Can A Lack Of Physical Activity Lead To Sleep Disorders?

Sleep disorders are very common in children, especially in toddlers. Research suggests that there are various underlying health issues that can cause sleep disorders in children; however, the most predominant cause remains the lack of physical fitness. In this article, we will examine how the lack of physical activity can lead to sleep disorders in children.

What can lack of physical activity do to young bodies?

Our bodies are not engineered to follow a deskbuild life pattern; we need to maintain an active lifestyle to make sure that our bodies stay active for the various life tasks. When our bodies do not get the required workout, they become sooner to various illnesses. Children, especially suffer the most as their growing bodies need the energy that can only be garnered through active play. So here's what happens when children do not get the required exercise:

• Their bodies become dull
• They feel less enthusiastic and confident to perform daily tasks
• Their self-esteem decrees to dangerous levels
• They feel less exhausted and therefore can not go to sleep

What does the research say?

According to various research studies, sleep disorders can cause due to various causes. However, lack of physical activity is one of the major causes. Research shows that children who spend more than 4-5 hours on the couch are more likely to develop sleep disorders in contrast to children who spend only a small proportion of their time in front of the TV.

Children between the age group of 3-8 have at least 42 hours of physical activity throughout the week. It is crucial to remember that the physical activities should be a blend of various types of routines. For example, your children should engage with structured, unstructured and active exercises throughout the week. Doing all the running in one day will not energize your child's body for the rest of the week.

The balance between activities is the most critical thing when it comes to keeping kids healthy. Many child specials recommend that you engage in physical activities with your kids so that the children will feel motivated enough to participate.

What can we do about it?

The only way to tackle the sleep disorders that occurs due to lack of physical activity is to introduce structured and unstructured activities in your child's life. Outdoor playground equipment and other playground equipment can be of huge help in their regard. Today's children are more used to Leon Kennedy (or any other video game character for that matter) than a swing set or a park slide. You can not bring your kids to like the revolting community parks; however, you can engage them in active play at home and at school. School playground equipment also plays a great role when it comes to keeping kids active at school.

Moreover, you can make sure that you give your child ample time to play at home. Try to find a balance between school work and active play to make sure your child is getting the necessary exercise every day.

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Four Science Based Studies on How to Remedy Insomnia and Sleep Better

Almost six out of ten Americans experience insomnia and sleep problems at least a few nights a week, as reported in a recent study done by the National Sleep Foundation. Insomnia is defined as “An inability to fall sleep or stay sleep long enough to feel rested, especially when the problem lasts over time.”

In an effort to combat this, as many as twenty-five percent of the people in the US turn to sleep drugs. Because most people would prefer to avoid the side effects and addiction of sleep medications, research scientists have been busy studying nutritional and lifestyle approaches to getting better sleep.

Tip # 1 – We live in an electronics-oriented world, from computers, to cell phones, to texting, to reading books on tablets. These tools help increase our efficiency and ability to work and learn and communicate, but when it comes to getting good sound sleep, they can intervene.

One study from a university in New York found that exposure to light from electronic displays can suppress melatonin by about twenty two percent. Melatonin is a hormone made in the brain that helps to regulate the sleep / wake cycle. It is present in higher amounts at night. The researchers recommend shutting off all electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime and doing some relaxing things before bed.

Tip # 2 – Regarding sounder, deeper sleep resulting from taking walks, studies at the University of Arizona have found that walking more than six blocks a day at a normal pace significantly improves sleep at night for women. Scientists suspect that walking helps to set our biological clock into a consistent sleep pattern. Walking can help increase “endorphins”, which are protein-like chemicals made in the brain that can have a relaxing effect, a pain-relieving effect, and can also reduce stress and increase well-being.

Tip # 3 – Sometimes hunger can strike at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and keep one wake. If this occurs, eat something with high protein such as turkey. Turkey contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid (a component of protein) that has a calming effect. According to Ray Sahelian, MD, “Tryptophan … can be converted at night into melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.”

As a note, concentrated tryptophan capsules are not recommended as they can create grogginess in the morning and take some time to wear off. Other foods that are high in tryptophan include nuts, seeds, chicken, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs.

Tip # 4 – When taking natural sleep aids, it's good to remember that each person is a unique individual and doing some experimenting with the dosage can be instrumental in achieving success. At first, err on the side of taking too little rather than too much. Another thing to keep in mind is that natural aids are not drugs and they may not work immediately with the first dose or even the first few doses. It can take up to a couple weeks to see results.

James F. Balch, MD, author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, writes: “A lack of the nutrients faculty and magnesium will cause you to wake up after a few hours and not be able to return to sleep.” In one study published in the European Neurology Journal, researchers found that calcium levels in the body are higher during some of the deepest levels of sleep, such as the rapid eye movement (REM) phase. In the study, taking calcium restored normal sleep patterns.

In summary, take the tips of recent research studies and take a walk each day, put the computers and cell phones away an hour before bedtime and do something relaxing, keep a high-tryprophan snack next to your bed at night, and use an effective form of calcium and magnesium before bed for a deer, longer night's sleep.

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Things To Consider When Shopping At The Mattress Store

Where would we be without our beds? Probably the most important piece of furniture in the home, we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping on them. Unfortunately, far too many of us rush the buying process when it comes time to get a new one. We look for cheap units and do not test them out before we buy. But there is a reason to why the average mattress store has plenty of floor models; they want people to test them out! With that in mind, here is what you should consider when you go bed shopping.

Size

There are four standard bed sizes: twin, full, queen, and king. The California king is a slightly larger size that is often sold as a specialty model. Finding the right size sleeping surface is easy. If you are an average size single adult, a full mattress should suffice. Couples almost always need a queen or king-size model. Twin versions, on the other hand, were designed for children.

