According to Health.com, almost half of the adult population is affected by insomnia or other sleep problems and up to 14% use sleeping pills regularly. Insomnia is a disorder that prevents one’s falling asleep or staying asleep all night, which causes stress and energy inconsistencies during the day.
The current economic situation seems to be contributing to the rise in insomnia. Worry about finances and things that are going wrong builds anxiety that can create hormone and neuro-transmitter imbalances in our bodies. In addition, poor diet and too much caffeine affect those same neuro-transmitters- the ones that play a huge role in the ability to sleep – melatonin, serotonin, and dopamine.
Try the following tips for calming the mind and getting a good night sleep:
- Go ‘hypno’ – See a hypnotherapist. They can help you stop the mind chatter when you are going to sleep at night and can help you deal with stress better. A hypnotherapist can train your brain to go to sleep the moment you crawl into bed as well as let go of your fears and worries.
- Cut the caffeine – Cut out caffeine completely or drink only low sugar caffeine free drinks, such as green or white tea.
- Ssssh – Be sure to engage in personal ‘quiet time’. Meditate at least 30 minutes a day, go for walks in nature or do yoga.
- No after dinner mints – Go to bed on an empty stomach as food digestion may keep your body up and running. Try to cut yourself off of food 3 hours prior to your bedtime.
- You are what you eat – Eat healthy meals throughout the day. Don’t go long periods of time without eating and then fill up on junk food.
- Magnificent magnesium – Take a good quality magnesium supplement which help muscles relax and relieves anxiousness.
- Root out the sleeplessness –Take a valerian-root herbal supplement right before bedtime, which helps calm you down.
- Lights out – Don’t watch TV in bed at night and be sure your room is dark. The darker the room the better as light may disrupt the production of healthy neurotransmitters
Although an adequate night’s rest is essential for maintaining good health, forty percent of this country’s population has trouble sleeping, according to a 1,500 person survey conducted by Consumer Reports. Memory loss, trouble concentrating, and emotional instability are just some of the unfortunate effects of troubled sleeping. Sources of lost rest include lack of a nighttime routine, poor diet and pre-bedtime eating habits, and significant life stress. Whatever the cause, though, the following are natural and practical solutions from Dr. John Schaaf of Peak Performance/ Healthsource of Old Town to help identify and correct sleep disturbance.
Diet: Eat dinner at least three hours before bedtime. If this isn’t possible, go light for supper or eat a snack, avoiding greasy or high calorie foods that take more time and energy to digest. Abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages at night. Alcohol can prevent your body from reaching the deep stages of sleep, which robs you of its recuperative benefits. In fact, don’t drink a lot of any liquid around bedtime. Getting up to use the bathroom repeatedly can be a big sleep disturbance.
Meditation: One of the primary aims of any meditative technique is to relax your mind and body in general, which is a prerequisite to a satisfying night of rest. No matter what type of meditation you ultimately choose, the holistic living advisors at Life Positive Magazine say to find a position most comfortable for you, concentrate on the darkness behind your eyelids, let your thoughts flow freely, chant any mantra, and meditate for at least ten minutes.
Herbs: Taking herbs is a great way to ensure the proper function and balance of systems in your body which affect sleep. Valerian, hops and chamomile are among the most common sleep inducing herbs, but consult a certified nutritionist or a herbologist to ensure that you’re taking the proper dosage and administration.
Chiropractic: Issues such as limited range of motion, headaches or numbness in the hands or feet can often make a good night’s rest impossible. Get checked by your chiropractor to address any of these issues, or to determine if they might cause sleep trouble in the future.
Invest in a new bed: If you’re still sleeping on grandma’s old hand me down mattress, throw it out and get a new one. Different mattresses are made for different kinds of sleepers, so look around for a shop with salespeople willing to work out things like size, firmness, and the right type of box spring. The right rest surface can go a long way toward relieving sleep problems.
Establish a nighttime routine: Many late night habits can contribute to sleep problems, so make an effort to form new and more beneficial ones. Go to bed at the same time every night. Contrary to popular belief, the body does not adjust quickly to changes in sleep schedules.
Shake the urge to watch nighttime TV, since watching television just before bed stimulates areas of the brain that keep you awake. A new study published in the Journal of Sleep and Sleep Disorders Research says that most Americans let television, and not a person’s need for a full eight hour’s rest, dictate when they go to sleep. Respect your body’s natural rhythm and turn off the tube.
