insomnia

  • Images of Menopause in Western Society

    Menopause is the term used to describe the progressive cessation of menstruation in a woman over time. Menopause typically occurs after a woman’s child-bearing years, between the ages of 45 and 50. Some women, however, experience it as early as 35 and as late as 60 years old. The process of menopause can last for two to six years, during which time a woman’s hormone levels change due to the reduction in the production of estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries as they cease to produce eggs. Physiologically, menopause marks the end of a woman’s childbearing capacity and is a part of her natural aging process.

  • Iron Deficiency—Women Most at Risk

    The most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S. is iron deficiency. And, women are at greatest risk for obvious reasons that include monthly cycles, childbirth, hormone changes, etc. Without hemoglobin, a protein that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout the body, health cannot be achieved—iron delivers that. When iron is deficient it leads to a disorder called anemia but that condition carries a litany of symptoms that can usually only be medically identified through a ferritin test that measures your body’s iron levels.

    Common signs you may be iron deficient:

    • Lethargy
    • Fatigue
    • Malaise/depression
    • Angina
    • Impaired cognition
    • Impaired immune system
    • Anorexia
    • Intolerance to cold
    • Endocrine/metabolic abnormalities
    • Cardiorespiratory disturbances
    • Gastrointestinal disturbances
    • Tendency toward bleeding
    • Reduced exercise tolerance
    • Weakness
    • Shortness of breath
    • Exertional chest pain
    • Impaired concentration
    • Impaired libido/impotence
    • Insomnia
    • Headache
    • Pallor
    • Neuromuscular disturbances
    • Cutaneousdisturbances
    • Musculoskeletal symptoms
    • Pruritus

    The following are the most common signs you may be iron deficient:

    Monthly Menstrual Cycles — women are often anemic due to heavy periods that significantly reduce blood levels; when iron is deficient, the replacement is only about half of the blood loss and the following month the cycle repeats. According to director of gynecology at Mount Sinai in New York City, Jacques Moritz, MD, the monthly period of a woman should only fill a total of two to three tablespoons each month; if you lose more than that, get your ferritin levels checked.

    Unexplained Exhaustion and Stamina — being overly tired is often too easily dismissed as just part of modern day stress. Most of us, especially women, are so programmed to living hectic lives, being all things to everyone that they easily dismiss symptoms, especially if they’re a single mother. That said, if you’re iron deficient then less oxygen reaches your tissues so your body cannot generate the energy needed.

    Those who are diagnosed with iron deficiency are often labeled as having “tired blood” because they experience weakness, extreme fatigue/endurance, irritability, brain-fog and often muscle weakness.

    Colorless Complexion — hemoglobin is responsible for the red color in your blood and that rosy hue/glow to your complexion, regardless of your skin color, because any skin tone can look pale or sickly. This often occurs because low levels of protein suck the color straight from the skin. Those with a light or fair complexion can easily be spotted. However, those with darker complexions may have to look inside their lips, gums, and inside of their bottom eyelids to see if they’re less red/rosy than normal from iron deficiency.

    Short-winded — when you’re iron deficient, oxygen levels are reduced and can manifest as shortness of breath while doing ordinary tasks that you normally handle without those symptoms, like gently climbing stairs or your morning walk.

    Unusual Heart Rhythms— heart irregularities don’t usually show up with mild iron deficiency. That said, when the deficiency is long-standing or you have been diagnosed with a heart condition, your physician should perform an in-depth analysis if you experience irregular heartbeats, heart murmurs, enlarged heart or even heart failure. The Texas Heart Institute Journal suggests getting your iron levels checked if you have any heart irregularity because iron deficiency can worsen a heart condition.

    Restless Leg Syndrome — according to John Hopkins Medical Center, more than 15 percent of those with restless leg syndrome have been found to also to be victims of iron deficiency and the more deficiency the more symptoms of this syndrome.