It is also important to note that while most manufacturers use the same standard measurements, some alter them by a couple of inches. This can make a big difference, especially if the sleeping surface is to be shared. That is why couples should always visit the mattress store together and try out each possible option before they buy.

Materials

Half a century ago, there were only two choices when it came to quality beds – inner spring or inner spring. But today, there are models filled with foam, air, water, latex, and gel. Which material is best really does depend on who you ask. Inner-spring models remain the most popular, but foam sleep systems have gained a loyal following of late. Why?

Since most Americans have never slept on one, foam beds are the top attraction at the mattress store. These models are made of a special material called viscoelastic memory foam that actually molds to the shape of the user's body, giving them a firmer, more secure fit. Although it may very well be a miracle of modern science, some experts say memory foam is simply too soft for a sleeping surface and does not provide proper support. Spring versions, on the other hand, are available in a much wider range of styles.

Warranty

Any piece of quality furniture for the home should include a comprehensive warranty. Mattresses are no exception! Although the industry standard is a 10-year warranty, some top manufacturers offer 20, even 30-year warranties. Do you really need that much coverage? Perhaps not. But as a general rule, the longer the warranty, the more durable the bed will be. By comparison, a much shorter warranty may be an indication the bed was not properly tested before it was brought to market.

Use these simple tips to help you find the bed of your dreams on your next visit to the mattress store.

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Solve Your Sleep Woes: From Mattress Quality to Food Choices

Whatever you're a sound sleeper who just does not get enough hours or a toss-and-turner who can not seem to stay sleep, there's a likely natural solution to your problems. While commercials touting the ease of sleeping medication may be tempting, those solutions are only temporary. It might be time to reevaluate the quality of your mattress and drop some bad bedtime habits.

Back Support

The price tags for a quality mattress may seem high, but when you do the math you'll realize you spend most of your time in bed. Your quality of sleep affects your day, which in turn impacts your wallet, friendships, health, and more. There's not a perfect mattress for everyone, which means you need to do some research about your particular issues in order to find the best one. For example, if you have sleep apnea or lower back pain, the mattress firmness and foundation will affect your sleep quality.

Set a Schedule

Life can be full of unplanned events, but it's best if you get your body on its own clock. If you're going to bed at different hours each night, your body will not naturally adapt to your schedule. Your circadian rhythm is to thank.

Medication Review

There are many prescription (and non-prescription) drugs on the market that may be interfering your cycle. Beta-blockers are linked to insomnia, as well as many SSRIs. Take full account of every pill you take and discuss how these could have impacted your sleep, as well as the steps you can take to mitigate their negative side effects, with your doctor.

Exercise

Getting your blood pumping during the day, especially through cardio, leads to better sleep at night. It's important to be mindful about when you choose to create this daily dose of endorphins, since aerobic exercise keeps your body temperature elevated for about four hours. If you try to hit the sack too soon after a workout, you may hurt your efforts.

Nutrition

While you may be tempted to grab just about anything before you hit the sack, the nutrition in your food has a greater impact than you may know. An ideal snack should include carbohydrates and calcium or protein, which contain the amino acid tryptophan. If you're a wine or cocktail drinker, you may also need to alter your drinking hours. If you head to bed before two hours have passed since your last drink, your body will signal itself to wake up thanks to alcohol levels dropping in your blood. If you're going to sip, make sure you wait at least two hours before slumbering.

Ready for a good night's sleep? Enjoy mattress shopping and a good workout!

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Sleep Deprivation: The Effects of Not Catching Z’s

Sleep is a process that all humans need for basic survival. However, for some people it is not considered a priority, and these people can suffer from many health effects due to lack of sleep. With that being said, sleep deprived adolescent's experience the most severe health effects because of their growth and changing bodies. An expert in sleep and psychology, Mary Carskadon, preaches that teenagers need at least 9.2 hours of sleep a night, (Teenagers in High School 1). While this may seem impossible, she recommends this because the body needs time for rest and relaxation from the long day that lies ahead. When the amount of sleep is jeopardized, it can cause many effects to an adolescent's physical health, psychological health, and performance tendencies.

If adolescents receive lackluster sleep on a consistent basis, physical effects such as: obesity, problems with growth and development, and other serious illness can occur. While sleep deprivation may not directly cause serious illnesses, it can be a stepping stone to future problems. There have been studies conducted that correlate the lack of sleep to serious illnesses such as cancer and heart issues. In order to decrease the likelihood of such problems from occurring due to sleep deprivation, it is important that all humans, especially adolescents, start to learn and realize how important sleep is to a healthy body.

In addition to the physical effects, sleep deprivation can also cause some psychological effects. Because the brain needs time to reset, sleep gives the body time for this, but also to “… prevent the storage of unnecessary information” (Acosta-Peña, Rodríguez-Alba, and García-García 250). By eliminating the use of unnecessary information, the brain can be ready for the day that lies ahead. Unfortunately, if sleep is not obtained, the brain can have trouble storing information in the future. With that being said, it is important that humans realize that sleep does not only affect the body physically, but it can also cause some impairments in the brain.

The most noticeable effects of sleep deprivation are arguably the changes in mood and performance. For example, there has been a study conducted about drowsy teenage drivers. A statistic shows that, “About 100,000 reported car crashes each year are attributed to drowsy drivers,” (Wysong 1). While drowsiness can not be proved as the primary cause for these accidents, studies like this show that sleep definitely has some effect when applicants are on the road. In addition, sleep deprivation has shown a decrease in motivation, sometimes causing students grades to drop. Again, sleep deprivation may not be the central blame for these effects; however, it has been proven that insufficient sleep may help prevent some of these instances from occurring.

