Natural Sleep Remedies to Cure Insomnia - Paula Owens, MS

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Natural Sleep Remedies to Cure Insomnia

Natural Sleep Remedies, Cure Insomnia - Paula Owens, MS Holistic Nutritionist and Functional Health Practitioner Do you suffer from insomnia? Have trouble staying asleep or unable to fall asleep? Before rushing to the drugstore to buy an OTC sleep medication, try these Natural Sleep Remedies to overcome insomnia and sleep through the night.

Deep, restful sleep is essential for hormone balance, healthy brain function, memory, energy, younger-looking skin, optimal performance, a happier mood, fat loss, healthy aging, and reducing risk of dementia, depression, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and obesity!

Chronic insomnia is often a symptom of another problem such as exposure to blue light at night, anxiety, a parasite infection, hypoglycemia, lack of sunlight during the day, food sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances or an underlying health condition. If you want to look, think and feel your best, the value of a good night’s sleep cannot be overlooked.

The Dangers of Insomnia and Long-term Sleep Problems

  • Late bedtimes, interrupted sleep and chronic sleep deprivation are at an all-time high these days. Lack of sleep and poor quality sleep causes increased belly fat, weight loss resistance, cravings, catabolism, adrenal dysfunction, high cortisol, leptin-resistance, insulin resistance and other hormone imbalances, accelerated aging, shorter telomeres, premature skin aging, increased inflammation, and an greater risk of diabetes, dementia, hypertension, and other diseases.
  • Sleep deprivation interferes with the ability to secrete and regulate powerful hormones, specifically DHEA, testosterone and growth hormone, which in turn accelerates aging, increases appetite, adds inches to your waistline, negatively affects libido, and increases risk of insulin resistance and developing diabetes. In fact, just one week of short sleep (5 hours) creates a 10-15% drop in testosterone and alters more than 700 genes.
  • Lack of sleep triggers poor food choice, increased cravings, and a decline in leptin (the hormone that signals your body and brain that you’re full, satiated and satisfied), and high levels of ghrelin (a hormone that triggers hunger causing one to never feel full and consume an excess intake of food) resulting in increased weight.
  • One IQ point is lost for every hour of sleep you didn’t get the night before. [Stanley Coren, Canadian sleep expert]
  • Cognitive and mood problems develop, anxiety worsens, and risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and memory problems significantly increase as a result of sleep deprivation. According to research, one of the first signs of brain deterioration and early Alzheimer’s disease is sleep disruption. In yet another study, they reported that the less sleep older adults get, the faster their brains age.

Healing of the mind, body & spirit occur during deep, restful sleep

Energy is restored and replenished during restful sleep. Brain waves normally shift to a lower vibrational frequency as we shift from the initial stages of sleep into the deeper stages, such as the rapid eye movement stage (REM).

The physical body repairs between the hours between 10pm and 2am. Psychological repair and regeneration of your mind occurs between 2am and 6am.

Symptoms of forgetfulness, headaches, lack of focus, itching, moodiness, sugar cravings, and neck and backaches often disappear with a good night’s sleep.

If you’re unable to fall asleep, the problem is often a need to balance the central nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic) and correct mineral deficiencies. If you’re able to fall asleep, but unable to stay asleep rule out adrenal dysfunction, blood sugar handling problems, insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, underlying infections and gut dysbiosis.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, specific organs have a two hour time period when the Qi or energy is at its peak in that meridian. The gallbladder meridian is most active between 11pm and 1am. The liver meridian is most active between 1-3am. Consistently awakening between 3-5am is strongly suggestive of adrenal problems and oxidative stress. Consistently waking during these hours may be an indication that the specific organ is out of balance and needs some TLC. When the energy of a meridian is not flowing optimally due to a block such as unhealthy eating, toxic overload, EMF exposure or stress, an individual can experience a sign or symptom from the meridian(s) involved.