Peak Performance Health Care is now a part of Healthsource. This is a system of multidisciplinary clinics offering chiropractic, progressive rehabilitation and other services to address your complete health and wellness needs. Contact them in Chicago at 312-440-9646 or on the web at healthsourcechiro.com.
Consumer Reports: http://pressroom.consumerreports.org/pressroom/2008/08/consumer-reports-survey-44-of-americans-are-problem-sleepers-national-survey-shows-too-many-people-rely-on-pills-ar.html
Life Positive Article: http://www.lifepositive.com/spirit/meditation/guided-meditatation.asp
Basner, D., Dinges, D. Dubious Bargain: Trading Sleep for Leno and Letterman. Journal of Sleep and Sleep Disorders Research. 2009:32(6): 747-752
As a culture, we are experiencing a dramatic increase in sleep disturbances. Most bedrooms are replete with the requisite television (TV) set and the “indispensable” accoutrement—a DVD player. There are phones, alarm clocks, maybe sound systems, and many people keep their computers in their bedrooms and on (what’s worse is that from the time children are little, they have computer and TV’s and monitors in their bedrooms). These emit electromagnetic frequencies (EMGs), that are man-made and disruptive to the human energy system—sometimes seriously so. Many people fear the dark, so choose to sleep with night-lights on or to fall asleep to the TV. Bedrooms can often become the catch-all of our overabundance of stuff that we do not want to leave out in the public areas of our homes. Whether its papers, books, magazines, or clothes, the more our bedrooms become filled and busy, the poorer the air quality impacting sleep becomes.
Patterns of late night activity, or lack of it, also are powerful contributors to sleep disturbances. Though many are in denial about this, watching media where intense human drama, violence and action are blasted out in rapid-fire images that can be dizzying, affects us energetically and emotionally. Pushing our bodies into the sympathetic nervous system, when we should be gearing down within the parasympathetic system of slowed respirations, heart rate activity and digestion prevents the relaxed state necessary for quality sleep.
Working until late at night to try to make deadlines or to achieve what we think we need to achieve in a day’s time is also a prescription for sleep difficulties since this intensity of output also activates the sympathetic nervous system. Eating late, being on a computer late, have arguments with family, worrying about tomorrow, feeling dissatisfied with life, all are powerful contributors to this national phenomenon.
Ask yourself what behaviors and conditions in your life might be reducing the quality of your sleep? Study after study has indicated that adults are sleep deprived by as much as 1 to 1 ½ hours per night. Sleep deprivation affects judgment, memory and concentration, emotions, speech and thought processes, and often affects hormonal changes that increase weight gain.
Preparing for sleep
When was the last time that you re-lived a favorite bedtime routine from your past? Do you remember the special feeling and aroma of a warm bath, clean pajamas and sheets with a relaxing bedtime story, a cup of hot chocolate or warm milk and graham crackers?
When was the last time that you awakened refreshed, full of energy and ready to go?
Quality sleep is absolutely essential for physical and emotional well-being. Deep sleep without waking in the night (which decreases the amount of time spent in deep sleep and in the rapid eye movement (REM) cycles is necessary for body repair and restoration, immune system support and coping with stress. The depth of the sleep, firmness and quality of the mattress, proper body alignment and proper temperature are important variables in providing quality sleep. The fact that 8 hours of sleep a night is recommended should be in itself an indicator of the necessity of quality sleep for a healthy life.
Catching Your Zzzz’s
Ask yourself, “What are the behaviors and conditions in my life that might be reducing the quality of my sleep?
Some simple tips to help your sleep:
- If you’re not ready to ban the TV, sound system, and other energy emitters from your bedroom, keep them on a power strip and turn off the power strip when you go to bed. This will minimize the energy output while you sleep.
- Don’t eat within two hours of sleeping. Your organs need to be restoring themselves while you sleep, not trying to digest food.
- Don’t drink caffeinated beverages past late afternoon.
- De-clutter your bedroom to create a feeling of peace and harmony.
- Do deep breathing exercises before going to bed.
- Once in bed, try to empty your mind. If you are concentrating on or worrying about falling asleep, you won’t.