Sleep deprivation is a serious, underrated problem. The effects of sleep deprivation, some being physical, psychological, and performance help prove that sleep is needed for daily function. While humans are busy in their daily lives, it is also important to receive sufficient sleep in order to keep your body healthy and working properly, especiallyolescents.

Works Cited

Eva Acosta-Penƒƒa, Juan Carlos Rodriguez-Alba and Fabio Garcia-Garcia (2012). Brain Restoration: A Function of Sleep, Brain Damage – Bridging Between Basic Research and Clinics, Dr. Alina Gonzalez-Quevedo (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0375-2, InTech.

“Teenagers in High School Need Proper Amount of Sleep to Excel in School, Study Reveals.” Jet 10 Feb. 1997: 62. Student Resources in Context. Web. 23 Sept. 2014.

Wysong, Pippa. “School Daze: Turn Your ZZZ's Into A's.” Current Health 2, A Weekly Reader Publication Sept. 2007: 18+. Student Resources in Context. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

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Health Issues Related to Snoring, Which Needs Strict Attention

Snoring is deemed as a serious problem among many. It not only affects the people suffering from the habit, but others in their family as well. While jokes are cracked about the person who snores, the reality is that prolonged snoring disturbs almost half of the adult population and can lead to many serious physical and emotional difficulties.

Often people take snoring as just a side effect of sleep, which is sometimes irritating and uncomfortable. But it should be considered as a more serious concern as snoring due to severe sleep apnea can cause early death to people suffering from it. There are several health problems which can be triggered due to chronic snoring, some of them are described below.

Heart Diseases:

Sleep apnea is related to cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. Sooner or later it may lead to possible heart attacks. Snoring elevates sleep disorder causing many heart disease and sometimes fatal heart attacks.

Stroke:

Health analysis shows that the louder and longer you snore each night, the higher is your long-standing risk for a stroke. This happens due to narrowing of the arteries in the neck with fatty deposits called plaque.

Arrhythmias:

Prolonged snoring or sleep disorder may bear the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat ailment. This condition in which heartbeat is irregular, either too fast or too slow is known as arrhythmia. Sleep disorders caused by snoring can also have episodes of atrial fibrillation, which is a common type of arrhythmia.

Headache:

Some people often complain of heads when waking up in the morning. After many researchers with habitual snorers it was ascertained that there was a connection between sleep disorder and headaches in the morning.

Obesity:

Most of the overweight people suffer from sleep disorders and snoring. This can be due to the extra fat that accumulates around the neck area which makes it difficult to breath at night while sleeping. Losing weight would certainly improve signs related to sleep disorders and snoring.

Mental Health Problems:

Lack of sleep and improper sleep habits may upset your mental well-being which can lead to severe depression. Recent medical studies show that there lies a deep link between snoring, sleep disorders and depression, which gives rise to mental health issues.

Many researchers, doctors and other health consultants suggest a variety of methods, exercises and tools to help stop or reduce snoring. But you must be extra cautious before saying on any such aid and choose the best way to reduce snoring .

All the above mentioned conditions are extremely serious, so if you or someone around you is facing snoring problems, immediately discussion with the doctor is a must.

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What Types Of Exercise Can Help Insomnia?

Chronic insomnia is defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, waking too early or experiencing nonrestorative sleep. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder among adults affecting about 6% to 10% of the US population.

Aerobic Exercise

It is well known that exercise helps you sleep; however, it must be done in the right way and at the right time, especially when the goal is for it to be of benefit for insomnia and troublesome sleep patterns. While exercise is assumed to help sleep, there has been little scientific research done into the effect of exercise on chronic insomnia.

The studies that have been done (Passos et al., 2010, Guilleminault et al., 1995; Passos et al., 2011; Reid et al., 2010) show that indeed exercise significantly improves sleep in those who suffer from chronic insomnia. These studies showed that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like walking resulated in a reduced time to fall sleep and increased the length of sleep people with chronic insomnia got per night.

Conversely, rigorous exercise, like running or weight lifting did not improve sleep patterns. These studies found that 4 to 24 weeks of consistent exercise directed in better sleep outcomes for insomniacs who exercised versus their sleep experiences before they began to workout.

How Exercise Works

While science does not yet have definite answers as to how or why exercise promotes sleep, several hypotheses exist. One is the fact that exercise creates body heat by increasing body temperature and the consequent drop in temperature following a workout Promotes sleep.

Another variant is that exercise alleviates insomnia because it decrees arousal, anxiety, and depression, all of which are typically linked to insomnia conditions.

Another reason may be that exercise effects circadian rhythms or one's body clock, allowing people with insomnia to shift its timing depending on when they exercise.

Obviously, more research is needed as to the connection and causal relationships between exercise and insomnia, however we do not need to know the reasons why for it to be helpful. Beside, exercise has many other health benefits and it certainly should be a part of everyone's day.

Yoga

One of the most important elements of insomnia is the inability to relax, both the mind and body. Yoga does just that and is an activity you can do just before going to sleep. Yoga combines specific postures, breathing techniques and meditation that calms the body and mind. Your body will be more flexible and it does not generally cause the aches and pains that sometimes hinder your sleep.

There are many different types of yoga, some of which can be too stimulating for sleep. Hatha yoga is a perfect type of yoga for relaxation and is one type of yoga that even beginners can quickly master. Hatha yoga emphasizes breathing and relaxed posts that will absence sleep in just about anyone who practices it.