    Headaches — if no other known cause is present, consider iron deficiency as a cause of chronic headaches. The brain’s arteries can swell when insufficient oxygen is provided, causing headaches.

    Strange Cravings — yes, there is actually a name for strange cravings like those for ice, clay, dirt, chalk, and paper. These cravings are called pica and it’s often caused by an iron deficiency, according to Dr. Berliner of the National Headache Foundation. So, if you begin to have strange cravings, get your iron levels checked.

    Anxiety and Panic — yes, life is stressful but when iron deficient it can turn that normal anxiety into panic as the lack of oxygen triggers your sympathetic nervous system like putting the “petal to the metal” and speeding up your responses. In addition, the panic becomes fight-or-flight mode as the iron deficiency persists even when you keep thinking, “I have no reasons for this unsettling panic.”

    Vegetarian Syndrome — you may believe that all iron is the same, not so quick! Your body best absorbs heme iron, which is derived from meat, poultry and fish at a rate of three or more times more efficiently than non-heme iron derived from plants. Yes, vegetarians can get enough iron but it requires very careful meal planning and adherence. A good way to get enough good iron is to eat dark leafy greens, whole grains, and legumes that are rich in iron and then consume them along with vitamin C-rich foods like peppers, berries and broccoli that help boost absorption.

    Hypothyroid Syndrome — low thyroid function is unfortunately fast becoming the “norm.” When the body is iron deficient, it slows the thyroid function and blocks its metabolism-boosting effects. If you notice unusually low energy levels, weight gain and inability to lose it in spite of healthy eating and exercise, low body temperature and increased sensitivity to cold, have your iron levels checked and also do the iodine absorption test to see how deficient you really are in supporting thyroid function. To download instructions for the iodine patch test you do at home go to www.gloriagilbere.com and look for “Downloadable Forms” in the tool bar.

    Pregnancy — according to Dr. Moritz, if your pregnant (especially with multiples), have pregnancies close together, regularly vomit from morning sickness or lost a substantial amount of blood during delivery, have iron levels checked. Iron doesn’t get the attention in pre-natal nutrition, as does folic acid for instance, but it should, because not only does the mother need to boost iron levels, so does the baby.

    Tongue Disorders — iron deficiency can reduce levels of myoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that supports muscle health, and that includes the muscle making up your tongue. As a result, iron deficient people complain of a sore, inflamed, and strangely smooth tongue with little color.

    Celiac and Inflammatory Bowel Disorders — because these disorders create challenges in nutrient absorption, additional iron is needed. These disorders cause acute inflammation and damage to the digestive system, be sure to check for iron deficiency.

    Getting More Iron —there is no one-size-fits-all for iron supplementation. However, women between ages 19 and 50 need about 18 mg. daily. If pregnant, increase up to 27 mg. with guidance from your physician. If breast-feeding 9 mg. is usually recommended, check with your doctor. Older than age 50, and not menstruating, you usually only need 8 mg. daily — easy to obtain as a single serving of lentils, spinach, beef, nuts, chicken, or chickpeas will provide your daily dose.

  • New Year’s RESOLUTION: Getting StressLess Sleep™

    In addition to chronic pain, mostly due to underlying inflammation, most complaints I hear from client’s are about sleep issues—usually not enough of it. I can attest that most chronically ill individuals are sleep-deprived, which inhibits their body’s ability to rejuvenate in spite of other interventions.

    I have been personally challenged with sleep issues ever since an accident and subsequent toxicity syndrome (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and multiple allergic responses) several years ago. In consulting with thousands of clients worldwide with these disorders, the evidence is clear that sleep disorders plague its victim after a trauma—making it even more challenging to overcome their syndrome disorder. Although recovered from fibromyalgia and multiple allergic responses, getting to sleep and staying asleep, was still an issue for me.

    The old adage that sleep disorders are mainly in type “A” individuals (high-energy workaholics) I don’t buy into for one minute because there are so many variables. That said, those of us in THAT category—whose brain computer doesn’t remember how and when to shut down and keeps “rebooting”—need non-toxic solutions to allow us the much needed deep restorative sleep in order to achieve and maintain health.