Yes, the Mattress does matter…
Americans spend one-third of their lives sleeping, so it makes sense to invest in a sleep set that can improve your comfort and overall health. These tips are good to consider when selecting a mattress:
Shop for Support. Look for a mattress that provides uniform support from head to toe; avoid gaps at the waist. Mattresses can be too firm; pay close attention to uncomfortable pressure on prominent body features such as the shoulders, hips, and low back. Because your body is pressing down on the springs at the low areas, these springs push back, creating pressure points. A pressure point can restrict blood flow to these areas.
Shop for Comfort. When mattress shopping, give each option a good trial run before you buy; lie down on a mattress for a minimum of five to 10 minutes to get a good idea of its comfort level. If you cannot find a comfortable position, you probably have the wrong mattress.
Shop for Size. Does the bed provide enough room for both you — and your sleeping partner if you have one — to stretch and roll over? The ideal mattress will also minimize the transfer of movement from one sleeping partner to the other, which means one person shouldn’t feel motion as the other leaves the bed. (Source: American Chiropractic Association.)
Additionally, there are a number of specialized mattresses to consider:
Magnetic Mattress. The earth produces a magnetic field that reaches from one pole to the other. Throughout history, human beings spent their waking and sleeping hours exposed to this magnetic field. City and suburban structures and electrical and microwave towers
reduce or interfere with exposure to this natural and grounding magnetic field. A magnetic mattress cocoons the body, returning you to your natural state of balance and enhancing the
Organic Mattress. Many modern mattresses contain toxic chemicals used in the construction process that outgas and can harm our health and impede sleep. Organic mattresses use only organic materials without harmful chemicals.
Far-Infrared Technology. Far-infrared energy is part of all living things. It is constantly absorbing energy and reflecting it as gentle warmth. Far-infrared absorbs moisture, reflects heat, and insulates the body. The technology offers all-season comfort, and the same technology that keeps my husband warm keeps me cool – what a marriage saver!
Rubberthane Technology. A natural way to relieve stress and discomfort is with massage. Several sleep products attempt to reproduce this sensation with a textured or raised egg carton-like surface. Every time that you move during sleep, the Rubberthane nodules help to ease tension and relax the body.
Sleep disturbances can, and should, be a thing of the past…follow these simple steps toward a good night’s sleep! Leave the sheep to themselves.
In order to understand the importance of why posture is so important one must understand what your spine is protecting. According to Gray’s anatomy the nervous system controls every cell, tissue and organ in the body. Nothing can happen without the nerves telling your body what to do. The normal spine is quite flexible, structurally strong and reflects the dynamic movement of the human body. It not only supports the body and all its organs, it also protects the spinal cord and nerves that carry messages between your brain and the rest of the body. Every activity, even breathing, demands movement of the spine, ribs and attachments. A healthy spine can continue to support your weight and protect your nerves, while letting innate messages travel freely from your brain to your body and allowing you to move easily throughout your day. The human body, like a machine, is subject to balance, rhythm, timing and coordinated actions of all its components. For this reason, correct posture enables the body to function more efficiently, allowing for proper development. Your body must adapt to the constant stress of gravity in order to maintain its balance, and poor posture is a common result. For every inch that the head moves forward in posture, it increases the weight of the head on the neck by 10 pounds! Imagine carrying an additional ten pounds or more around all day long!
Poor posture can have adverse effects on your health. For example, poor posture compromises the movements of the rib cage and does not allow the lungs to function at maximum efficiency. This reduces incoming oxygen to the tissues and the elimination of carbon dioxide wastes. Poor posture also restricts other vital organs of the body, producing additional stress. This stress on the body causes an increased demand for more energy. This increased demand for more energy causes your body to be stuck in the fight or flight physiology. Being in this mode leads to increased heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. Your heart will pump more blood to the muscles, supplying more oxygen. This also increases sugar rates in the blood. Increased blood supply to the motor and basic-function regions in the brain; decreased blood supply to digestive system and irrelevant brain regions. Secretion of adrenaline and other stress hormones increase in the response and strengthen relevant systems. There is also secretion of endorphins – natural painkillers, providing an instant defense against pain. With this system constantly in the on position you run into adrenal fatigue. This then ultimately causes you to run out of energy. Most people are stuck in this type of physiology and don’t even know it. We then look to supplement our case with outside stimulants. These stimulants only cause our bodies to fight harder and further our fatigue.
