neurotransmitter.
It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. The CDC states that 9 million Americans use sleep medication and there has been a tripling in prescription sleep aids for young adults aged 18–24.
Despite the harmful effects of insomnia and it’s widespread prevalence, most people would not consider insomnia a public health risk. We tend to sleep 20% less than 100 years ago. Yet, even for those who lead healthy lives, many concentrate their well intentioned efforts on diet, exercise and over the counter products. The fact is though: you can eat a perfect diet, exercise and take a lot of supplements but not sleeping enough will sabotage all your hard work.
Unfortunately, many who are fed up with insomnia turn to prescriptions as a first line of defense. Although effective, sleep medication comes with a cost due to possible side effects and a long term end game of dependency that doesn’t serve the patient’s best interests. It’s a better course of action to start off with a holistic strategy when possible.
Many natural DIY tips are readily accessible and may be all you need unless you are in extreme sleep debt. In those cases, it can be difficult to establish good sleep patterns without medication. So it is best not to ignore your sleeplessness once it starts. It may spare you the expense and risks of medication.
1. Use blackout shades to make your bedroom pitch black.
2. Avoid using the computer 2 hours before going to bed.
3. Turn off all digital devices that emit any type of light.
There is also a program called f.lux you can install on your computer or mobile device that helps. It changes the color of your display according to the time of day so that the blue light doesn’t overstimulate you. As stated in a Harvard Health letter, blue wavelengths emitted by electronic devices disrupt circadian rhythms and make it more difficult to sleep.
4. Go to bed well before midnight.
The most rejuvenating time to sleep is between 11pm – 3am when we are in deep non-REM sleep. As the night goes on, we tend to get less of this type of sleep. Going to bed around 10:30PM helps maximize your body’s healing potential.
5. If you’re on the hypoglycemic side, try having a small high protein/high fat snack before bed.
Keep it modest in size so you don’t go to bed on a full stomach. Sometimes, a drop in blood sugar wakes people up at night.
6. The right supplementation can be tricky for sleep disorders without an accurate diagnosis.
There is one suggestion though that most find beneficial. Many of us are deficient in magnesium. There are a lot of magnesium products on the market but Natural Calm is a good first choice. It is important though to follow the directions on the label.
Despite its popularity, melatonin is not recommended unless it is prescribed by your practitioner. Any supplemental hormone over time can undermine your body’s ability to make it’s own. This leads to a dependency that reduces your innate capacity to maintain natural sleeping rhythms.