    Effective Today, Not Tomorrow
    What I found, personally and professionally, is that most sleep aids (prescription and nutraceuticals) work for a while and then suddenly they’re ineffective. That said, at least most herbals don’t have the toxic side-effects of pharmaceuticals.

    My research, and clinical experience, demonstrates that in order to achieve long-term results, the herbal/nutraceutical must be rotated approximately every three weeks. Keep in mind we’re all unique, however, if you rotate you will insure you don’t experience interruption in the sleep your body so desperately needs in order to get and stay healthy and function at your maximum potential. Without exaggeration, I have tried over thirty complex herbal and homeopathic blends and, without exception, they work for up to four weeks and then that much needed restful sleep eludes me yet again.

    Being not only a “health detective,” doctor of natural health, and a formulator of nutraceutical products, I began experimenting with various formulas in cooperation with my compounding pharmacist. We finally, after many complex sample trials, found the synchronistic blend that gets me to sleep, helps me stay asleep and, furthermore, allows me to get up feeling rejuvenated and ready to face my demanding day. The clients I asked to participate in my non-medical trials don’t want to be without it. The great part of this complex is that it’s also effective for chronic stress by taking just one capsule twice a day rather than two capsules about 20 minutes before bedtime. We also formulated StressLess Sleep 2 as a similar complex in order to provide clients the benefit of non-toxic, non-habit-forming natural sleep and stress aids that you can rotate. The third formula is in production now and will soon be available. Again, I emphasize you should rotate approximately every three weeks for maximum benefit. And, if your sleep deprivation is chronic, allow yourself three to four nights of taking the supplement before rendering a verdict on its effectiveness—natural remedies sometimes require a couple of days to saturate enough in your system to be completely effective, especially if you’ve gone a long time without good restorative sleep and you’re in chronic pain.

    STRESSLESS SLEEP™ PROPRIETARY BLEND INCLUDES:

    GABA (GAMMA-AMINO BUTYRIC ACID)
    An important neurotransmitter and an amino acid—it acts to reduce communication between nerve cells in the brain to achieve a calming effect.

    Health Benefits:

    • Facilitates getting to sleep easier by lowering the brain neuron activity.
    • Reported to increase the amount of human growth hormone—responsible in improving sleep cycles while decreasing sleep disruptions.
    • GABA is being used and further studied for its ability in some people to reduce seizures, like those of epilepsy, by reducing the firing between neurons. If you suffer from seizures, do not replace your medication without guidance from your health professional.
    • Improves chronic pain by interfering with pain transmission impulses (messages). In some disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis, the brain’s natural GABA is ineffective—leading to constant and unfiltered pain signals. It is believed GABA lowers the number of pain impulses, thereby, lessening pain and reducing stress responses associated with chronic pain.
    • Improves mood in those with depression and/or anxiety syndromes believed to have low levels of GABA in their brain. Supplementing with GABA is believed to increase levels in the blood—always check with your health professional before combining medications and nutraceuticals.

    VALERIAN
    This herb belongs to more than 200 plant species of the genus Valeriana. It has been used since the second century AD and was recommended by scientists like Galen. After the sixteenth century, this herb became the foremost sedative in Europe, and later in the U.S. Its appeal and approval as a sleep aid was further validated in the 1970s after Germany’s Commission E in 1985 acknowledged the scientific evidence showing its effectiveness.

    Studies suggest that valerian affects GABA, a naturally-occurring amino acid known to help with anxiety. It appears that valerian binds to GABA receptors in the brain, similar to those properties found in the drug Valium.

    L-THEANINE
    A water-soluble amino acid. Aminos are the building blocks of proteins and have been studied extensively for health benefits ranging from cancer and stroke prevention to weight-loss. That said, most research has been conducted and validated for its stress-relieving benefits.