Five specific yoga exercises promote better sleep. These poses can be done just before sleep to put you in the best possible mood to sleep, these include:

  • Upside-Down – For about two minutes, lie down on the floor near a wall with your butt about six inches from the wall or headboard. Put your legs straight up along the wall so they are fully extended. Breathe deeply and regularly for about two minutes before going onto the next pose.
  • Winding down twist – Sit cross-legged and twist your body as far to the right as possible. Breathe for a minute before switching to the other side. Look over each shoulder as you put one hand behind you and one hand on the opposite knee. Do this for a couple of minutes as you relax.
  • Nighttime goddess stretch – Lie on your back and put your feet together, bending at the knee. Allow your knees to fall out to the side as much as possible. Keep your arms at your sides, palm side up. Put a pillow beneeth each knee if you have problems opening up your knees completely.
  • Child's Pose – Sit up on your heels and then bend forward so that your forehead touches the bed and your arms are stretched out high above your head. This pose can be done for up to 7 minutes while you breathe deeply and slowly.
  • Rock-a-bye Roll – Lie on your back and grass your lower legs near the ankle so your knees are tucked up near your face. Squeeze yourself into a tight “ball” and rock back and forth for about a minute. Then extend your legs and arms, relaxing into a calm and restful sleep.

You can do these exercises at night, as they are the perfect relaxation option to promote better sleep and cure occasional insomnia. All of them induction relaxation and can allow your mind to drift into the mode of sleep.

Tai Chi Or Qi Gong For Sleep

These mind-body exercises stretch the muscles, improve balance, and calm the mind. If you have no other time but bedtime to engage in an exercise, Tai chi allows life energy (qi) to freely flow through the body and induces relaxation and peace of mind. Tai Chi can be learned with a DVD or by taking a class.

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The Dangers Of Addictive Sleep Pharmaceuticals And Looking For Natural Alternatives For Insomnia

Insomnia can be very difficult to live with. Beside the anxiety of not being able to get to sleep or to stay sleep, there is the problem of sleep deprivation, which affects your ability to function during the daytime hours and can have serious consequences for health and wellbeing. Sleep deprivation can happen to anyone who gets less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep at night but tend to be worse among people who sleep by day and work by night.

Chronic insomnia can result in many sleepless nights, which is the most precarious situation for physical, emotional, and mental health. Living without sleep can lead to depression, heart disease, increased risk of accidents and other serious problems not the least of which are negative effects on one's mood and relationships.

Prescription and Non-prescription Medication

Some people naturally assume that a modern sleep medication prescribed by their doctor is the best ticket out of the problems of insomnia; Unfortunately, this may not always be the case. Barbiturates, which were used in the 1950s and 1960s, were highly addictive and some people died even when they were taking adequate dose of the medications.

The newer medications for insomnia, such as Sonata®, Ambien®, and Restoril® are a different class of medicines than barbiturates but they are not much safer. These medications will help you sleep better but there are side effects of morning grogginess, nighttime amnesia, and respiratory depression during sleep. These medications are almost as addictive as barbiturates.

A dependency on medication can occur so that you can not sleep unless you are continuously taking the medication. There is also the problem of tolerance, which means that you need more and more of the medication to have the same effect when taken over the long term.

There are over the counter sleep preparations that some people buy to help them sleep. Nearly all of these sleep preparations contain diphenhydramine as its major ingredient, which carries the brand name of Benadryl®. This is not addicting but has many anti-cholinergic side effects, such as restless legs syndrome, constipation, and dry mouth.

Unfortunately, we are a pill popping society, and modern medicine often reaches for the prescription pad in treating many health conditions. The lack of less risky viable medical options for sleep, and the risk of addictions have made many people to turn to alternative and complementary measures that can help them sleep without side effects and adverse consequences. Some of these are as follows:

  • Valerian root – This herbal remedy can be taken in dried, capsule form as well as in the form of a tea brewed with valerian root. Several studies have shown that this herbal treatment induces a relaxed state of mind, concurring to getting a good night's sleep.
  • Chamomile tea – The flowers from chamomile plants make for a good relaxing tea. Follow an herbalist's directions for creating a tea that you can drink before bedtime in order to promote good sleep.
  • Passionflower – This is also a good tea or capsule form of an herbal sleep aid. It is weaker than some of the other herbal remedies so it is often used in combination with valerian root or chamomile as an effective sleep aid.
  • Hops – Hops are an herbal ingredient used in herbal sleep formulas. It is often combined with the ingredients above as a good all-purpose sleep aid.
  • Melatonin – This is not an herb but is an organic hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It seems to fluctuate with the body's natural circadian rhythm, telling the body when it is time to sleep. You can try taking over the counter melatonin for sleep or you can take tryptophan, found in sleep-inducing foods like turkey, milk, and cherries. Tryptophan metabolizes into serotonin, which in turn, turns into melatonin in the body. This is partly why foods containing tryptophan make you sleepy after eating them.
  • Yoga – Certain forms of exercise have been found to bring a restful sleep, in particular yoga can be very effective. Yoga is a centuries' old practice involving cases done under a deep state of relaxation. The poses help get the uncomfortable kinks out of your body enough so you can relax into sleep. During yoga, you practice mindful breathing, which also helps induce sleep.
  • Qi gong us another form of East Asian exercise that can help you sleep. Rather than striking poses, you go through a series of relaxing body movements combined with breathing and meditation. Qi gong can be done by people at any fitness level and is known to clear the mind in preparation for sleep.

Bottom Line

Chronic insomnia has serious health consequences and requires assessment and treatment from a trained medical professional or a sleep specialist whenever possible. This does not mean however that you can not also seek and evaluate the effectiveness of various natural remedies that may be great complementary or possibly alternative therapies to conventional medical care that is focused on prescription drugs.

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Relaxation Techniques That Encourage Restful Sleep

In order for a person to transition from wakefulness to sleep, they must be in a relaxed state. Many people find it difficult to enter a relaxed state to sleep and some find it difficult to maintain a relaxed state throughout the sleep cycle, causing them to wake during their sleep period. The ability to relax and experience a restful sleep is known as condition Insomnia, and it affects millions of Americans, 6% to 10% of all adults.

