The need for sleep help is on the rise. In the news recently there was a story about a 4 year old boy in St Petersburg Florida who needs help with sleeping – his parents say he has never slept. Never slept?? This may sound like a dream to a “type A” personality, who intentionally minimizes sleep in order to get more work done, however science and research tell us that sleep is critical. Depriving one’s self of sleep will take its toll on your overall health. Read on for more sleep help information…
Side effects of sleep disturbances
Without sleep we are likely to be fatigued, irritable, depressed, anxious, lack concentration, to name a few side effects. In fact there are many studies now showing that the cost of sleep deprivation is staggering: it is affecting our health, our productivity and the overall quality of our lives. Though Proverbs admonishes us “do not love sleep or you will grow poor.” Ecclesiastes states that “the sleep of a laborer is sweet.” There is no “sleep help” like a good nights sleep. Quality sleep brings the body and the mind needed refreshment, restoration and recovery from the rigors and demands of daily life.
Research is showing that sleep deprivation is rampant and also a serious safety concern. A study published in the Fall of 2000 in the British journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, by researchers in Australia and New Zealand reported that sleep deprivation can be as dangerous as driving drunk. The study showed that getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night can affect coordination, reaction time and judgment, creating “a very serious risk.”
Are you getting enough sleep?
How do you know whether you are getting enough sleep? According to www.sleepnet.com, a website devoted to increasing the awareness of the problems of sleep deprivation, “we need enough good quality sleep to feel alert during the day, especially during the afternoon.” Their site states that one of the primary symptoms of not getting ample sleep is feeling very sleepy in the afternoon. Oddly, your circadian pacemaker (aka biological clock) may kick in later and make you feel quite alert in the evening.
Well rested or over stimulated?
Part of the reason many people do not recognize that they are sleep deprived is because they are using various forms of stimulants to keep their brains alert: The most common stimulant used is caffeine. Caffeine, though legal, is a potent drug that acts directly on the central nervous system. Many people use caffeine and/or sugar (coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, and chocolate) through out the day to alter their mood. So, if you cannot wake up without your cup of joe in the morning, it is very likely you may be sleep deprived and/or not providing your body with proper nutrition. Additionally, many people do not realize that sleep and mood are intricately connected. One of the “red flags” for depression (low serotonin) is sleep disturbance.
Here are some sleep help facts mostly derived from Julia Ross’s book, The Mood Cure (ch 12), that you should know about sleep:
- When your head hits the pillow it should take only a few minutes to go to sleep
- You should stay asleep all night (without bathroom trips)
- There are 5 sleep stages which take about 8 hours for an adult to cycle through
- The cycles that occur between 10PM and 2AM are the most restorative
- Some medications (even sleep meds) can interfere with quality sleep
- Difficulty sleeping can be a sign of low serotonin or melatonin
- Stress hormones can interfere with sleep
- Low estrogen or progesterone can result in sleep problems
- Poor eating habits can cause sleep problems
- Thyroid problems can cause sleep disturbances
- Melatonin is a hormone that acts as a powerful sleep aid
- Melatonin is synthesized from serotonin
Want to improve your sleep?
Below are several sleep help tips (check off the sleep help tips you already practice):
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day
- Avoid foods with caffeine and sugar throughout the day
- Don’t eat anything several hours before you retire
- Avoid taking B complex or B 12 close to bedtime
- Eat a whole food diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables
- Avoid processed or packaged foods
- Darken your bedroom completely
- Don’t drink alcohol before going to bed
- Get adequate exercise throughout the day
- Get adequate sunlight exposure
- Avoid bright light in the evening (house lights, TV or computer)
- At least an hour before you go to bed, begin to unwind
- Take a warm bath before retiring (add lavender for further relaxation)
- Drink an unsweetened herbal tea like chamomile (not too close to bedtime)
- Plan your day by scheduling 8 hours of sleep each night
- Pray about the things that are heavy on your mind
- Journal your strong emotions and concerns
Natural sleep remedies
If, after you have tried the above sleep help tips, you are still having trouble sleeping you may want to try a natural sleep aid. One that works well, that me and my husband use, is a wellness oil formula called “Sleep Aid.” This quality product is USDA certified organic. When you are ready to retire, simply rub a few drops onto your shoulders, back or wrist. The lavender, Jasmine and sandalwood essential oils (in a base of unrefined grapeseed oil), are absorbed quickly and effectively into your bloodstream, through your skin. The “Sleep Aid”, is very effective and non-habit forming. Also, the manufacturer, states it is safe on children over 2 years of age.
Real lavender oil or scents are known for their relaxation benefits. Rubbing your feet with a lavender balm like “Night Night” made by Badger can also be very effective in helping you relax and fall asleep.
Additionally there are natural amino acid supplements that you may find beneficial such as 5-HTP, L-Tryptophan, or melatonin and others. For more information on these sleep help aids and the appropriate dosages see Julia Ross’s book The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions–Today .