    PASSION FLOWER
    The botanical name for this flower is Passiflora incarnate and is an herbal with far-reaching calming effects. Scientifically it has shown to increase the GABA in the brain—decreasing overactive brain cells that often prevent us from getting and staying asleep.

    • A study in Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics found that passion flower is helpful in treating those withdrawing from opiates. The study revealed that when taken along with the medication clonidine it was effective in reducing the physical withdrawal symptoms and better control over mental symptoms related to anxiety.
    • A combination of passion flower and hawthorn has shown great potential for treating shortness of breath and difficulty exercising in those with congestive heart failure, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and research is ongoing.

    HOPS
    The hop plant is a bitter, aromatic ingredient in beer. However, its medicinal use for herbal healing properties has a very long history and its uses are supported by modern science.

    Chinese physicians have prescribed hops for literally centuries for conditions related to digestion, leprosy, tuberculosis, and dysentery, to name a few.

    Ancient Greek and Roman physicians also recommended it as a digestive aid and to treat intestinal disorders. Hops contain two chemicals (humulone and lupulone) that have shown to kill bacteria that cause spoiling.

    • The bacteria-fighting agents in hops are believed to also help avoid infection.
    • One study showed hops effective against tuberculosis—lending credence to one of its traditional Chinese uses.
    • In 1983 a sedative chemical (2-methyl-3butene-2ol) in the dry herb was discovered—validating decades-long scientific methodology of its effectiveness as a sedative.
    • Hop relaxes the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract, as reported by French researchers whose studies support its traditional use as an antispasmodic digestive herb.
    • Researchers in German woman’s health claim hop contains chemicals similar to female sex hormone estrogen—which may help explain some of the menstrual changes discovered in women hop-harvesters.

    CHAMOMILE
    A medicinal herb used for relaxation for centuries is a member of the sunflower family.

    • Best known as a sleep aid because of its relaxing and soothing properties, especially before bed to promote restful sleep.
    • Chamomile is helpful for a variety of digestive disorders because it soothes stomach aches, eases symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, promotes elimination, and assist in overall digestion.
    • Ancient Egyptians used it to soothe menstrual cramps and finally science is catching up with its historical values.
    • Studies found that drinking the tea raised urine levels of glycine—a compound known to calm muscle spasms therefore leading to its use for restless leg syndrome, menstrual cramps and overall muscle spasms.
    • One study found chamomile ointment very helpful in treating hemorrhoids.
    • Chamomile has immune-boosting properties that can help fight against colds due to its inherent antibacterial constituents.
    • Chamomile tea is being studied for its beneficial effects in managing diabetes. In one study, daily consumption of the tea was found to prevent the progression of diabetes complications and hyperglycemia.

    5-HTP (5-HYDROXYTRYPTOPHAN)
    The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) reported promising results as a safe option in treatment for depression, fibromyalgia, migraine and other chronic conditions.

    Like several pharmaceutical drugs, 5-HTP increases the body’s production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Excessive amounts of serotonin can have serious complications. Be sure to check with your health professional regarding dosage and any contraindications with other medications.

    MELATONIN
    Melatonin is a hormone produced in our brain. It is released and stimulated in the brain by darkness, and suppressed by both natural and artificial light. Melatonin works by significantly reducing effects of stress and anxiety that inhibit restorative sleep when the brain cannot shut down.

