One third of all Americans do not get enough sleep, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. Sleeping less than seven hours a night is associated with serious consequences to your health, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and mental stress.
What causes insomnia?
The most common reasons a person can’t sleep are stress, anxiety, and depression. Anger, worry and negative thoughts dramatically impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Too much coffee and other energy drinks can make it hard to get to sleep. So can certain medications, such as drugs to treat ADHD, corticosteroids, thyroid, blood pressure medication, contraceptives, and certain pain relievers.
Allergies and respiratory difficulties such as colds, sinus infections and coughs make it hard to sleep. Chronic pain such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, headaches and low back pain also keep people up.
Here are some of the common ways people deal with insomnia:
A doctor may advise prescription medications for serious sleep disorders. Selective GABA receptor agonists like benzodiazepines are popular, but they can sometimes cause hallucinations, disturbances in memory and black-outs. People report sleepwalking, sleep eating, and even sleep driving.
They are also addictive. Because of the potential for addiction, benzodiazepines are more closely controlled. Many patients prefer to get their prescription medication through a pharmacy online for convenience, but the extra documentation can be a hassle.
Over-the-counter antihistamines are a popular alternative because drowsiness is one of the most common side effects. Unfortunately, they also cause dryness, constipation, upset stomach and feeling groggy all day.
Herbal sleep remedies
Some natural remedied do indeed seem to work for some people. Herbal preparations containing valerian, passionflower, lemon balm, hops or chamomile are the most popular. They can be made into teas or infusions, taken in the form of capsules as supplements, or – as in the case with lavender – simply breathed in as the aroma from fresh flowers or a scented candle.
Magnesium is a common ingredient in many natural sleep remedies for its ability to help a person relax. Many people are deficient in magnesium anyway, so such a supplement is helpful in other ways. The form of magnesium is important because magnesium sulfate – also known as Epsom salts – can cause diarrhea. Chelated magnesium (magnesium attached to amino acids) is absorbed more efficiently and eliminates the problem of loose stools.
The amino acids 5-HTP and L-tryptophan and theanine are precursors to relaxing neuromodulators like serotonin and can help a person get to sleep. They are common ingredients in natural sleep remedies.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that is released at night and helps a person fall asleep. It can be bought over the counter, is not very expensive, and can help a person get to sleep. An interesting and often enjoyable side effect of melatonin is vivid dreams. This can change a person’s whole attitude toward going to bed from dread to delightful anticipation.