It’s 3am and you’re reading this because you’re awake in the middle of the night…again. Possibly you fell asleep at the right time but have woken up in the night and can’t get back to sleep. Or maybe you haven’t fallen asleep at all and you’re surfing the internet to keep yourself from ruminating about the fact that you can’t sleep. What you are experiencing is good, old-fashioned insomnia.
When you can’t sleep, you are certainly not alone. Millions of Americans have trouble with either going to sleep, staying asleep all night, or waking up too early in the morning. If it happens on the odd occasion, this is considered acute insomnia. If you regularly have trouble sleeping at least three nights a week continuously for three weeks or more, then you have chronic insomnia.
Over the long haul, chronic insomnia can have an extremely negative impact on your physical, mental, and emotional health. Not only do you feel tired all the time and your work performance suffers, but you can also develop many serious health problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and more. Memory loss, lack of concentration and focus, headaches, inability to make wise choices, no energy to exercise, and developing poor habits can all be consequences of acute or chronic insomnia.
What to Do About Insomnia
While some people might assume that there’s a pill for that (just like everything else!) many other people don’t want to resort to strong medications in order to sleep. Plus, doctors are hesitant to prescribe strong sedatives for sleep as they have side effects such as the risk of becoming addictive. Instead, many doctors refer insomnia patients to cognitive behavioral therapy which helps them make changes to lifestyle habits while dealing with the stressors that may be keeping them awake to begin with.
How to Fix Insomnia Naturally
Most of the best ways to treat insomnia without negative side effects come from nature. Sometimes your body is simply short on certain substances that help you to sleep. Other times you may have increased stress and anxiety that prevents your brain from resting. Eventually, these two factors can combine and cause you stress about the fact that you can’t sleep!
The good news is that you can naturally care for your body by promoting relaxation and taking supplements to help you sleep well and soundly once again.
Your brain produces hormones that are released to help you sleep at night. Lack of sunshine, poor nutrition, high stress levels, the natural aging process, and other problems can interfere with the production of these hormones. Once critical hormone related to sleep is melatonin, which is actually produced by converting it from serotonin. This means that if your serotonin is in short supply (particularly when depression occurs), then your body may be unable to produce the melatonin you need for sleep.
Melatonin can be taken as a dietary supplement and purchased over the counter. Just as with any supplement or medications, avoid extremely high doses and check with a medical professional to be sure it is safe for you to use. Most doctors recommend a melatonin dosage of between 0.1 and 0.5 mg taken about an hour prior to bedtime.
Some sleep disturbances have been shown to be the result of a deficiency of Vitamin B6. This vitamin is necessary because of its relationship to the substance tryptophan, which helps the body produce sleeping hormones. If you are short on B6, your body may produce kynurenine, a substance which interferes with serotonin and melatonin production. In addition, B6 can reduce anxiety (particularly when combined with magnesium) which helps to promote relaxation and sleep.
Overuse of B6 can actually worsen insomnia, so be careful not to go too far. You may be better off to begin with a B6 regimen that reduces over time. Some medical professionals suggest starting with no more than 50mg per day, but check with your doctor first as too much B6 can be toxic.
GABA (gamma butyric acid)
Produced naturally in the brain, this chemical compound inhibits and suppresses other stimulant chemicals in the brain. GABA helps to body to rest by calming the nervous system and relaxing the muscles. Some medical professionals recommend taking 200mg up to four times a day, but check with your doctor prior to use.
Some people who have a shortage of this mineral in their bodies may find it difficult to sleep. Magnesium can decrease the production of cortisol (a stimulating hormone) and also helps the muscles to relax. While a few people feel stimulated when taking magnesium, for most people it has a calming, soothing effect. Check with your doctor about taking 400-500mg of magnesium in the evening prior to sleep.
This natural substance works well to fight anxiety and reduce stress, which can often interfere with the ability to sleep. Lavender essential oil (not synthetic fragrance oil) can help to relax your body and mind because it works as a sedative. Be aware, however, that too much lavender can cause headaches.
Diffuse lavender into the room with a cool mist humidifier, dilute and spray onto your pillow at night, or add it to a warm relaxing bath. Lavender essential oil can also be applied directly to the skin in small quantities.
Working the same way as lavender when used as an essential oil, chamomile offers relaxing and soothing properties. Many people find that drinking a cup of warm chamomile tea in the evening is very helpful in promoting sedation and sleep.
Typically used as a tea or herbal supplement, Passion Flower boosts the body’s production of GABA in the brain, a sleep-promoting substance. This herb helps to quiet the activity of the brain and helps to prevent insomnia, particularly for women who are experiencing menopause.
Insomnia can feel like it is ruining your life. Practicing breathing exercises, eliminating caffeine, establishing a daily bedtime routine, meditating, and getting aerobic exercise every day can all benefit your health can cut down on the impact insomnia has on your life. Adding nutritional supplements and herbs into your life can be offers an additional tool for you to begin sleeping well and taking back the care of your mind and body. Sleep well!