Natural Sleep Remedies to Cure Insomnia

  • Create an environment for restful sleep as evening approaches. Reduce exposure to blue light at night, which suppresses normal melatonin production and increases blood glucose. Use candles, turn on some salt lamps (one of my personal favorites), and dim the lights in your home an hour or so before bedtime. Circadian rhythms are produced by natural factors within the body and also affected by environment, specifically light. Disrupted circadian rhythms negatively alter and influence sleep quality, hormones, metabolism, energy levels, gut microbiome, physical strength, body temperature, cell regeneration, and overall behavioral, hormonal and metabolic function. Abnormal circadian rhythms are a source of stress that predisposes individuals to obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar, anxiety, disease and accelerated aging.
  • No blue light at night. Unplug the Wi-Fi, shutdown and avoid the computer, iPad, cell phone and television at least 2 hours before bedtime, preferably by 8pm. Exposure to blue light (computer, TV and cell phone screens) during night time disrupts melatonin production and hormones that control hunger, impairs memory, increases risk of diabetes, depression, heart disease, breast cancer and obesity, negatively impacts sleep quality and quantity, and alters your body’s natural circadian rhythms.
    Studies have found that a two-hour exposure to light from self-luminous electronic devices (computers, iPads, and smartphones) within 2 hours of bedtime will delay sleep, increase awakenings and suppress melatonin by 23 percent!  In yet another study, exposure to blue light at night, and heavy cell phone and computer use has a direct link to sleeping problems, stress and depression. Those exposed to mobile radiation take longer to fall asleep and spend less time in the deeper stages of sleep. Unplug and shut down2 hours before bedtime!
  • Sleep in complete darkness. Make your bedroom pitch black. If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin. Minimize light in the bathroom too, in case you get up in the middle of the night. Keep the lights off if you go to the bathroom at night. As soon as you turn on that light you immediately stop production of the important sleep aid, melatonin.
  • Keep electronics out of the bedroom, including electric alarm clocks, electric blankets, cell phones, television and computers because of electro-magnetic fields (EMFs). EMF exposure disrupts the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and come with a host of other negative effects.
    Always charge your cell phone in a room other than your bedroom.
    Loud alarm clocks can be very stressful on your body. If an electric alarm clock must be used, keep it as far away from the bed as possible, preferably at least five to six feet. Be sure to cover it and remove it from view as it will only add to your worry when constantly starring at it… 2 AM…3 AM… 4:30 AM…
  • Magnesium, “natures natural muscle relaxer and anti-stress mineral” has a calming effect on the nervous and muscular system. It’s acts as a natural tranquilizer and is very helpful for inducing restful sleep. Magnesium deficiency is extremely common. Give my bedtime magnesium cocktail a try 30-60 minutes before bedtime: 300-400mg Magnesium glycinate, 200mg of magnesium threonate, and 3-4 pumps of topical magnesium oil  applied behind the knees. I also take B6 phosphate and zinc.
  • Install F.lux on your computer. F.lux is a free app that when enabled on your computer, reduces blue light emissions by adjusting the computer’s color temperature according to your location and time of day.
  • Food sensitivities. The main culprits: dairy, sugar, soy, eggs, wheat, artificial sweeteners, omega-6 fats, corn and gluten contribute to sleep apnea, excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset, leaky gut, mood disorders, inflammation and disrupted sleep.
  • Hypoglycemia and blood sugar imbalances can be the very reason you’re unable to stay asleep during the night. Eat a balanced meal for dinner that includes protein, a slow releasing carbohydrate, veggies and healthy fats. Another option is to consume an easily digestible protein shake with one teaspoon of raw, organic honey and sprinkle of cinnamon three hours before bedtime. This provides your body with L-tryptophan needed to produce melatonin and serotonin as well as blood sugar stabilization. Avoid alcohol, processed foods and sugary snacks that raise blood sugar and inhibit growth hormone release.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day even on the weekends to program your body into a healthy sleep rhythm making it easier to fall asleep and get up in the morning. Erratic schedules disrupt your body clock.
  • Go to bed earlier. One hour of sleep before midnight has the quality of two hours of sleep after midnight!
