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.
Snoring is a serious business. If you or your partner struggle with this issue, taking preventative measures will help ensure that you’re able to get a solid night of rest. -Alcohol, sleeping pills, coffee, and fatty foods before bedtime can all increase snoring by making your throat muscles relax and narrowing your airway.
Large meals and fatty foods likewise restricts your airflow by pushing up on your diaphragm. -Smoking can also be a frequent cause of snoring, and is a health hazard in general. If you’re a smoker and struggle with snoring, consider quitting. – Consider losing weight. Fatty tissue in the back of the throat is often the cause of snoring. Losing even a little bit of weight can be greatly beneficial if you want to stop.
If you regularly take any kind of medication, talk to your doctor about alternatives. The drugs you’re ingesting might be making your snoring worse. Video: Insomnia
Snoring is a fairly common affliction, however, is a sleep disorder that can have serious medical and social consequences. The tips that follow may help you sleep more peacefully. -Sleep on your side: You’re more likely to snore if you’re lying on your back, and sleeping on your stomach is stressful on your neck. -Lose weight: Excess body weight, especially around the neck, puts pressure on the airway, causing it to partially collapse. -Avoid alcohol and drugs: Both alcohol and sleeping pills can depress your central nervous system and relax the muscles of your throat and jaw, making snoring more likely. These substances are also known to contribute to sleep apnea, a dangerous condition that has been linked with cardiovascular disease. -Get your allergies treated: Chronic respiratory allergies may cause snoring by forcing sufferers to breathe through their mouths while they sleep. Taking an antihistamine just before bedtime may help. -Buy a mouth guard: Your dentist or doctor may be able to prescribe an antisnoring mouth guard that holds the teeth together and keeps the lower jaw muscles from becoming too lax. -Stop smoking: Smoke damages the respiratory system. -Keep a regular schedule: Get plenty of sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. -Elevate your head: Sleeping with your head raised may take some of the pressure off of the airway, making breathing easier. Raise the head of the bed by putting blocks under the bed posts, or prop up your upper body (not just your head, which can actually inhibit breathing) with pillows. Video: Insomnia, sleep disorders
The brain uses sleep to wash away the waste toxins built up during a hard day’s thinking, researchers have shown.
The US team believe the “waste removal system” is one of the fundamental reasons for sleep.
Their study, in the journal Science, showed brain cells shrink during sleep to open up the gaps between neurons and allow fluid to wash the brain clean.
They also suggest that failing to clear away some toxic proteins may play a role in brain disorders.