Remember the story of the Sand Man? That mythical fellow who tip-toed into the bedroom at night and sprinkled magic dust into a child’s eyes so he fell into a deep, dream-filled sleep? Well, many of us could sure use a return visit from him these days! According to a series of online surveys by the American Psychological Association, half of Americans polled are experiencing fatigue, anger and sleeplessness in response to recent economic stress. We are even voting with our Z-Z-Z-Z-Z’s as a bear market heads downward, with people reporting sleeplessness going up.
Adequate rest is seriously required to maintain a healthy immune system and prevent disease. Studies show that lack of sleep leads to increased risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and premature aging. The National Sleep Foundation believes the problem of sleep deprivation to be so pervasive, it has established a national Drowsy Driver education program to inform people about the dangers of driving while sleep deprived. Many people are getting less than six hours of sack time a night, when we really function best with 7 – 8 hours under our belt. Sleep difficulties plague nearly 75% of us at least a few nights a week. While short-lived insomnia often occurs, the bigger concern is how to deal with chronic sleep deprivation before we begin to suffer its long term effects.
Open any magazine and you’ll see ads for dozens of over-the-counter, prescription, and natural sleep aids. I like to suggest a sleep enhancement program that first begins from the nutritional side. Avoid consuming any coffee, tea, or sodas with caffeine after 3 pm. Caffeine can remain in the blood stream for nearly 6 hours, and consumption results in an increase of nerve firing in the brain. Drinking a large cup of coffee with 200 mg of caffeine at 3:00 PM means that by 9 PM about 100 mg of caffeine is still in your system. You may be able to fall asleep, but you’ll probably miss out on the deep sleep your body needs to recharge. Eating spicy, greasy or highly sweetened foods adds additional stress to your digestive system in the evenings. Instead of grabbing a pastry or slice of cold pizza before bed, try a snack of cereal and milk, oatmeal, a banana, or even a piece of chicken. These items will help increase levels of sleep-inducing tryptophan in the blood, and will not over stimulate as you drift off to dreamland. Calcium and magnesium are the relaxation minerals, so for the lactose-tolerant, a glass of warm milk will never let you down!
If you prefer reaching for the natural medicine cabinet, there are plenty of holistic alternatives to be found. Melatonin, the anti-oxidant hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle, decreases as we age. Taken in pill or liquid form before bed, it is superb for alleviating delayed sleep phase insomnia, helping you drift off easily and consistently. Valerian is another common ingredient found in sleep-aid products, and whether taken in pill form or as a relaxing tea, is known to help relieve nervous tension and insomnia. Homeopathic remedies are safe alternatives for children and adults. Bach Rescue Sleep is a natural sleep tincture made from 6 of the Bach Flower Remedies. This formulation is revered for helping to ease the irritability and mental tension that can leave you tossing and turning as your head hits the pillow. Hyland’s Homeopathic Medicine offers several all-natural remedies to ease you into sleep. Calms Forte relieves stress and relaxes with chamomile – one of four botanicals long used for soothing nerves and edginess. Leg Cramps PM addresses the discomfort of leg-cramping that can disturb your rest. This homeopathic relaxes the muscles, helping you fall asleep and get back to sleep at night should foot pain awaken you.
If you prefer avoiding pills, try the 100% pure, plant-based oral spray by Nutrirain, Deep Sleep. This formula of fresh valerian root, chamomile, passion flower, catnip herb and natural cinnamon oil has been effectively shown to improve sleep quality and relieve stress. Just 3 sprays under the tongue ½ hour prior to sleeping, and it’s off to the Land of Nod!
Should all these suggestions fail to bring you the sleep you are craving … there is still that time tested remedy … counting sheep!