By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
June 7, 2019
I’m a lucky guy.
There have only been a few brief periods in my life when sleepless nights plagued me. Those long, dark hours were miserable. And dragging my way through the sleep deprived days was even worse.
Like most folks, these few bouts with insomnia didn’t last very long. (Although, at the time it felt like they were never ending!)
So my heart goes out to sleepless patients who slog into my office begging me to write them up a prescription for a medication that will help them sleep.
I know they’re going through hell. But I simply can’t comply.
That doesn’t mean I can’t help them resolve their problem quickly. These days I have an entire arsenal at my fingertips to put a stop to restless nights. They work for me. They work for my patients. And in just a few minutes, I’ll show you how they can work for you.
But before I go into that, I want to explain WHY I have an aversion to sleep meds… and why you should, too.
You see, many prescription sleep aids fall into a class of drugs called “hypnotics”. Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata all fall into this category.
I’ve never liked these drugs. They can knock you out like a sledge-hammer.. Plus, hypnotic sleep aids can produce crazy (hallucinogenic-like) dreams and nightmares.
When this happens it’s impossible to feel rested when you wake up in the morning. Instead, a general feeling of malaise, drowsiness, disorientation, low mental alertness, confusion may set in.
These are some pretty dreadful side effects. In my opinion, they are even worse than the “hell” that accompanies sleepless nights.
However, that’s the least of your problems when it comes to prescription sleep meds.
By far, the most disturbing reports involve sleepwalking, sleep eating, driving and engaging in other activities while not fully awake.
While this might sound like something that only happens in Lifetime movies and Harlequin novels, it’s a very real side effect. And it has resulted in numerous deaths – car accidents, drownings, falls, burns, hypothermia… even gunshot wounds and suicide attempts.
And here’s the strangest part. In cases where patients recover from their injuries, they often don’t even remember these events!
This has FINALLY led to the FDA adding a black-box warning on these medications to alert users to the potential for life-threatening side effects. But I don’t think that will go a long way in preventing their use. (I would much prefer getting rid of these sleep aids altogether and save a few lives in the process.)
These are extremely serious reasons to avoid sleep meds at all cost. Even if they knock you out for a couple of hours, there is very little chance you’ll wake up feeling rested or revitalized.
At the same time, you risk inserting yourself into a life-ending event… without even being aware of it!
What’s keeping you up at night…
and what can you do about it?
An ill-defined sleep schedule can make it harder to fall asleep on time… and all too easy to wake up before you’re ready. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and set your alarm for the same time every morning.
In the meantime, it’s a good idea to identify what’s causing your sleepless nights.
Is your racing mind preventing you from sleeping? Try L-theanine. It promotes calmness by increasing alpha activity in the brain. This results in “relaxed alertness.” And, when your mind is calm, you can get to sleep a lot faster. Take 200 mg. shortly before bedtime.
Are anxiety and nervous tension keeping you awake? Gamma amino butyric acid – or GABA for short – is a natural relaxant that reduces anxiety. It soothes frazzled nerve cells and muffles neuronal activity in the brain. Many people suffering from primary insomnia are short on this nutrient. For sleep, stress and anxiety I recommend 100-200 mg before bedtime.
Do you wake up too often during the night? Valerian root is a well-researched sleep herb that works just as well as a prescription sleeping aid, but without deadly side effects. When you combine valerian (500 mg.) with hops (120 mg.), it can improve both your quality of sleep and the amount of time you spend in deep sleep.
Is your natural sleep cycle out of synch? If you have trouble getting to sleep at night or waking up on time, try supplementing with 1 to 3 mg. of melatonin about an hour before bedtime. This nutrient can do wonders when it comes to re-setting your natural circadian rhythm. To reset your melatonin’s nighttime production and secretion naturally, get outside in the morning for a short walk in the sunshine.
It also helps if you get yourself into a regular evening routine.
Get high-energy projects out of the way early in the evening. Don’t drink or eat anything after 7:30 p.m. (This will help prevent middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.) Shut down the TV and electronic devices at the same time each night, and reserve at least an hour to wind down before trying to get to sleep.
FDA adds Boxed Warning for risk of serious injuries caused by sleepwalking with certain prescription insomnia medicines. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Apr 2019.
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Winkelman JW, et al. Reduced brain GABA in primary insomnia: preliminary data from 4T proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS). Sleep. 2008 Nov;31(11):1499-506.
Koetter U. et al. A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, prospective clinical study to demonstrate clinical efficacy of a fixed valerian hops extract combination (Ze 91019) in patients suffering from non-organic sleep disorder. Phytother Res. Sep 2007;21(9):847-51.
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