    Our systems, particularly the adrenals do a majority of their recharging and recovering during the hours of 11pm and 1am. Not only are these the hours that up to 80% of growth hormone is secreted, 11pm to 1am is when the gallbladder meridian is most active and releases toxins. If you are awake during these hours, the toxins back up into the liver which then secondarily back up into your entire system and cause further disruption of your health. Consistently waking up between the hours of 1–3am may indicate liver toxicity and congestion and a sign that your liver needs extra TLC. Consistently waking between 3–5am is a strong indicator of adrenal problems, and oxidative stress and a need for more antioxidants.
  • Easy on the booze. Although alcohol might make you drowsy, the effect is short lived and you’ll experience interrupted sleep, often waking up several hours later, tossing and turning, and unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol prevents deeper stages of sleep, disrupts blood sugar, hormones and inhibits growth hormone production. A Friday night alcohol binge disrupts your sleep until the following Tuesday.
  • Avoid caffeine later in the day. A study found that in some individuals caffeine is not metabolized efficiently and these folks feel the effects long after consuming it. Beware of various drugs, OTCs and diet pills contain caffeine.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercising for at least 30 minutes every day encourages deep restful sleep. However, exercising too close to bedtime may keep you awake. Remember, muscles are worked in the gym, fed in the kitchen and built in your sleep. Train smart, fuel your body with real food, value the importance of rest, recovery and relaxation, and don’t skimp on sleep.
  • Get a handle on stress. According to sleep experts, stress is the #1 cause of insomnia and interrupted sleep.
  • Read something spiritual, preferably from an actual book, not a tablet or smart phone! This will help your mind relax. Refrain from reading anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel that can actually have the opposite effect.
  • Hydrate during the day. When you’re dehydrated, production of cortisol increases, and melatonin and growth hormone decrease, which will disrupt sleep. Minimize fluid intake within 2 hours of going to bed. This will reduce the likelihood of needing to get up and go to the bathroom or at least minimize the frequency. If you do need to get up for the bathroom, refrain from turning on lights.
  • Journaling. Gratitude log. Before bed, jot down 3-5 things or people you’re grateful for. Recall 3-5 things that went well for you during the day. Fill your mind with positive, loving thoughts as you get ready to retire for the evening.
  • Sunlight! Spend time in nature. Go camping. One week of camping without electronics resets our biological clock, circadian rhythm, and synchronizes our hormones such as melatonin with the sunrise and sunset. Daily sun exposure can help you sleep better too!
  • Keep the bedroom temperature cool. Many people keep their homes, particularly the upstairs bedrooms too hot. Ideal sleeping temperature is 68°.
  • Aromatherapy. Sprinkle a few drops of your favorite essential oil such as lavender, frankincense, chamomile or sandalwood oil on your pillow or rub into the temple area and back of your neck.
  • Meditation. Meditating for as little as 2-5 minutes before bedtime can induce restful sleep.
  • The 4-7-8 breathing method. Practice deep, belly breathing and calming yin yoga postures such as forward folding and legs up the wall. Breathe into your belly for a count of 4; hold without tensing your jaw or shoulders for a count of 7, and slowly exhale for a count of 8.
  • White noise, guided meditation or relaxation CDs. Some people find the sound of white noise or nature sounds such as the ocean soothing for sleep. Listen to relaxing music while lying with your legs up the wall yoga pose before retiring.
  • Lose weight. Being overweight increases the risk of sleep apnea, which prevents your body from falling into a deep, restful sleep.
  • Avoid OTC and prescription sleep aids, which negatively affect sleep. In 2012 alone, 49 million prescriptions for sleep medications were written. These OTC and prescription sleep aids are highly addictive and come with serious side effects including hallucinations, memory problems, depression, diabetes, excessive daytime tiredness, increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, sleepwalking and engaging in other behaviors such as eating and even driving while not fully awake and alert. These drugs are a band-aid that mask a deeper, underlying problem and imbalance.
