Q. I often have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. What constitutes insomnia, what are its long-term effects, and can natural medicine help?
A. If you have chronic insomnia, you aren’t alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 70 million Americans are affected by sleep problems.
Insomnia is defined as any of the following: difficulty falling asleep, waking a lot during the night, waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep, and waking up feeling unrefreshed. According to the NSF, before Thomas Edison developed the light bulb, people slept an average of 10 hours.
Today, most Americans sleep an average of seven hours a night, with 30 percent of the population sleeping less than six hours a night.
Getting adequate sleep is vital to your well-being. Research has shown that people who chronically experience a lack of sleep have reduced immunity, impaired work performance, and decreased memory; they don’t handle stress well, and are more irritable and less happy than people who get enough sleep.
Mood changes are associated with insomnia because the brain chemicals that impact sleep also affect your moods.
Natural medicine has much to offer those with sleep problems, including the following lifestyle factors and nutritional and herbal supplements:
-Go to bed and wake at the same time every day.
-Avoid exercising five hours before bedtime.
-Turn off the television at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
-Create a relaxing bedtime ritual, like taking a hot bath with aromatherapy oils.
-Eat adequate protein at dinner. If you go to bed hungry, stress hormones can increase, causing insomnia.
-Phosphatidylserine, a supplement derived from soy, helps some people sleep. Most effective for insomnia due to anxiety and stress, the recommended dose is 90 to 180 milligrams with a high protein snack before bedtime.
-5-HTP, a compound derived from the amino acid L-tryptophan, helps many people with insomnia by acting as a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. The recommended dose is 100 milligrams one hour before bedtime. (Do not use if you are on antidepressant medications.)
-In 2000, the Journal Pharmacopsychiatry published a study showing that valerian root improved sleep. The recommended dose is 300 to 500 milligrams (containing 0.5 percent essential oils).
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com