Chronic insomnia can have serious health risks, including, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and diabetes. It can also lead to depression and anxiety disorders. Additionally it can contribute or lead to overweight, obesity, and increased risk of accidents while driving.

Stress is one of the major contributing factors in the inability to have a restful sleep cycle. People under stress release adrenaline and cortisol, stress hormones, which facilitate the fight or flight response in the body. When people respond to stressors continuously, as people in modern society often do, they are not able to relax.

Their body continuously cycles through the stress hormones, preventing relaxation. 1 in 4 Americans assessed themselves as experiencing high levels of stress during the month according to a 2009 American Psychological Association survey.

The Relaxation Response

The ability to escape the stress hormone cycle and fall sleep is desirable, but more is required in order to experience truly restful sleep. Activating the relaxation response advances a person's ability to fall sleep and sleep well.

The relaxation response is a state of mental calm and physical equilibrium; the sympathetic nervous system goes on hold. It has the opposite effect of the fight or flight response. As a person enters a relaxed state, their blood pressure lowers, the heart rate slows, the brain slows, and the rate of metabolism decreases as well. It also appears to increase the levels of serotonin (a feel good hormone) available to the brain.

Relaxation Techniques

Techniques applied to elicit the relaxation response can be physical or mental. Some use environmental factors. The may also be used individually or synergistically. The main objective remains to find the techniques, which encourage restful sleep for you because everyone responds differently. Experts often recommend prescription sleep aids, but many worry that they are addictive and becoming dependent on them during long-term use.

There are natural methods that can help to improve sleep, and should be tried in conjunction with your doctor's treatment plan. These are especially helpful for those who suffer from occasional insomnia, or simply suffer from the inability to get a quality restful full night of sleep.

Relaxation Techniques That Encourage Restful Sleep

Aromatherapy

Certain scents are accredited with having a calming effect on the mind and relaxing the body. These scents are easy to make part of your sleeping environment. Scented candles, incense, aromatherapy oils, herbs, or flowers may be placed nearby to permeate the room with their scent prior to sleep. Aromatherapists recommend lavender, chamomile, rose, and sandalwood for their calming influence.

Massage

During a massage for the purpose of relaxation, the masseuse uses a firm but gentle touch to stroke, knead and press the soft tissues. The practice relaxes muscles, tendons, and joints easing tension. Tense muscles can lead to nerve compression, which can interfere with other bodily functions. Massage helps the body find a more homeostatic state. It is recommended to get a massage at least twice per week whenever possible.

Visualization

Visualization allows a person to mentally remove themselves from their stressors and picture circumstances, which have a calming effect on the mind and body. A visualization exercise can take many forms. The exercise may ask a person to mentally recreate an event or location where they felt calm and relaxed. They may also imagine them effortlessly creating the circumstances, which end their sources of stress. A visualization exercise may be brief, five to 10 minutes, or longer.

Visualization CD's are available to guide you through a particular imagery, once well practiced many find them can take them to that place easily.

Progressive Relaxation

Progressive relaxation requires a person to name, tighten or engage and relax each part of their body while breathing slowly and deeply. When the entire body is relaxed, the person rests, remaining relaxed but aware.

There are many other techniques available to shift the body to a relaxed state:

  • Listening to relaxing music
  • Doing a creative activity drawing, painting, sewing, crafts
  • Meditation
  • Solitaire or other repetitious non-competitive game

Applying These In Your Life

The relaxation response may be cultivated by applying a variety of techniques. The types of stressors, which elicit high levels of response (stress), vary from person to person; the techniques, which elicit the relaxation response and their effectiveness, vary from person to person as well. You may need to experiment with several techniques to find the techniques or combination of techniques most effective for you.

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Natural Ways To Deal With Anxiety That Causes Insomnia

Many people have difficulty falling asleep because they are chronically anxious. The anxiety can be caused by real-life situations, such as relationship trouble, difficulties at work, or money problems. Anxiety disorders also exist that have no basis in reality but cause insomnia just the same by producing an anxious thoughts or rapid heart rate. In such cases, it is a good idea to deal with the underlining anxiety so that you can find a quiet place in an otherwise disrupted mind in order to sleep.

Fortunately, many natural ways to deal with anxiety exist and can prevent a good night's sleep, some natural anxiety-relievers include:

  • Tai Chi – Tai chi for health and wellness is an exercise that was developed from martial arts, but is actually performed in a very slow and meditative way. The slow movements in Tai Chi accompanied with deliberate breathing patterns induces relaxation naturally and can really help to alleviate the anxiety that prevails you from getting a good night's sleep.
  • Meditation – actually is very easy to learn. You can buy a meditation CD or find a meditation exercise on YouTube. The concept and implementation is fairly simple. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Turn off any external noise. You can close your eyes or let your eyes focus easily on an object. Focus on your breathing, breathing in and out through your nose and / or mouth, counting the breaths or just saying a syllable with each exhalation. A common syllable or “mantra” is the syllable “ohm.” You can use whatever syllable you feel comfortable saying.

Meditation works because it decrees anxiety, clears your mind of worries, leaving you calm and relaxed. You can also use meditation with guided imagery, in which you place yourself in a calm environment in your mind-somewhere like a beach or by a waterfall. In that space, you find emotional relaxation and peace so that you are uncluttered by the anxieties of the day.

