Not being able to sleep can be extremely frustrating. But before you turn to sleeping pills, there are plenty of natural approaches to try. Prevention and Tips -Maintain a normal weight. Studies find that obesity can make sleep problems like sleep apnea worse. It can also affect important sleep-related hormone levels in the body, increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol while decreasing levels of sleep-inducing melatonin. -Manage stress. Do it however you can, whether it’s yoga classes or meditation. Check your medications. Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can interfere with sleep, including beta-blockers, thyroid medication, certain antidepressants like the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), decongestants, corticosteroids, and medications with caffeine. Talk to your doctor about changing dosages or medication if you’re taking any of these drugs. -Avoid alcohol. Although many people think a glass of wine before bed can help with insomnia, the opposite is actually true. While alcohol might help you fall asleep, it’s often the culprit behind middle-of-the-night awakenings as your body experiences alcohol withdrawal. It also interferes with your sleep cycle, so even if you do sleep through the night, you’ll wake up tired. -Stop smoking. Yet another reason to quit: Nicotine is a stimulant. If you’re still smoking, try not to smoke for at least two hours before bedtime (brush your teeth so you won’t be tempted).
Insomnia affects up to 25 per cent of the population. Symptoms vary from having difficulty getting to sleep or not being able to stay asleep, to waking early or having a restless sleep and not waking refreshed. Here are some natural solutions to help you sleep well. 1-Sleeping herbs
Unlike prescription sleeping tablets, herbal sedatives are not addictive. Take one dose after dinner, and again before bed. Effective sleeping herbs include one or more of the following: Californian poppy, zizyphus, valerian, hops, lemon balm and passion flower. 2-Supper
A light meal with some carbohydrates will increase serotonin levels and steady blood sugar levels. Both states are very calming for the body. Try an old fashioned cup of hot milk and honey, cheese and plain biscuit, or even half a banana before bed. 3-Sleep hygiene
The term ‘sleep hygiene’ sounds like you need to be super clean before going to bed. However, it’s a set of commonsense routines that improve sleeping patterns. Such as going to bed at the same time, keeping the bedroom quiet and serene, avoiding afternoon naps or caffeine after midday, and anything too stimulating before bed including extreme exercise or scary movies. 4-No night caps
Although a drink may be relaxing and make you feel sleepy, alcohol interferes with the sleep cycle, particularly REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This means you miss out on the restful and restorative night’s sleep your body desires.
Two types of exercise help improve sleep. One wears you out such as running, cycling and weights. This type of exercise is best taken in the morning. The second helps to calm and soothe body and mind, including yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. 6-Bath before bed
You have your deepest sleep when the body temperature is at its lowest, usually in the early hours of the morning. By artificially heating the body with a warm bath or shower, the internal thermostat attempts to lower body temperature, persuading the brain to think you are heading towards the land of nod. 7-Sleep hormone
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. It helps regulate the body’s 24 hour circadian rhythm. Shift work, frequent long distance air travel and poor sleep affect melatonin levels. In Australia, melatonin is available on prescription. 8-Stop thinking
Incessant mind chatter is one reason people find it difficult to fall asleep. Take your mind off your mind by practicing progressive muscle relaxation (the new age version of counting sheep). When lying in bed, take your awareness to your toes, allowing them to feel heavy and relaxed. Work your way progressively up the body in this manner. You are likely to drift off along the way.
Feeling crabby lately? Or simply worn out? Perhaps the solution is better sleep.
Think about all the factors that can interfere with a good night’s sleep — from pressure at work and family responsibilities to unexpected challenges, such as layoffs, relationship issues or illnesses. It’s no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive.
Although you might not be able to control all of the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. Start with these simple sleep tips. No. 1: Stick to a sleep schedule
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. No. 2: Pay attention to what you eat and drink
Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet. No. 3: Create a bedtime ritual
Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down.
