better sleep

  • Relief From Insomnia, Get Better Sleep

    Relief From Insomnia Gene Bruno

    Insomnia is the chronic inability to sleep or to remain asleep through the night. The condition is caused by a variety of physical and psychological factors. These include emotional stress, physical pain and discomfort, disturbances in brain function, drug abuse and drug dependence, neuroses, psychoses, and psychological problems that produce anxiety, irrational fears, and tensions. Conventional medical treatments may include giving sedatives, tranquilizers or hypnotics, psychotherapy, and exercise. However, there are also a variety of natural substances, which may help. These are discussed below.

    MELATONIN

    Melatonin is a hormone produced by the small, pea-shaped pineal gland located in the brain. During daylight hours, light entering the eye stimulates neurons to transmit impulses to the pineal gland that inhibit melatonin secretion. But at night, the pineal gland is able to release melatonin, which causes relaxation and initiates the sleep cycle.

    As the body ages, it produces less melatonin—which may explain why elderly people often have difficulty sleeping1 and why melatonin supplements improve sleep in the elderly.2 This does not mean that the use of melatonin should be limited to the elderly. Other research has shown that non-elderly adults with insomnia can also have lower melatonin levels.3 Also, research has demonstrated that melatonin even helps facilitate sleep in young adults.4 An appropriate dose would be 3–6 mg melatonin taken one hour before bedtime.

    VALERIAN ROOT

    Valerian root is considered by many to be the "granddaddy" of all sleep-promoting herbs, and is the leading herb for insomnia in modern herbal medicine. Valerian root makes getting to sleep easier and increases deep sleep and dreaming. Valerian does not cause the morning "hangover" which is a common side effect of prescription sleep drugs and melatonin in some individuals.5,6 By itself, a valerian root supplement (standardized for percent of valerenic acid), in doses of 300–400 mg can be taken thirty minutes before bedtime. Also, Valerian may be combined with other herbs. For example, one German study compared the effect of a combination product containing an extract of valerian root (320 mg at bedtime) and extract of lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, with the sleeping drug Halcion®.7 After monitored sleep for nine nights, the herbal duo matched Halcion in boosting the ability to get to sleep as well as in the quality of sleep. However, the Halcion group felt hung over and had trouble concentrating the next day, while those taking the valerian/lemon balm combination reported no negative effect.

    HOPS

    Hops have a history of use as nature's best sleep "inducer." Though many natural substances are more effective at keeping one asleep, Hops is often considered best at inducing sleep. The German Commission E recommends Hops for anxiety or insomnia.8

    PASSION FLOWER

    Passion flower has been, and continues to be an extremely popular herb in Europe where it is often used to induce relaxation and sleep. In the United States, however, medical use of the herb did not begin until the late nineteenth century when passion flower was used to treat nervous restlessness and gastrointestinal spasms—the belief being that passion flower worked primarily on the nervous system, particularly for anxiety due to mental worry and overwork.9 Research has demonstrated that the flavonoids in passion flower are the primary constituents responsible for its relaxing and anti-anxiety effects.10

    SCULLCAP

    Scullcap has been used historically and in modern times as a sedative for people with nervous tension as well as for insomnia. Unfortunately, very few studies have been conducted on Scullcap. However, one double-blind, placebo-controlled study11 of healthy subjects demonstrated noteworthy anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects from Scullcap. Also, one of Scullcaps constituents known as scutellaria has been shown to have mild sedative and antispasmodic actions in animal research.12

    GRIFFONIA SIMPLICIFOLIA (5-HTP)

    5-Hydroxy-L-Tryptophan (5-HTP) is a natural peptide, which the human body uses to make the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is important for normal nerve and brain function, and plays an important role in sleep. In fact, your body can convert serotonin into melatonin.13 The concept is that by taking supplemental 5-HTP your body should be able to make serotonin, which ultimately, should help promote sleep. In fact, in one placebo-controlled trial 5-HTP was able to improve the duration and depth of sleep in individuals with insomnia.14 In addition, 5-HTP was able to improve sleep quality in a preliminary trial of people with fibromyalgia.15 Commercially, 5-HTP can be derived from the seeds of a West African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia. Some Griffonia extracts are standardized to 10 percent 5-HTP.

    GABA

    Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) is a natural peptide, which is manufactured from the amino acid glutamine and glucose. In the central nervous system, GABA exerts anticonvulsant, sedative, and anxiolytic effects at the cellular level.16,17 GABA supplements appear to promote relaxation and sleep.18 GABA itself does not cause drowsiness. Instead, by easing anxiety, it simply makes it easier to fall asleep.

    DIET AND/OR OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

    For many insomniacs, avoiding caffeine may be an absolute necessity. After all, caffeine is a well-known stimulant, which can keep you awake.19 Now if you're thinking, "Fine, I'll just make sure not to have any coffee in the evening," you may be in for a disappointment. The effects of caffeine can last up to twenty hours,20 so you may need to stop drinking coffee altogether. Now besides regular coffee, black and green tea, cocoa, chocolate, some soft drinks, and many over-thecounter pharmaceuticals also contain caffeine, so be sure to limit or avoid the intake of these items as well. Another dietary consideration is that eating high-carbohydrate food before bedtime, such as a slice of bread or some crackers, can significantly increase serotonin levels in the body—and the neurotransmitter serotonin is known to reduce anxiety and promote sleep.

    Non-dietary considerations include stress and smoking. Insomnia can be triggered by, or exacerbated by psychological stress. Dealing with that stress through counseling has helped in many studies.22 Another method of intervention, which has helped is listening to relaxation tapes.23

    In addition, research has shown that smokers are more likely to have insomnia than non-smokers,24 which is one more good reason for smokers to quit.

