Join the Crowd!
Nearly two-thirds of American adults suffer sleep problems several nights a week. Even worse, 58 percent of us experience one or more symptoms of insomnia, the most common sleep disorder.
Whether we have difficulty getting to sleep in the first place or wake up in the middle of the night to toss and turn, women suffer more sleep problems than men. And as we grow older, the incidence of insomnia only increases.
Besides feeling cranky the next day or nodding off at your desk, sleep problems can cause serious long-term effects. For starters, lack of sleep increases the risk of diabetes and obesity. Who knew?
Research at the University of Chicago found that too little sleep inhibits the way the body handles food, creating impaired glucose tolerance. This can result in insulin resistance—and unwanted pounds.
A lack of quality (deep or rapid-eye movement) sleep appears to inhibit growth hormones, leading to increased fatty tissue and reduced muscle mass. Sleep deprivation also lowers body temperature and causes fatigue, naturally making you want to eat more to increase energy and help you stay warm.
That’s not all. New research reports that for every hour’s reduction in sleep, the risk of high blood pressure rises 37 percent. Insomnia also leads to cardiovascular problems, depression, dizziness, memory loss, tremors, and trouble speaking.
Dr. Ann Louise’s Take:
As strange as it sounds, I have come to believe that we are slowly dying —”really” dying—for a good night’s sleep. Researchers from the MacArthur Mind/Body Foundation at the University of Chicago, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institutes of Mental Health, and NASA agree.
On anything less than 9.5 hours of sleep at least seven months out of the year, we can develop heart disease, diabetes, severe depression, and cancer. That realization alone can give you sleepless nights!
Truth is, there’s a lot you can do to sleep soundly. Exercise regularly during the day and make sure to get some natural light in your eyes that can “feed” the pineal gland.
Sunglasses, regular glasses, and contact lens can block the natural light responsible for regulating the body’s 24-hour circadian rhythm. This in turn impacts sleep, mood, and appetite. If the pineal gland isn’t properly releasing the hormone melatonin, that can disturb sleeping-waking cycles. Production of this hormone peaks between 2 and 4 pm.
I recommend that everyone, particularly people over 40, take melatonin. Anywhere from 3 to 15 mg of a time-released melatonin a half hour before bedtime can promote a restful night’s sleep.
Stress plays a role here too. Learn to take control of life, especially your time. Break the worry habit, and learn to share your feelings. The Bach Flower remedy White Chestnut is great to take before sleep if you are preoccupied and worried.
Remember that sleep and the adrenal hormone cortisol are intricately entwined. Insufficient sleep forces cortisol levels to rise and stay elevated. A 50-year-old may have evening cortisol levels as much as 30 percent higher than a 20-something. Not exactly sleep inducing!
Cortisol works in concert with other chemicals to quicken fat storage, targeting the central fat cells. This releases glucose and fatty acids providing energy to muscles and stimulating the appetite.
Many people are helped with ¼ to ½ teaspoon of baking soda mixed in 8 ounces of water a half hour before bedtime. This simple remedy reduces overacidity as we grow old—it’s been a godsend for me and my clients.
Also support your adrenal glands with mineral-rich foods. Go for vibrant colors in fruits and vegetables: green (broccoli, collards, kale, and mustard greens) and yellow-orange (cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes).
Adaptogenic herbs—American and Chinese ginseng, hops, passionflower, and skullcap—help the body adapt to stress. Hops, passionflower, and skullcap also work as natural sedatives, helping to promote sleep.
Vitamin B12 appears to significantly relieve insomnia. In one study, 3,000 mcg of this vitamin enabled people with sleep problems to drift off more easily and stay asleep longer. B complex vitamins are crucial during stress.
Chinese medicine says that the liver governs the body during the early morning hours. If you awaken regularly between 1 and 3 am, your liver may need some extra TLC. (Cut out overly fatty foods and make sure you are not overdoing over-the-counter meds.)
Do you crave chocolate when you have trouble sleeping? That usually means you need more magnesium, an important mineral that promotes sleep and supports cardiovascular health.
Try taking magnesium just before bedtime. If you wake up during the night, take another dose. I like Magnesium 400 mg.