Be wary of using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual. Some research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep. No. 4: Get comfortable
Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. No. 5: Limit daytime naps
Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep — especially if you’re struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality at night. If you choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it during the midafternoon. No. 6: Include physical activity in your daily routine Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep. Timing is important, though. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too energized to fall asleep. If this seems to be an issue for you, exercise earlier in the day. No. 7: Manage stress
When you have too much to do — and too much to think about — your sleep is likely to suffer. Before bed, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.
Nighttime (nocturnal) panic attacks occur with no obvious trigger and awaken you from sleep. As with a daytime panic attack, you may experience sweating, rapid heart rate, trembling, shortness of breath, heavy breathing (hyperventilation), flushing or chills, and a sense of impending doom. These signs and symptoms are quite alarming and can mimic those of a heart attack or other serious medical condition. Although nocturnal panic attacks usually last less than 10 minutes, it may take a while to calm down and go back to sleep after you have one.
It’s not known what causes panic attacks. Underlying factors may include genetics, stress and certain changes in the way parts of your brain work. In some cases, an underlying condition, such as a sleep disorder, can cause panic-like signs and symptoms. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and whether you should have any tests for a possible underlying condition.
Treatment including medications and mental health counseling (cognitive behavioral therapy) can help prevent panic attacks — and reduce their intensity when they do occur.
The most common type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea. It happens because the muscles in your throat relax, blocking the flow of air to your lungs. Your airway might be completely blocked or only partly blocked. When you stop breathing, the amount of oxygen in your blood drops. Your brain recognizes this and makes your body start breathing again.
If you have sleep apnea, there are times during the night when you stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer.
Your doctor needs to know how often there is a pause in your breathing. This helps to determine how severe your problem is. You might be asked to stay overnight in a sleep laboratory. Or your doctor might ask you to have your breathing measured at home.
Here’s one guide that doctors use: -If your breathing is affected between five and 15 times an hour, you have mild sleep apnea.
-If your breathing is affected between 16 and 30 times an hour, you have moderate sleep apnea.
-If your breathing is affected more than 31 times an hour, you have severe sleep apnea.
People with severe sleep apnea may be at an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke and dying early.
Do you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. When you wake up or can’t get to sleep, take note of what seems to be the recurring theme. That will help you figure out what you need to do to get your stress and anger under control during the day.
If you can’t stop yourself from worrying, especially about things outside your control, you need to learn how to manage your thoughts. For example, you can learn to evaluate your worries to see if they’re truly realistic and replace irrational fears with more productive thoughts. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at bedtime. If the stress of managing work, family, or school is keeping you awake, you may need help with stress management. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better at night. Relaxation techniques for better sleep
Relaxation is beneficial for everyone, but especially for those struggling with sleep. Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep. Some simple relaxation techniques include: -Deep breathing. Close your eyes, and try taking deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last. -Progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up from your feet to the top of your head. -Visualizing a peaceful, restful place. Close your eyes and imagine a place or activity that is calming and peaceful for you. Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel.
Sleepwalking — also known as somnambulism — usually involves getting up and walking around while asleep. Most common in children between the ages of 4 and 8, sleepwalking often is a random event that doesn’t signal any serious problems or require treatment.
However, sleepwalking can occur at any age and may involve unusual, even dangerous behaviors, such as climbing out a window or urinating in closets or trash cans.
If anyone in your household sleepwalks, it’s important to protect him or her from sleepwalking injuries.
Sleepwalking is classified as a parasomnia — an undesirable behavior or experience during sleep. Sleepwalking is a parasomnia of arousal, meaning it occurs during deep, dreamless (non-rapid eye movement, or NREM) sleep. Someone who is sleepwalking may: -Sit up in bed and open his or her eyes -Have a glazed, glassy-eyed expression -Roam around the house, perhaps opening and closing doors or turning lights on and off -Do routine activities, such as getting dressed or making a snack — even driving a car -Speak or move in a clumsy manner
-Scream, especially if also experiencing night terrors, another parasomnia in which you are likely to sit up, scream, talk, thrash and kick -Be difficult to wake up during an episode
Sleepwalking usually occurs during deep sleep, early in the night — often one to two hours after falling asleep. Sleepwalking is unlikely to occur during naps. The sleepwalker won’t remember the episode in the morning.