    • Acts as a powerful antioxidant, as reported by various studies.
    • Helps protect lipids and proteins in the body against damage from free-radicals.
    • It is easily absorbed into the cells and, therefore, effectively shields the brain from harmful neurodegenerative diseases. For that reason, it is believed to be a powerful defense against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases as well as stroke.
    • Studies show it is effective at reducing occurrence and severity of migraine headaches. Migraines are improved through melatonin supplementation because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that reduce pain and provide deep sleep.
    • Life Extension Foundation reports that melatonin may also battle various types of cancers. This hormone has shown promise in its effective protection against breast, liver and lung cancers, among others. Women undergoing chemotherapy respond better with less side-effects when combined with melatonin supplementation. In men it shows promise in fighting prostate cancer by slowing the reproduction of existing cancer cells.
    • StressLess Sleep™ formula is exclusively available from The Health Matters Store, exclusive distributor of all products and services approved by Dr. Gloria, at www.healthmatterstore.com.
  • 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.
  • Sleep: Challenges and Success

    What is Sleep?
    For humans and most animals, sleep is a period of rest and recharging from the activities and stresses of our daily lives. Sleep is a time for the brain and nervous system to replenish its reserves and to rest our digestive tract, our spine and our muscles. We each have our own sleep patterns and needs. Sleep is a time when we restore our vital functioning and allow our conscious mind to rest and release our subconscious mind to be active. Sleep also changes as we grow and age.

    Chronic sleep deprivation has many health consequences including increased risk for infections, heart disease, depression, impaired cognitive functions and more accidents.1 Fatigue and low motivation also occur frequently when we don’t properly recharge our ‘batteries.’

    How Much Sleep Do We Need?
    Our individual requirement for sleep depends on both the quantity (hours) as well as the quality of our sleep. This involves how deeply we sleep and whether we feel replenished or exhausted when we wake up. We need to go into the slower theta waves where we dream in order to become completely recharged. Many of us are partly or fully “sleep deprived.” Insomnia is one of the most common complaints seen by physicians, as is fatigue, which is partly due to poor sleep. Some reports have suggested that 50 –70 million adults, more than 35 percent of Americans are sleep deprived.2 Are you?

    Why Don’t We Sleep Well?
    Many of us don’t sleep well because we stay up late with TV and computers on, receiving too much light and electricity to support nighttime quiet. Then, often we must awaken earlier than our own rhythm might want us to, using alarms from a clock or cell phone. This is common with jobs and school, and especially challenging for teenagers, who seem to gravitate too late to bed and ever later to arise. If we ingest too many stimulants in our diets (coffee, sugars, chocolate) throughout the day, our sleep often suffers. Having too many stresses and worries diminishes quality sleep. Too much electromagnetic activity (TVs, digital clocks, microwaves, and Wi-Fi) in our homes and bedrooms could alter sleep quality. Do you get quality sleep with a partner, or do you sleep better alone? Often, long time couples end up sleeping in different rooms because one snores or they like different covers and room temperatures, or generally have different sleep patterns.

    Quality sleep is essential for maintaining good health and includes being able to fall asleep easily and stay asleep; awaken naturally at the right time; and feeling rested and ready for the day. This is important for a healthy, energetic body that can live to its potential.

    Assess The Quality Of Your Own Sleep
    • How often are you satisfied with your current sleep? Daily, weekly, never?
    • Do you know your natural sleep needs and sleep cycles?
    • How much sleep do you need before you feel rested?
    • Do you fall asleep easily and stay asleep through the night?
    • Do you wake up during the night?
    • How often?
    • Why?
    • Is it to urinate?
    • Is it anxiety?
    • Can you go back to sleep easily if you awaken during the night?
    • Do you have nightmares or anxiety-generating dreams? How often?
    • Is there a specific cause of poor sleep, like allergies, medications or anxiety?
    • Is there a change in your sleep patterns?
    • Is this change related to life cycles, like menopause or aging?
    • What is your state of mind when you wake up?
    • Do you feel rested when you wake up?
    • Do you need an alarm clock and reset it two or three times before getting up?
    • Do you have energy throughout the day, or do you need many jolts of caffeine and sugar, and then alcohol later to relax?
    • If you have a sleep partner, how does he, or she, affect your sleep?

    There are many consequences of poor sleep—including immune deficiency and subsequent illness, mood and cognitive issues and a general lack of energy and motivation? Sleep experts talk about ‘sleep hygiene’ as a primary approach to help improve the quality of sleep. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine3 and National Sleep Foundation4 recommend behavior change and ‘sleep hygiene’ as the primary way to deal with sleep problems, not resorting to pharmaceuticals at first.