    Another non-dietary approach to insomnia can include lavender oil. The volatile or essential oil of lavender contains many medicinal components, including perillyl alcohol, linalool, and geraniol. The oil is calming25 and thus can be helpful in some cases of insomnia. One study of elderly persons with sleeping troubles found that inhaling lavender oil was as effective as tranquilizers.26 The German government approves lavender for people with insomnia.27

    References

    1. Haimov I, et al, BMJ (1994) 309:167.
    2. Singer C, et al, J Am Geriatr Soc (1996) 44:51 [abstr #A1].
    3. Attenburrow MEJ, et al, BMJ(1996) 312:1263–64.
    4. Zhadanova IV, et al, Clin Pharmacol Ther (1995) 57:552–58.
    5. Leathwood PD, Chauffard F, Planta Medica (1985) 51:144–48.
    6. Leathwood PD, et al, Pharmacol Biochem Behav (1982) 17:65–71.
    7. Dressing H, et al, Therapiewoche (1992) 42:726–36.
    8. Blumenthal M, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines (1998) Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, pp. 147.
    9. Foster S, Herbs for Your Health (1996) Interweave Press, Loveland, Colorado, pp. 68–9.
    10. Meier B, Zeitschrift Phytother(1995) 16:115–26.
    11. Wolfson P, Hoffmann DL. An investigation into the efficacy of Scutellaria lateriflora in healthy volunteers. Alternative therapies in health and medicine 2003; 9(2):74-8.
    12. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 86–7.
    13. Guyton AC, Hall JE. Textbook of Medical Physiology, 9th ed. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1996.
    14. Soulairac A, Lambinet H. 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(34a):19–23.
    15. Puttini PS, Caruso I. Primary fibromyalgia syndrome and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan: a 90 day open study. J Int Med Res 1992;20:182–9.
    16. Kalant H, Roschlau WHE, Eds. Principles of Med. Pharmacology. New York, NY: Oxford Univ Press, 1998.
    17. Bloom FE, Kupfer DJ. Psychopharmacology: The Fourth Generation of Progress. New York, NY: Raven Press, Ltd., 1995.
    18. GABA. WholeHealthMD.com. Accessed on December 1, 2005 from http://www.wholehealthmd.com/refshelf/substances_view/1,1525,10027,00.html.
    19. Weiss B, Laties VG, Pharmacol Rev (1962) 14:1–36.
    20. Hollingworth HL, Arch Psychol (1912) 20:1–66.
    21. Blum I, et al, Metabolism (1992) 41:137–40.
    22. Morin CM, Culbert JP, Schwartz SM, Am J Psychiatr(1994) 151:1172–80.
    23. Fuerst ML, JAMA (1983) 249:459–60.
    24. Phillips BA, Danner FJ, Arch Intern Med (1995) 155:734–7.
    25. Buchbauer G, et al, Z Naturforsch [C] (1991) 46:1067–72.
    26. Hardy M, Kirk-Smith MD, Stretch DD, Lancet (1995) 346:701 [letter].
    27. Blumenthal M, et al, (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines (1998) Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, pp. 159–60.
  • To Sleep or Not to Sleep

    sleep insomnia better sleep Charles K Bens

    Chronic insomnia can contribute to the development of many illnesses including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. A vast majority of sleep problems are due to faulty brain chemistry, but there are often contributing factors in other parts of the body such as the digestive process, the liver, the kidneys, etc. This is important because concentrating only on the brain may not resolve the sleep problem.

    Getting a proper diagnosis is the key and doctors trained in holistic medicine can properly diagnose these complicated sleep issues. They treat the whole body while most sleep specialists treat only the brain with reliance on prescription medications. This can produce short-term success, but not sustainable solutions since the root of the problem may not have been addressed.

    Assuming that any non-brain related issues have been addressed we can now fix the brains chemistry. Sleep is crucial to our overall health because it is during sleep that the brain and the body re-energize, detoxify and re-balance. For example, it is during sleep that the body attempts to balance acid and alkalinity in the blood. A proper pH of 7.0 –7.4 in the urine, upon waking, is vital to the health of every part of our body. Disease does not thrive in a body with a balanced pH. If you did not eat enough vegetables and ate too much meat, dairy, sugar and processed foods your body will steal minerals from your bones and muscles to achieve this balance.

    THINGS TO AVOID INCLUDE: Alcohol—Tobacco—Caffeine—Cold medicines late at night—Eating before bedtime—Exercise close to bedtime— Eating foods such as bacon, cheese, ham, eggplant, spinach, sauerkraut, sugar, sausage, chocolate, tomatoes, wine or potatoes close to bedtime. These foods contain norepinephrine a brain stimulant that can impede sleep.

    THINGS TO INCLUDE: Exercise in the late afternoon—Hot bath one to two hours before bedtime— Music—Meditation—Consistent bedtime—Eating foods such as bananas, figs, dates, nut butters, tuna, turkey, whole grains and yogurt, because these foods contain tryptophan, which helps make melatonin and is very beneficial to good sleep.

    SUPPLEMENTS THAT IMPROVE SLEEP: Calcium, magnesium, vitamin B, vitamin C, Zinc, Melatonin, 5-Htp, DHEA, Chamomile, GABA Calm (an actual product name), Kavinace PM (an actual product name) and natural hormone replacement (plant based hormones).

    Every sleep problem can be different so be certain to get a proper diagnosis from a Holistic Medical Doctor and incorporate these recommendations.