Insomnia is our nation's silent health crisis. Almost half of all adults report having difficulty sleeping, but less than 10 percent discuss the issue with their doctor. Almost everyone has suffered from temporary insomnia due to stress, overeating, or consuming stimulants before bed and knows how draining and exhausting sleep loss can be. But people who have chronic insomnia-a consistent inability to go to sleep or to sty asleep through the night-are at risk for far more than fatigue. Sleep deficiency suppresses the immune system and the libido, decreases productivity, and can lead to other disorders like depression, chronic fatigue, heart disease, and headaches.
Before the use of electric lighting, the average American got nine hours of sleep a night. Now the average is less than seven hours and still going down, as the distractions of twenty-four hour shopping and entertainment becomes more widespread. How much sleep is enough? It has become fashionable to proclaim a need for very little sleep. However, studies involving mental function show that most adults do best with eight hours; some may need as many as nine or even ten. Children and teens need more sleep than adults do, and older people often find that they simply sleep less than they used to. If you nod off to sleep very quickly-within five minutes of putting your head on the pillow-or if you feel an urge to nap during the day, you probably need more sleep than you're getting.
Stress and anxiety are the most common causes of insomnia, but physiological factors often play a significant role as well. Stimulants, heavy metals, chronic pain, and breathing problems can keep you from sleeping, as can many medications and disorders.
Sleep apnea affects 5 percent of adults, but most of them will never be diagnosed. During this condition, a person repeatedly stops breathing during the night and wakes up to catch his or her breath. The two consequences of this are a significant drop in the blood's oxygen and severe sleep deprivation. Be suspicious of this condition if you snore, have daytime sleepiness, have high blood pressure, or are overweight. This condition is best identified during a sleep study that your doctor can order. The recommendations in this section-especially the dietary ones-may help to treat sleep apnea. Weight loss can be an important component, as can avoiding sleeping on your back. One standard treatment is a C-pap machine, which involves a mask that is kept over your face while you sleep. It keeps constant pressure in the airway so that it does not collapse. Orthodontic devices that keep the lower jaw and the tongue forward are sometimes useful. In rare cases, extremely large tonsils or abnormalities in the throat structure may need to be surgically corrected.
Restless leg syndrome is a disorder characterized by unusual or painful sensations in the legs, accompanied by an irresistible urge to move the legs. It's often brought on by rest and occurs most often in the evening. If can produce difficulty falling asleep. Many studies have shown that restless leg sufferers have low or low-normal iron levels. Iron supplementation has helped many people, but three months of treatment is usually needed before improvement is noted.
Hormone imbalance can be a root cause of insomnia. This can involve several different hormones. It is common for many women experiencing menopause to develop insomnia. This is generally due to changes in estrogen and progesterone levels. The obvious solution is to follow a hormone-balancing program. Likewise, younger women with premenstrual syndrome can experience the same. In addition, low or hyper functioning thyroid can interfere with sleep. We also find that elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol interfere with deep REM sleep, which studies confirm. It is not uncommon to find seniors with deficiencies in DHEA, testosterone, and growth hormone, which can be underlying causes as well. The sleep hormone melatonin can work wonders in selected cases, when supplemented correctly.
If you suffer from insomnia, you may find that the gentle treatments in this section help you get a good night's sleep. If they don't, talk to your doctor. He or she should review your general health and may also refer you to a sleep disorder specialist. It is not recommended, under any circumstance, that you take over-the-counter sleeping aids. They do not promote deep, restful sleep, and they may also create any of several side effects, including depression, confusion, and dry mouth. Worse, they can be addictive.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
The top 7 vitamins and supplements shown to
The Prescription for Natural
Cures by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.M.D.
Prescription #1 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) - LifeSource Product
Take 100 to 200 mg
one hour before bedtime. This supplement promotes serotonin production in the
brain for relaxation. Do not use if you are currently taking pharmaceutical
Prescription #2 Melatonin – LifeSource Product
Take 0.3 to 0.5 mg
one hour before bedtime. This hormone promotes sleep. It is best used on a
short-term basis or under a doctor's supervision.