    Ways To Improve Your Sleep

    Before Bed—Sleep Prep
    • Be quiet about an hour before bedtime, dim the lights, and turn off computers and TV. Listen to calming music or meditate. Many read something to relax and get sleepy.
    • Avoid alcohol, coffee or chocolate, vigorous exercise, or eating too much in the hours before bed.
    • Get some fresh air and light exercise if you find that helps you relax. A walk outdoors to see some stars and experience the quiet of night can be helpful.
    In The Bedroom
    • Make your bedroom a comforting environment that gives you a sense of peace and relaxation.
    • Keep your room dark and find the right temperature (and right amount of covers) that helps you sleep—cooler is usually better.
    • Make sure your bed and bedroom are used primarily for sleep (or physical intimacy) and not for working on computers or watching television. In general, keep your electromagnetic exposure as low as possible in the bedroom.
    If these suggestions don’t work, try natural remedies before going on to stronger pharmaceutical medicines, but if you do use medications, do so only as a temporary measure. Explore These Natural Approaches First:
    • Melatonin (1–3 mg) taken 30 minutes before sleep (helps align diurnal sleep rhythm but not for people with autoimmune conditions).
    • Serotonin supporters like L-tryptophan (500–1500 mg) and 5-HTP (50–200 mg) help with deeper sleep.
    • GABA (250 –1,000 mg) is a brain and nervous system calmer, and L-theanine (200 –400 mg) may support better relaxation of mind and body and help with sleep; these two items are often contained together in products like Liposomal Zen Liquid (by Allergy Research Group).
    • Calcium Magnesium combinations in equal amounts of 250–500 mg each often helps with relaxation and sleep.
    • Herbs like valerian, chamomile (caution for people with allergies to ragweed) and catnip, or formulas like Sleepytime or Nighty Night teas.

    Your doctor may prescribe sleeping pills like Ambien or Sonata or more tranquilizer medicines like Ativan or Xanax. These can help break poor sleep cycles with a good sleep, yet all of these are addictive and some can contribute to amnesia or sleepwalking. Overall, it’s best to align with natural sleep as much as possible by lowering your stimulants, improving your exercise, eating well, and lowering electronic exposures later in the day.

    Clearly, many health and life situations can affect sleep, such as menopause, getting up frequently to urinate, and/or stress/anxiety conditions, especially as we age. Usually, children sleep quite well and longer than adults, so if they have trouble sleeping, it can be more of a concern. Though teens have a slightly altered sleep cycle compared to adults, their reluctance to wake too early for school is usually biologically based.5 They also need more sleep than adults. Ideally, school should start later for all our young people. For poor sleep, you want to identify the underlying causes. Allergies can be one, as can emotional upset and mental worries.

    Overall, sleep is an important part of Staying Healthy and one of my 5 Keys, which also include Nutrition, Exercise, Stress Management, and Healthy Attitudes. It all works when we apply our healthy lifestyle. Sleep well!

    (Author’s note: This is excerpted from my soon-to-be-released book, Staying Healthy with NEW Medicine: Integrating Natural, Eastern, and Western Approaches for Optimal Health. This is from the chapter “5 Keys to Staying Healthy.” See website: www.ElsonHaasMD.com and sign on to get the free 5 Keys message.)

    References:
    1. BREUS, Michael Sleep Habits: More Important Than You Think Chronic Sleep Deprivation May Harm Health http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/importantsleep-habits.
    2. Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. http://www.cdc.gove/features/dssleep.
    3. The Diagnosis and Management of InsomniaJ. Christian Gillin, M.D., and William F. Byerley, M.D. N Engl J Med 1990; 322:239–248January 25, 1990DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199001253220406.
    4. http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleeptips.
    5. http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/teens-and-sleep.
  • 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.