    A study published in the British Medical Journal found that people who take prescription sleeping pills regularly are nearly five times more likely to die within 2.5 years and have four times a higher rate of cognitive dysfunction compared to those who do not take the drugs. Taking benzodiazepines (the most popular ones include Xanax, Ativan, Valium and Klonopin), used to treat anxiety and insomnia is associated with a 51% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. [Source: BMJ, Sept 2014]
  • Tea. Sip on a cup of Sleepy Time, chamomile or passion flower tea 2-3 hours before bedtime. Add 1/2 to one teaspoon of raw, organic honey to the tea.
  • Listen to calming or classical music. Listening to relaxing classical music for before going to bed improves sleep quality. Music therapy has been used for centuries to calm anxiety, relax the nervous system, soothe the brain, restore energy, improve mood, and help the body heal naturally. Music has a profound impact that reduces sympathetic nervous system activity, decreases anxiety, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate, and has positive effects on sleep via muscle relaxation and distraction from thoughts.
  • Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed. Add 4-5 cups of Epsom salts to the bath (the magnesium is absorbed through your skin), which promotes muscular relaxation. Add some baking soda, ginger powder and apple cider vinegar to aid in detoxification and reducing inflammation. Add a few drops of essential aromatic oils, such as lavender, frankincense or sandalwood, which will induce a state of calm, enhancing sleep.
  • Lab testing helps to identify nutrient deficiencies or underlying infections, which may be the root cause of insomnia and sleep problems, including a thorough blood panel, comprehensive digestive stool analysis with parasitology and others.
  • Test hormones, including thyroid and adrenals. Hormonal disruption occurs during peri-menopause, menopause, andropause and high-stress lifestyles. Insomnia is often a symptom of overtaxed adrenals.
  • Rule out intestinal parasites. Parasites tend to be more active at night.
  • Wear socks to bed. Your feet have the poorest circulation in the body and will usually feel cold before the rest of the body. A study has shown that wearing socks to bed may reduce waking up throughout the night.
  • A small glass of organic tart cherry juice in the evening boosts melatonin levels naturally. A study in the European Journal of Nutrition reported that cherries are high in potassium, antioxidant-rich containing anthocyanins that are excellent for reducing inflammation, preventing and healing gout, lowering uric acid levels, and helpful for falling asleep quicker.
  • Stress-reducing nutrients. Aside from magnesium, consider Phenitropic, ashwagandha or VHP (a blend of Valerian, Hops and Passion Flower, an excellent herbal tranquilizer without side effects). Contact my office to determine the appropriate nutrients ideal for your unique biochemistry.
  • Melatonin. What about melatonin and L-tryptophan, 5-HTP or Neuro 5-HTP Plus? If behavioral or environmental changes don’t work, melatonin can be beneficial for some. However, note that melatonin in excess can inhibit the thyroid, adrenals and immune system, and may inhibit your body’s natural production of melatonin. Ideally, it’s best to increase levels of melatonin naturally with exposure to bright sunlight in the daytime (along with full spectrum light in the winter) and by avoiding blue light at night from screens after 8pm. Your bedroom should be completely dark so no light is coming in from the outside. 5-HTP should not be used during pregnancy or lactation, or by individuals taking antidepressants or anxiety drugs or those with cardiovascular disease. Always discuss with your health care practitioner prior to using.

Abnormal circadian rhythms are a huge source of stress that predisposes individuals to obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar and accelerated aging. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Circadian rhythms are produced by natural factors within the body and also affected by environment, specifically light. Disrupted circadian rhythms negatively alter and  affect sleep quality, hormones, metabolism,  ability to lose body fat, energy levels, gut microbiome, brain function, memory, physical strength, body temperature, cell regeneration and overall behavioral, hormonal and metabolic function.

Natural Sleep Remedies to Cure InsomniaThe take away message: honor and respect your body’s innate natural rhythm and value the importance of quality sleep…less screen time, shut down the computer, TV, smart phone of iPad around 8pm and always unplug the WiFi router in your home. Dim all lights in your home around 8pm. Get your butt in bed no later than 10pm and rise with the sun. Sleep in a pitch dark bedroom. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day (even on the weekends). Consider taking some magnesium. Implement more of the helpful tips found above to ensure restful, uninterrupted sleep. Sweet dreams!

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