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Home > Why Can't I Sleep?
Why Can't I Sleep?
by Dave Foreman
For many of us falling asleep at night is like work. For others, we may fall asleep fine but wake up in the middle of the night unable to fall back to sleep. Whatever your sleep dilemma, I am here to help. What you may not be aware of are the potentially severe health effects that decreased sleep can cause. Insufficient amounts of sleep or working odd hours can be linked to:
• Heart Disease
Sleep deprivation is also a major contributing factor to emotional and psychological problems, hospitalizations, decreased work efficiency and death - yes death! Insomnia can impact how the body's systems work. I know that when I am tired I will usually get sick. Others may have problems with their nervous system, cardiovascular system and hormonal balancing.
Why do we have problems sleeping? There are many potential causes of insomnia. Insomnia is usually associated with various physical and psychological disorders, treatments, and environmental conditions. Physical problems such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), asthma, emphysema, GERD (Gastroesophogeal reflux), Alzheimer's, apnea, ulcers, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heartburn, menopause and restless leg syndrome are just a few of the many health challenges that can contribute to insomnia. Certain classes of medication can also contribute to sleep problems. Drugs used for the following health issues can have a link to insomnia:
•Anti-histamines (including those for stomach issues)
Abnormal levels of certain hormones also may be the cause of your lack of sleep. Decreased levels of estrogen, growth hormone, melatonin and cortisol have been linked to decreased abilities to sleep.
As you can see, the reason why you may not be sleeping well can be caused by many factors. For this reason you may wish to take a multifaceted approach to your sleep dilemma.
The following are some recommendations to help you sleep better at night:
Eliminate caffeine. Caffeine is a drug and takes almost one day to be cleared from the body. There can actually be an addictive effect from consuming caffeine on a daily basis. This may be why you used to need only 1 cup of coffee in the morning, but you now require 3 or 4 cups per day to keep from feeling tired. This stimulant is found in coffee, tea (all forms), chocolate, certain herbs (guarana, kola nut) and many beverages.
Monitor food sensitivities. This may shock many of you, but being sensitive to a certain food group has shown to impact your ability to sleep. If you have tried many techniques to improve your sleep and are still having issues then having yourself tested would be a great next step.
Avoid other drugs. Drugs like nicotine, alcohol (yes these are drugs), stimulants used for ADD, etc. can all play a huge role in your ability to sleep. I recommend that you consult your pharmacist for a complete list of potential side effects of your medications to see if they are contributing to your sleep disturbances.
Get the TV out of your bedroom. This alone may be the biggest recommendation I can make. Too many of us will fight falling to sleep because we are too interested in seeing the end of a particular program. Record your program and watch it at another time.
Take a warm shower or bath. This is one of my favorites when I travel. It's a trick we have used for decades to help our children sleep better at night. If you choose a bath, put a few cups of Epsom salts into the water to get an increased effect. The magnesium in the Epsom salt will be absorbed, and will help relax your muscles and decrease stress.
Exercise. Increasing your activity/exercise will most likely have a huge impact on your sleep pattern. Don't do the exercise too close to your bedtime because this will probably have the reverse effect. I already recommend 30 minutes of brisk walking per day as part of my Four Pillars of Great Health. Give it a try for 4 weeks-you will see remarkable improvements in your sleep and overall health.
Aside from these lifestyle changes, dietary supplements play a huge role in addressing your sleep needs. Before I get into the supplements I recommend for those who can't fall asleep, I want to address those who tend to wake up between the hours of 2am and 4am. For you folks, I recommend taking better care of your liver. My opinion is your liver is waking you up. To fix this problem, try starting with a Liver Cleanse. There are many different box products available. The two I prefer are by Renew Life and Enzymatic Therapy. These products are designed to help detoxify the liver gently and effectively. After completion of the cleanse I would continue supporting your liver with either Liver Blend SP-13 (Solaray) or Advanced Liver Care (Renew Life Formulas). In some cases, using Milk Thistle 400-600mg per day (Standardized to 80% silymarin) will do the trick too.
Obviously if your sleep issues are caused by a particular health challenge like heart disease, menopause, or one of the others mentioned above, your goal should be to address that health challenge first-and then your sleep should improve. In the meantime, the following supplements are what I have found to be most beneficial toward helping you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer.
•Revitalizing Sleep Formula (Enzymatic Therapy) - My all-time favorite
•Advanced Sleep Formula (M.D. Select)
•Sleep Tablets (Hyland's) - this is a homeopathic remedy
Alternatively, look for other formulations that contain several of these ingredients:
•Melatonin-for jet lag or for those over the age of 55 (use sparingly)
•Magnesium (& Calcium)
Last but not least, try my favorite trick. For each letter of the alphabet, come up with something you are thankful or grateful for in your life. Lie in bed and breathe slow and deep. Then for each letter of the alphabet think of at least one thing you are thankful for. Here is how I have started out in the past: A is for Adam and Amanda my children. B is for the Bible, C is for Cindy...you get the idea.When you use this technique you usually will not get to the letter Z. Most people will fall asleep well before the end of the alphabet. If you need to do this every night, change your answers. If it doesn't help you sleep, at least you are doing something positive in your life to end the day.