  • Exercise – Exercise releases energy, and can do wonders for feelings of anxiety. Moderate level activity, such as walking is recommended for insomnia and it also releases feel good neurotransmitters in the brain that result in positive feelings and reduction in anxiety that can cause disturbed sleep. It is recommended that everyone get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily, and it's really important for those with insomnia that is caused by anxiety.
  • Yoga – The practice of yoga is known to reduce anxiety. Yoga involves doing specific poses along with deep breathing. Several poses invoke relaxation and calm. Take a yoga class and talk to the yoga instructor about how you can use certain yoga poses before bedtime to get a better night's sleep. Regular and consistent practice of yoga has been shown to alleviate chronic anxiety, which can go a long way to improving one's overall quality of life, well-being, and sleep habits.
  • Herbal remedies – There are multiple herbal remedies you can mix in tea form to drink before bedtime or any time you feel anxious. Passionflower is a good herb that has been found in some research studies to work as well as benzodiazepines (prescription sedatives) in the management of anxiety. It is also used in various concentrations in herbal sleep aids.

Lavender works both for anxiety and insomnia. A large study produced in 2010 that showed lavender oil worked as well as lorazepam (valium), a popular anti-anxiety medication. It seems to alleviate anxiety without the side effect of drowsiness so you can drink lavender tea or take a lavender supplement any time of the day. It is also used as aromatherapy oil for sleep and anxiety.

Lemon balm is usually used along with other anti-anxiety herbal remedies. It can also be used alone for the treatment of anxiety. Mood is improved, and anxiety is lessened after taking lemon balm when compared to a placebo medication.

Ashwagandha was studied in 2012 in a double blind, placebo-controlled study and it was found that those who took Ashwagandha had significant improvements in anxiety levels with reduced cortisol levels, often found in high stress states.

  • L-theonine is an amino acid that works directly on brain tissue so that stress and anxiety are relieved without significant sedation. While it is not often used as a sleep aid, it can calm anxiety so that you can drift off to sleep faster and without side effects.

There are many choices for those who suffer from anxiety that interferes with sleep. While there are prescription medications available, they are highly addictive and they often make you feel groggy and unable to safely operate machinery or drive. While you should always follow your doctor's advice, it does not hurt to explore the many natural methods available to see if they can help you find calm and peace and alleviate your insomnia.

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How Yoga Can Help Cure Insomnia And The Best Poses

Insomnia affects approximately 60 million people in the United States. Insomnia expresses itself differently in each person; some people have trouble going to sleep while others may find it difficult to complete a full sleep cycle. Insomnia may occur periodically or exist as a chronic condition.

A variety of lifestyle factors and health conditions cause insomnia:

  • Stress (physical or emotional)
  • Anxiety
  • Medical conditions which alter an individual's breathing pattern
  • Chronic medical conditions that invoke insomnia
  • Night shift work
  • Some medications
  • Chronic or acute pain
  • Sleep environment (too much light or noise; uncomfortable temperature)
  • Insomnia is two times more common in women than in men. This is attributed to menopause where sleep is often interrupted by hot flashes, night sweats, and the fact that insomnia is very common during pregnancy.
  • If you are 60 or older your risk increases as well.

Insomnia can be managed or cured with a doctor's assistance. Some people receive prescription medications to help them sleep. In many cases, the first approach to managing insomnia is based on changing behaviors to facilitate optimal sleeping patterns.

Good sleep hygiene includes:

  • Going to bed at the same time
  • Waking at the same time
  • Establishing a bedtime routine
  • Turning off and disengaging from electronics at least an hour before bed (including the television)
  • Keep the room as dark as possible (no bright LED lights)

Exercise in the morning before starting daily activities or at night at least six hours prior to bedtime helps people sleep. The exact reason exercise supports sleep remains unclear. Several factors may contribute to this effect.

The accompanying rise and fall in body temperature may encourage better sleep. The endorphins released during exercise may alleviate stress and anxiety induced insomnia. People meeting the guideline of 150 minutes or more of moderate to voluntary exercise as recommended in Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, a Department of Health and Human Services publication, see the most sleep benefits.

Yoga As A Sleep Aid

Using yoga as a sleep aid offers many positive benefits:

  • It is an all-natural and drug free solution without any side effects.
  • It can be done at home and away from home.
  • It does not require special equipment.
  • A wide range of fitness levels can perform these exercises.

A yoga practice effectively relieves insomnia, because it:

  • Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which activates the relaxation response, the opposite of the fight or flight response activated by stress

  • Encourage the mind to be still, ending racing thoughts and ruminating which can affect sleep

Different types of yoga poses provide different types of effects on the body. Some energize and invigorate while others calm and center the body. In order to treat insomnia, the selected posts need to focus on instilling a sense of calm and relaxation.

Relax Your Body And Mind With 5 Yoga Poses

The following yoga poses assist with soothing away mental and physical tension. They should be done as part of your bedtime routine. They relax the hips and lower back as well as the shoulders and upper back, areas which tend to accumulate tension during the day. Breathe slowly and deeply holding each pose for five to seven breaths. A breath is one inhale and one exhale.

Sukhasana Easy pose:

  1. Sit comfortably with the knees bent and the ankles resting on the floor in front of you.
  2. Rest the hands on the knees and bring your attention to your breath.

Forward Fold:

  1. Extend both legs in front of you and reach toward your feet. Your hands do not have to reach your feet.
  2. Only bend forward, from the hips, as far as you are able to do so without rounding the back.

Reclining Twists:

  1. Lay back and bend the knees with the soles of the feet remaining on the floor in line with the hips.
  2. Allow the knees to touch without moving your feet. Extend the arms to either side of the body to form a T-shape.
  3. Drop the knees to one side while turning the head in the opposite direction.
  4. Bring the head and knees back to center then twist to the opposite side.
  5. Alternate twisting from side to side for three to five rounds.

Legs up a wall:

  1. Take a seat near an open wall.
  2. Place one of your hips close to the wall then turn them up against the wall and lay back.
  3. Rest here for five to 10 breaths or up to 10 minutes.