Poor posture not only has an adverse effect on our musculoskeletal system, bringing soft tissue pain and joint dysfunction, but also to other areas. The Endocrine (Hormone) system can be affected because poor posture creates unnecessary physical stress on the musculoskeletal structure where, quite simply, our muscles have to work harder to keep us upright. This causes disruption to the release and concentration of stress hormones within the body and in turn unbalances the rest of the hormone (Endocrine) system. Because hormones play such an important part in the health of our body, many health problems can result from simply the increase in physical stress caused by poor posture, sometimes even before we feel the physical pain within the muscles or joints. Poor posture also affects the digestive system – poor posture disrupts the physical positioning of the internal organs within the torso, causing these organs to work in adaptive ways. In addition, the effects on the endocrine and nervous systems can cause changes to the way in which we digest food and the levels and types of nutrients we are capable of retrieving and using from our food. Changes in the physical positioning of the body and tone and tension of the muscles can impede the efficiency of movement of blood through the system, causing us to feel unusually hot or cold. A particularly common example is cold extremities such as hands and feet.
Improving posture doesn’t have to be going to a gym. Just simply practicing good types of posture may all that is required. It is important to maintain proper posture for general health, but also while performing different tasks throughout your day. When lifting, bend from your knees, keep your back straight, feet shoulder-width apart, and one foot slightly forward for balance. Hold the load close to your body, then stand and lift with the strong muscles of your legs, not with your back muscles. When standing, rest your foot on a stool, occasionally alternating your feet. When sitting, raise your viewing surface (i.e. computer terminal) to eye level. Use a chair that provides good support for the curves in your back and neck. Take frequent breaks to stretch and revive. When sleeping, use a firm mattress and sleep on your side or your back with a supportive pillow for your neck. You can check the status of your posture by standing up against a flat surface. Place your heels, butt, flatten shoulder blades and retract your head against the wall. Stand there for 20-30 seconds to fire off the proper muscles and then step away. This may feel awkward at first, but with repetition will feel normal. In a seated position your feet should be flat on the floor. Your back should be pressed against the back of the chair. Arms should be bent to 90 degrees with the shoulders relaxed.
Good posture does more than just make you look good, it makes you feel good. When you stand tall, walk tall, and sit tall, your body works most efficiently. You have better balance and control over your limbs and you have a better outlook on life. Posture not only has a direct bearing on comfort and work efficiency, it also has a factor which determines resistance to disease and disability. In order for health to be attained you must also make good choices in the six essential of life ie: what you eat, what you drink, how you exercise, how you rest, how you breathe and most importantly how you think. Doctors of Chiropractic recognize the importance of spinal integrity and body mechanics for good health, and research has shown that chiropractic adjustments are highly effective. While the effects of poor posture can be serious, many problems can be corrected. If you or a member of your family has what appears to be a postural problem, you should seek advice of a Doctor of Chiropractic. Unless there is a structural deformity or disease-caused disturbance, the chances for correction are excellent. Regular spinal adjustments are part of your body’s defense against illness. The effectiveness of chiropractic health care is measured by benefits realized for a lifetime. Today, the public has become more aware of the benefits of this approach to health care and millions are now maintaining their health with regular chiropractic adjustments.
Where do we begin?
Are you one of those able to sleep any place, any time… with just a blink of an eye? Do you fall asleep on your short haul flight to Louisville as easily on your long haul flight to London? Do you wake up fully refreshed and ready to go? Maybe yes…and probably no!!! Sleep experts say most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health and safety. When we don’t get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to “pay back” if it becomes too big. The resulting sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road. The body rests during sleep; however, the brain remains active, gets “recharged,” and still controls many body functions including breathing. When we sleep, we typically drift between two sleep states, REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM, in 90-minute cycles. Non-REM sleep has four stages with distinct features, ranging from stage one drowsiness, when one can be easily awakened, to “deep sleep” stages three and four, when awakenings are more difficult and where the most positive and restorative effects of sleep occur. However, even in the deepest non-REM sleep, our minds can still process information. REM sleep is an active sleep where dreams occur, breathing and heart rate increase and become irregular, muscles relax and eyes move back and forth under the eyelids.
As a holistic healer, I believe that your environment tells it all! I personally believe that your bedroom contributes to your overall well-being and your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Bedroom – you ask? Is your bedroom nothing more than a few walls, windows, and a door? Or, is your bedroom a safe haven from the rest of your life – one in which you reach deep sleep, restore cognition, and wake rejuvenated and refreshed for a new day and new beginning? The aura, the energy, the color, the arrangement and the ambiance are all key factors in achieving the quality sleep that you need, want, and deserve.
