Sleep The Natural Way
In our high speed society, sleep can sometimes seem like a rare luxury, instead of a necessity.
Prescription sleep aids seem like a quick fix if you suffer from insomnia: Take a pill, and a few minutes later you’re out like a light. However, easy doesn’t mean risk-free, and many aren’t aware of the side effects.
Most sleeping pills are classified as sedative hypnotics. They are a specific class of drugs used to induce/maintain sleep. Sedative hypnotics include benzodiazepines, barbiturates and other various hypnotics.
Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Librium are all benzodiazepines, which are anti-anxiety medications that also increase drowsiness and help people sleep. While these drugs may initially be useful, all benzodiazepines are potentially addictive and can cause problems with memory and attention. Typically, they aren’t recommended for long-term sleeping problems.
As reported by the New York Times, a study conducted by BMJ revealed that patients taking prescription sleep aids on a regular basis were nearly five times as likely as non-users to die over a period of two and a half years (including those who are prescribed fewer than 20 pills a year). Researchers also found that heavy users may be more likely to develop cancer. They’ve warned that even non-benzodiazepine hypotics like zoozolpidemidem (Ambien) and eszoplicone (Lunesta) aren’t risk free.
The bottom line is, it’s safer to find a natural alternative instead of causing complications with your health. Here are some solutions:
Magnesium is extremely helpful if you need a good night’s sleep It is a mineral that is responsible for the correct metabolic function of over 350 enzymes in the body. It helps balance the nervous system, and has a calming effect, which helps relax muscle aches and tension. One study found that magnesium helps decrease cortisol, the “stress hormone” that can keep you up at night.
Foods that are very rich in magnesium include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Yogurt or Kefir
- Black Beans
- Dark Chocolate
Another way to consume magnesium is through supplements. The right dose of magnesium for sleep falls between 200 and 400 mg, but it really depends on your age.
You can also absorb magnesium through your skin! An epsom salt bath can boost magnesium levels, relieve tension and de-stress pained muscles (which is why many athletes take epsom salt baths after a gruelling workout).
Excessive studies have shown that lavender eases anxiety and insomnia.
In a study done by the University of Southampton, researchers tracked the sleep patterns of 10 adults. For a week, one group slept in a room infused with lavender, while another group slept in a room infused with almond oil. At the end of the week, the volunteers said that the quality of their sleep was 20% better on average when sleeping in the lavender scented room.
Lavender has been shown to slow your heartbeat and relax muscles, which allows you to clear your mind and rest your brain while you sleep.
Sprinkle some pure lavender essential oil on a tissue and put in under your pillow, or, dab some on your feet! That way, you’ll have the aromatherapy you need while it also absorbs into your skin. You can also use a diffuser.
L-theanine is an amino acid that can be found in green tea leaves, and is available as a supplement. Studies have shown that L-theanine induces a sense of calm in patients with anxiety. At a dosage of 100-200 mg, it doesn’t act as a sedative, but it does significantly improve sleep quality.
Melatonin is an important hormone secreted by the pineal gland, located in the centre of the brain, that helps regulate the sleep cycle. It causes drowsiness, lowers body temperature, and puts the body into sleep mode. In many studies, melatonin has been shown to help induce and maintain sleep in both children and adults, for people with normal sleep patterns, and those affected by insomnia.
While melatonin is natural, it’s not regulated by the FDA, so speak with your doctor before you begin supplementation.
Foods that are high in melatonin include:
- Sweet corn
While you should always consult your doctor before using anything as a sleep aid, it’s always better to go the natural route. If you are currently on unnatural sleeping aids, please don’t start using any of the solutions above until you have completely cleansed your body and waned yourself off the unnatural aids.