By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness
One of the most common complaints I hear from my patients revolves around sleep—or rather the lack thereof. They aren’t alone. Millions of Americans aren’t getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and their lack of shut-eye is taking its toll—on professional relationships, family life and public safety. It’s even putting a damper on their sex lives, according to a Sleep in America poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).
But chronic sleeplessness can also significantly impact their health. When we sleep soundly, our bodies are able to repair muscles, release hormones, bolster immunity and energize our cells. Getting enough sleep affects the ability to concentrate, as well as our moods and even our weight. It also affects how our bodies age.
If you have difficulty falling asleep, can’t stay asleep, and/or experience poor sleep quality at least four nights a week for more than a month, you have chronic insomnia. But before you turn to over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids, it’s important to know that these drugs are not without their side effects, which can include dependence, confusion, dry mouth and morning drowsiness. Withdrawal from sleep medications can also cause nausea and a worsening of insomnia. The good news is that there are many natural compounds that can provide a safe and effective alternative to sleeping pills.
Nature’s Sleep Aids
Melatonin is best known as a natural cure for jet lag. However, many studies have shown it to be very effective for insomnia. A 2008 study showed that 5 mg of melatonin daily helped shift-working nurses fall asleep more easily. Melatonin retrains your circadian rhythm so you become sleepy when the lights dim and wake up more alert at morning light. This makes melatonin particularly effective for people who have difficulty falling asleep.
L-theanine, an amino acid derived from green tea, is another natural sleep remedy that improves deep sleep and helps people maintain a calm alertness during the day. It also plays a role in the formation of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is critical for sleep. L-theanine reduces feelings of stress and improves sleep quality without creating drowsiness or diminished motor performance.
Hops can also help you nod off by reducing anxiety and helping your muscles relax. Often used in combination with valerian and lemon balm (a natural sedative), hops have to be dried to have any medicinal effect—the hops in beer, however tasty, provide no sleep benefit.
Valerian helps reduce the time it takes you to fall asleep and improves the quality of sleep you get—without next-day drowsiness. Double-blind trials have found that valerian is an effective treatment for people with mild to moderately severe insomnia. In one placebo-controlled study of 128 people, 400 mg. of valerian enhanced sleep quality and significantly reduced the time it took to fall asleep. It’s even more effective when combined with hops. One study of a valerian-hops supplement found that the herbal combo helped the study participants fall asleep and improved sleep quality without rebound insomnia once the supplement was discontinued.
5-HTP is another important tool to fight insomnia. 5-HTP (hydroxytryptophan) is used by the body to make serotonin, an important substance for normal nerve and brain function. Serotonin also plays a significant role in sleep. One placebo-controlled study showed that taking just 100 mg. of 5-HTP before bedtime improves both the duration and depth of sleep.
While you can spend weeks trying each of these natural sleep remedies individually, I’ve found a wonderful supplement that combines all of these proven sleep aids in one capsule. Restful Sleep Formula by Uniscience Group is a unique formula that will safely lull you to sleep and help you stay asleep all night long. It’s safe, non-habit forming and will leave you feeling refreshed and alert when you wake up the next morning.
What Else Can You Do?
In addition to using Restful Sleep Formula, you may also want to try the following dietary and lifestyle tips to help ensure consistent and sound slumber:
- Establish a regular bedtime and wake time.
- Reserve the bedroom for intimacy and sleep only; do not watch television, eat, talk on the phone or work in your bedroom.
- Make your bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol within six hours of bedtime. Exercise during the day, but not right before bedtime.
- Avoid sugary foods and refined carbohydrates before bedtime.
- Avoid foods with additives and preservatives; some of these ingredients can act as stimulants.
- To avoid nighttime awakening due to a drop in blood sugar, eat a small amount of complex carbohydrates and protein such as whole-grain bread with turkey one hour before bedtime. Adding the turkey will also provide L-tryptophan which your body converts to 5-HTP.
- Turn down the lights to simulate the end of the day.
- Add a cup of Epsom salt and 10 drops of lavender essential oil to a warm bath and soak for twenty minutes prior to bedtime. The magnesium in the Epsom salts will relax your muscles and the lavender will ease stress. Don’t forget to light a few candles as a quick and inexpensive mood relaxant.
- Drink chamomile, passion flower, kava kava or other calming tea or a glass of warm milk.
- Hop into bed with a good book in hand, read until the first eyelid droops, then turn off the light and enjoy your night’s sleep. If bedtime intimacy is anticipated, even better.
- The more consistent your bedtime routine, the more likely you will consistently enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Because we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, it makes sense to maximize that time. Combining these healthy sleep habits with a dose of Restful Sleep Formula can help enhance the quantity and quality of your slumber. This will ensure that your body can replenish, restore and rejuvenate, which will help you get ready to tackle another day.
Morin CM, et al. Valerian-hops combination and diphenhydramine for treating insomnia: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Sleep. 2005;28:1465-1471.
Sadeghniiat-Haghighi K, et al. Efficacy and hypnotic effects of melatonin in shift-work nurses: double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial. Journal of Circadian Rhythms. 2008;6:10.
Sleep In America Poll 2009. National Sleep Foundation. www.sleepfoundation.org
Soulairac A, et al. Etudes cliniques de líaction du precurseur de la serotonine le L-5-hydroxy-tryptophane, sur les troubles du sommeil. Schweiz Bundschau Med (PRAXIS) 1998;77:19–23 [in French].