I recommend two initial steps:
Your bedroom should be as dark and as quiet as possible. If noise from the outside (or a snoring sleep partner) often wakes you, consider getting a “sound generator” that makes a quiet nature sound — a burbling brook, waves on a beach — or just static “white noise.” Either will mask other sounds so they don’t disturb your sleep. You can also use a magnetic and infrared sleep mask to reduce nasal inflammation, create darkness, and ensure quality rest.
Make your bed as comfortable as possible. Your sheets, pillow, mattress, and blankets should all feel pleasant to the touch and be the right weight and firmness for you. You can improve the effectiveness of your current mattress by adding a foam, air, or Naturest™ pad on top of your regular mattress. Select calming colors to sooth the senses. Pink, cool greens, pale blue, off whites and beige are calming and soothing. If body temperature is a concern, consider a down, fiberfill or infrared comforter instead. I call mine the marriage saver because it keeps me cool and keeps my spouse warm at the same time. Keep your bedroom as cool as is comfortable for you. Remember that your body’s temperature needs to fall in order for you to go to sleep, so you don’t want to get overheated.
Thanks to Pharmageddon, the sleep medication industry continues to proliferate. However, there are natural ways in which to relax prior to sleep including attitude, habit changes, stretching and more. Let nature guide you as you select the correct technique for you and your body.
Use an air cleaner if needed to keep the air fresh and clean. Bedding, drapes, and carpet are all home to dust that can aggravate allergies, which are sure to keep you awake. Faith Popcorn, who coined the term cocoon many years ago, also termed the coin Atmos-fear. She alludes to the fact that smell affects the atmosphere, and we need to keep it healthy to ensure overall well-being. Aromatherapy is suggested by many professionals; lavender is a popular herbal sleep aid.
Eliminate clutter; just as you feng shui your car to remove clutter and allow the chakras to flow freely, you want the same effect in your bedroom. Get rid of clutter, distractions and noise, including exercise equipment, computers, phones, and televisions.
Cooperate with your body clock; circadian rhythm is a key to deep, sound sleep. The body clock function of your brain determines your times for sleep and waking by affecting your body temperature and by the daily release of certain hormones that affect alertness.
Enhance the process by choosing a bedtime and an awakening time that fit your lifestyle and temperament. Make sure you’re realistically allowing yourself enough hours of sleep, since this will become your daily routine. Adhere to the schedule as much as possible within reason. Within a few weeks, your body clock will be aligned with your new sleep and awakening times. It’s best not to take naps during the day even if you are sleepy. You’ll find that you’ll be less ready for sleep at bedtime if you nap.
Temperature counts – and this includes room and body temperature. Vigorous exercise within three hours of bedtime is not a good idea, nor is a hot bath. Exercise regularly, but make it an early in the day habit. Take advantage of your brain’s own sleep-inducing chemical, melatonin, and get some bright light exposure each day soon after awakening. This will decrease your brain’s melatonin levels early in the day. With less melatonin you’ll be more awake and alert. Try for 30 to 45 minutes of light exposure as early in the day as possible. In the evening, as you approach bedtime, keep room lights low so your melatonin levels will increase and help ready you for sleep. Follow the temperature tricks under Environment.
Get ready, get set, and go. You would not attempt a marathon without preparation, nor would you take a test without studying. The same is true for sleep. You need prep time so avoid stimulating drugs, caffeine, and nicotine. Limit your fluid intake as you get close to bedtime so you won’t be awakened by a need to go to the bathroom.
Stretch in the morning when you wake up, but stretch again prior to bedtime. This is a good time for yoga, relaxation, meditation and more. Don’t be distracted by alarming news broadcasts and horror stories. Turn off the television and computer at least an hour before bedtime since they are bright light sources that encourage your body to be alert and they often keep your mind engaged with thoughts that will interfere with sleep.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that one in 10 adults has chronic insomnia. These tips will enhance your ability to get a good night’s sleep! Join the ranks of those who can sleep any place, any time…with just a blink of an eye.
Insomnia update: tips for a good night’s sleep – by Karen Erickson
A Good Night’s Sleep – Fact or Fallacy? – by Sharon M Weinstein, MS, RN
Is your posture causing fatigue? – by
Sleep… Is Counting Sheep The Answer? – by Sharon M Weinstein, MS, RN
Natural Solutions To Sleep Problems – by Dr Steven Arculeo, DC