There are so many bizarre anti-snoring devices available on the market today, with more being added all the time, that finding the right solution for your snoring can seem like a daunting task. Unfortunately, many of these unusual devices are unproven or work by simply keeping you awake at night. There are, however, plenty of proven techniques that can help you eliminate snoring. Not every remedy is right for every person, though, so it may require some patience, some lifestyle changes, and a willingness to experiment with different solutions. Clear nasal passages. Having a stuffy nose makes inhalation difficult and creates a vacuum in your throat, which in turn leads to snoring. You can do it naturally with a Neti pot or try nasal decongestants or nasal strips to help you breathe more easily while sleeping. Keep bedroom air moist with a humidifier. Dry air can irritate membranes in the nose and throat. Reposition.Elevating your head four inches may ease breathing and encourage your tongue and jaw to move forward. There are specially designed pillows available to help prevent snoring by making sure your neck muscles are not crimped. Avoid caffeine and heavy meals within two hours of going to bed, especially dairy products and soymilk. Sleep on your side. Avoid sleeping on your back, as gravity makes it more likely for your tongue and soft tissues to drop and obstruct your airway. The tennis ball trick Is sleeping on your back causing you to snore? If so, try the tennis ball trick. Sleep with a tennis ball (or similar sized ball) attached to the back of a pajama top or t-shirt. (You can sew or safety pin a sock to the back of the pajama top, then put a tennis ball in it.) The tennis ball is uncomfortable if you lie on your back, and you will respond by turning on your side. Or wedge a pillow stuffed with tennis balls behind your back. Soon you will develop side-sleeping as a habit and not need the tennis balls. Video: Insomnia
According to research, it is healthy to dream every night. Scientists and psychologists agree on the purposes of dreaming. Some believe dreams bring up unconscious feelings and “unfinished business” in an attempt to process and resolve them.
Your dreams are important for your good health.
-Your dreams are valuable because they reveal your secret desires and subconscious feelings.
-Your dreams give you an increased knowledge about yourself. They show you things you would not admit during your waking hours.
-Your dreams bring about self-awareness. You get to know yourself through your dreams.
-Your dreams are healthy because they help you confront your fears and express our feelings.
-Your dreams are healthy because they help you relieve stress.
-Your dreams are healthy because they unlock long forgotten memories that lead to wholeness.
-Your dreams regulate your mood.
-Your dreams will help you make connections in a safe place and allow you to integrate thoughts that may be troubling to you during your waking life.
Sleep may seem to be a passive and dormant state, but even though activity in the cortex – the surface of the brain – drops by about 40 per cent while we are in the first phases of sleep, the brain remains highly active during later stages of the night.
A typical night’s sleep comprises five different sleep cycles, each lasting about 90 minutes. The first four stages of each cycle are regarded as quiet sleep or non-rapid eye move-ment (NREM). The final stage is denoted by rapid eye movement (REM).
During the first stage of sleep, brain waves are small undulations. During stage two these intersperse with electrical signals called sleep spindles – small bursts of activity lasting a couple of seconds which keep us in a state of quiet readiness.
As stage two merges into stage three, the brain waves continue to deepen into large slow waves. The larger and slower the brain wave, the deeper the sleep. Stage four is reached when 50 per cent of the waves are slow.
At this point, we are not taxed mentally and 40 per cent of the usual blood flow to the brain is diverted to the muscles to restore energy. However, during the REM that follows there is a high level of brain activity. This is the stage associated with dreaming and is triggered by the pons – the part of the brain stem that relays nerve impulses between the spinal cord and the brain – and neighbouring structures. REM sleep is thought to help consolidate memory and emotion, as at this point in sleep blood flow rises sharply in several brain areas linked to processing memories and emotional experiences. In areas involving complex reasoning and language, blood flow declines. Although brain activity is high at this point, the muscles of the body are relaxed to a point of virtual paralysis. Some experts suggest that this is a device to allow the mind to explore the realms of subconscious without acting upon events occurring in dreams.