Prescription #3 Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) Take
500 mg or 1 to 2 ml a half hour before bedtime. Passionflower is a great
sleep aid that relaxes the nervous system and does not cause drowsiness in
Prescription #4 Valerian Root - LifeSource Product
Take 600 mg or 2 ml
a half hour before bedtime. Several studies show valerian to be effective for
insomnia. Note: A small percentage of users may notice a stimulating effect
Prescription #5 Calcium / Magnesium – LifeSource
Products - See All of our
Cal/Mag Products. Take 600 mg of calcium and 300 mg of
magnesium each evening. Both minerals help relax the nervous system. Some
people have better results taking one of the minerals alone in the evening
and the other earlier in the day. Experiment to see what works better for
you. Combo comes in all LifeSource calcium products.
Prescription # 6 Hops (Humulus lupulus) Take 500 mg or 1 to 2
ml a half hour before bedtime. Hops is a nervine that relaxes the nervous
Prescription #7 Vitamin B12 - LifeSource Products Take 1,000 mcg of
our sublingual form daily. This vitamin is more commonly deficient in seniors.
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- Inability to sleep or to sleep through the night
- Stress and anxiety
- Stimulants, including caffeine, decongestants, and thyroid medications
- Lack of exercise
- Restless leg syndrome
- Hormonal changes (e.g. menopause)
- Vitamin deficiencies (e.g. B12, iron)
- Breathing disorders, including asthma and sleep apnea
- Other disorders, such as hypothyroidism and hypoglycemia
At dinner, eat foods that are high in tryptophan, a chemical that stimulates serotonin, which in turn helps you sleep. Turkey, chicken, tuna, soy products, live unsweetened yogurt, and whole-grain crackers are all good, low-sugar sources.
Complex carbohydrates are also relaxing, so incorporate whole grains, especially brown rice or pasta, into your dinners.
This book does not generally recommend dairy products, aside from yogurt, but a glass of milk before bedtime is a time-honored sleep aid. Try this only if you do not have a sensitivity or an allergy to dairy products.
Deficiencies of calcium and magnesium can lead to insomnia. Be sure your diet is high in leafy greens, sesame and sunflower seeds, oats, almonds, and walnuts.
The B-vitamins are also essential for good sleep. Brewer's yeast is the best source. Sprinkle it on your dinner salad or add a teaspoon to a bedtime glass of water or a green drink.
Drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours so you won't wake up at night with a dry mouth. Have your last glass two hours before bedtime, or you'll be up for other reasons.
Foods to Avoid
The first rule for insomniacs is to monitor caffeine intake strenuously. Do not have any products containing caffeine-such as coffee, black tea, or chocolate-for eight hours before you go to sleep.
Drink alcohol only in moderation, and don't have any within two hours of going to bed. While a drink might make you feel drowsy, the alcohol only disrupts the deep, late-night sleep that is so crucial to rest. If you have a chronic problem with insomnia, avoid alcohol completely.
Food allergies or sensitivities disrupt sleep for some people. Identify possible offending foods.
Sugar is another common culprit in insomnia. After lunchtime, avoid sugary foods, even sweet fruits. Chocolate, with its double whammy of sugar and caffeine, should be considered an enemy of the sleep-deprived.
- Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that promote sleep. Take 50 mg daily.
- Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) relaxes the nervous system. Drink a fresh cup of tea in the evening or take 300 mg of the capsule form.
- Saint-John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum) acts as a nerve tonic and can ease mild cases of depression and related insomnia. Take 900 mg daily of a 0.3 percent hypericin extract. Do not take Saint-John's-wort if you are on medication for depression.
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*Disclaimer: None of the above statements have been evaluated
by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent
any disease. As always, consult your physician before taking any and all
supplements. LifeSource Vitamins. Individual results may vary.
Disclaimer: All the information contained throughout
this website is based upon the opinion of the founder of LifeSource Vitamins,
Bruce Brightman, and the entire team at LifeSource Vitamins whose relentless
research and studies have been ongoing on since 1992. Other articles and
information are based on the opinions of the authors, who retains the copyright
as marked on the article. The information on this site is not intended to
replace your health care professional, but to enhance your relationship with
them.Doing your own studying and research and taking your health care into your
own hands is always best, especially in partnership with your health care
professional. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or have
any medical conditions, always consult your health care professional before
taking supplements based on the information on this site.