Corpse Pose :

  1. Lay down on your yoga mat with legs extended and arms resting along the body palms facing up.
  2. Remain here for 10 minutes.

The stress relief aspects of exercise are amplified by yoga's approach to movement. Yoga provides an ideal means to experience the physical gains offered by moderate exercise as well as the mental benefits of the breathing exercises and meditative quality of the practice.

Each pose is performed mindfully with the breath aligned to each movement. It brings a meditative quality to the “exercise” and in turn meditation's benefits: stress relief and a state of relaxation.

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Aromatherapy: Scents That Heal Insomnia

Traditional Chinese medicine makes use of aromatherapy to help people sleep better. What is aromatherapy? It is the practice of using the scent of essential oils derived from plants to heal various ailments, one of which is insomnia. Aromatherapy is used to induce calm, relaxation and has been proven to help ease anxiety and alleviate mild depression. People who practice aromatherapy can use healing scents to create different mental and emotional states, including sleepiness.

Aromatherapy for Sleep

Aromatherapy to induce calm, relaxation, and sleep has become so popular that some hospitals use premal nasal inhalers, which contain essential plant oils like lavender to help patients sleep better.

While there are aromatherapy scent devices on the internet, you can make your own aromatherapy sachet to put on your nightstand or by your pillow to alleviate insomnia.

Remember that each person can respond differently to the various scents of plants used in aromatherapy. Some types of aromatherapy use just one herb, while others combine herbs for maximum effect.

Commonly Used Essential Oils For Sleep

  • Lavender – Lavender can be used as an essential oil made from the lavender flower or as a sachet made from fresh or dried Lavender flowers. Research in Europe has shown that inhaling the scent of lavender promotes relaxation and sleepiness. One study was done on 56 patients in an ICU ward. Those who inhaled Lavender slept better than those who did not.
  • Vetiver – This root plant can be ground or distilled to make an essential oil for sleep induction. It has an earthy smell and can be mixed with Chamomile and / or Lavender.
  • Ylang Ylang – Ylang Ylang has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine to promote good sleep. It has a nice fruity and floral scent that will admit a good night's sleep.
  • Roman Chamomile – This is a type of chamomile that when inhaled induces a calm and relaxed state of mind that is perfect for going to sleep. It can be used in its ground or “loose” form in a sachet or used as an essential oil. It smells like flowers.
  • Bergamot – Bergamot is a cold-pressed oil that is derived from the peel or rind of the bergamot citrus fruit. This will be distinguished from other citrus fruits, such as oranges or grapefruits, which tend to stimulate the senses. Bergamot is soothing and calming; it helps balance emotions so you can sleep better. You can use it in dried form or simply breathe in the essential oil. It blends well with other sleep-inducing herbal formulas used in aromatherapy.
  • Marjoram – This is a spice used not only in cooking but has great uses in the world of aromatherapy. It is a known muscle relaxer when inhaled and helps induce a more comfortable sleep.
  • Sandalwood – This is used primarily as an essential oil created from the Sandalwood tree. Put a few drops on a handkerchief or soft towel and sleep with it next to or on your pillow.
  • Frankincense – Smoke from the burning oil of Frankincense contains incensole acetate that helps to alleviate anxiety and depression, both of which are key factors in many chronic insomnia conditions.
  • Valerian – Valerian essential oil is one of the oldest and most studied in terms of helping to improve insomnia and quality of sleep. It contains compounds that activate GABA receptors in the brain and balances the body's cycles that facilitate undisturbed sleep. Valerian essential oil also helps anxiety, depression and can improve mood. Anxiety and depression are two of the main causes of anxiety and the evil of this oil reducing negative energy and chemicals in the body to bring peace, calm and the ability to rest.
  • Clary Sage Clary Sage functions like Valerian by affecting GABA receptors in the brain. One study showed that clary sage essential oils offer significant anti-stress effects. This oil is also used for patients who suffer from depression.

How to use Aromatherapy

  • Essential oil diffusers are devices you can place on your nightstand so that the aroma of the essential oil can be diffused into the air, creating a wonderful-smelling therapy for the induction of sleep.
  • You can take any herb listed above and use them in fresh or dried forms to create a sachet you keep with you next to or on your bed. The aromas fill the air around your sleep space so that you do not have as much trouble getting to sleep.
  • You can also dilute essential oil with vegetable oil and rub it onto the skin. It is especially good when placed on the back of the neck or on the soles of the feet for a comfortable environment for sleeping.
  • Essential oil candles are also available, just be sure to look for high quality products that note essential oil as an ingredient.
  • Essential oils can also be dropped into a hot bath to relax the muscles and mind as part of a nightly sleep ritual.

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Can Meditation Help Your Insomnia?

The inability to fall sleep, remain sleep, or sleep well affects approximately 60 million people annually. While insomnia affects all ages, over half of individuals 55 years old and older, experience some level of sleep disturbance. Given the projected growth in the aging population, this poses a major health concern. According to the Population Reference Bureau, one-fifth of the US population will be 65 years old or older by 2050. Women who are pregnant or experiencing menopause that causes hot flashes and night sweats commonly experience insomnia.

Insomnia causes major problems personally and socially. It affects health and relationships. Insomniacs experience increased levels of fatigue, mood disorders, higher instances of depressive symptoms and poorer quality of life.

Insomnia decrees work productivity, can be the precursor to on the job and automobile accidents and increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It also negatively affects a sleep-deprived person's ability to think and make reasonable decisions.

If you have ever experienced a bad night's sleep or insomnia, you know that you are likely to be irritable, lack energy to accomplish daily tasks and feel added stress from the fatigue.

Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia

Stress is a significant contributing factor to the development of insomnia. People suffering from stress and anxiety related to work, relationships, health, finances or other pressing issues find themselves unable to stop mulling over their concerns enough to find a restful sleep.

Their racing thoughts or negative ruminations keep them up or wake them when they would normally be sleeping and their sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight or flight response, is constantly active.

Turning on the Relaxation Response

People with insomnia desperately need to relax in order to sleep. They need to turn their fight or flight response off and turn on their relaxation response by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system; it sends the signals, which place the body in a calm and relaxed state.

A variety of non-prescription behaviors serve to help people relax enough to sleep:

  • Listening to calming music
  • Exercise
  • Establishing a bedtime routine
  • Taking a hot bath
  • Journaling to purge the mind of the day's activities
  • Meditation
  • Dealing with stress and its sources

Meditation To Help Your Sleep

Studies have shown meditation providing an effective tool to alleviate insomnia. Mindful meditation seems to be particularly effective. It works by allowing meditators to focus on one thing to the exclusion of other thoughts or stimuli; they learn to let their sources of anxiety exist without actively engaging them.

Appropriately, this practice carries over into daily life as well. A 2012 study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University, shown the way meditators respond to negative stimuli is less reactive than the response of non-meditators. In other words, their first response to negative stimuli did not default to fight or flight.

Mindful Meditation

During mindful meditation, a person chooses a focal point for their attention. It can be simply observing or counting their breaths. They may choose to gaze upon an object, a statue, painting, or photograph, with their full attention. Some people choose to repeat a sound, a word, or a phrase either mentally or aloud.

A period of mindful meditation may last from five to 10 minutes or more. According to studies, the optimum period of time to meditation is approximately 20 minutes. The effectiveness of meditation increases with frequency, so meditating twice a day, upon waking and prior to retiring for bed, is also recommended.

Mindful meditation alleviates many of the causes of insomnia:

  • It eases stress, halts racing thoughts and negative ruminations
  • It calms anxiety
  • The practice builds strong connections within the brain by increasing gray matter density
  • Meditation calms the mind and allows for improved cognitive function and focus
  • It also alleviates some of the physical causes of insomnia, by lowering blood pressure and easing physical pain for people with chronic conditions like arthritis.

Treating insomnia with mindful meditation serves as a sustainable and beneficial way to support good sleep hygiene. It is portable, without side effects and may be applied as complementary treatment in addition to traditional medicines if they are needed.
Mindful meditation may be learned in many ways: from a teacher, from books and audio recordings or from videos widely available on the internet.

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How Nightly Rituals Can Help Insomnia In Natural Ways

Have you ever found it difficult to sleep in a strange place, such as a hotel or a friend's house? This is because our minds and bodies have become used to the usual nightsly rituals we partake in when in the comfort of our home. Our body and mind knows and feels comfortable with our beds, bedding, atmosphere, and even the smell of our homes. We also become accustomed to the regular things we do before going to bed each night, all of which can contribute to a good night's sleep.

If you do not have rituals before going to bed, you should consider developing some as a way to combat every day insomnia. Nightly rituals can help train your brain to know that it is time to sleep so you can fall asleep quickly after getting into bed.

Common Nightly Rituals

Nighttime rituals can be mundane or they can be an elaborate process. Simple rituals can be things like checking that the doors and windows are secure and locked, shutting off the television, turning off lights, brushing your teeth, using the toilet, and possibly removing makeup or putting your hair down from a pony tail. While these things sound simple enough, when done repeatedly and consistently they can put your brain into sleep mode and you will have an easier time falling to sleep.

Choose An Elaborate Ritual

If the simple activities you do before bedtime are not enough to train your brain for sleep, try some of these rituals.

  • Yoga – Do some simple yoga poses in your bed. Yoga is comprised of different “asanas” or poses along with deep and regular breathing with mindful meditation. Some poses that are conducive to sleep involve lying in bed with your butt up against the wall and your legs straight up in the air along the wall. You can breathe comfortably like this with the blood rushing to your brain, adding to a feeling of sleepiness. You can follow that up with “child's pose” in which you place on your heels and bend forward with arms outstretched before you and your forehead as close to the ground as possible.

    Similarly, you can finish a yoga routine on your back with your knees drawn up and the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to fall out to the side, supported with pillows if necessary. Your hands can rest at your side, palms up. These poses are gentle stretching exercises that get the kinks out of your muscles and joints so that you can rest with relaxed muscles. You can finish your yoga positions with the “corpse pose” which involves lying on your back with arms and legs extended, meditating on your breath so that you can be in a position to fall sleep. Several other poses exist that help to relax and stimulate muscles that are linked to better sleep.>

  • Meditation – Simple meditation can involve sitting or lying on your bed, focusing on breathing rhythmically and relaxing your muscles using progressive muscle relaxation. You can meditate by saying a syllable with each breath, such as the commonly used syllable “ohm.” You can also meditate by imagining yourself in a wonderful and comforting place, such as a beach or a forest. This is guided imagery and it can take you out of the stressors of the day. One of the best aspects of meditation is that you can train yourself to let go of all stressful and negative thoughts that can interfere with sleep.
  • Aromatherapy baths – Baths with a few drops of essential oils that promote sleep, such as chamomile and lavender can be wonderful nightly rituals to relax the body and mind.
  • Other rituals – Some people pray before they go to bed, which trains the brain that it is time to sleep. One interesting technique is actually a pagan ritual. In this ritual, you draw an imaginary circle around you and your bed. You then imagine yourself going to the four corners starting in the East and going clockwise around the circle. At each stopping point, you ask God or the goddess to protect you during sleep. When all four corners have been invoked, you imagine yourself in a soft white circle or cone that protects you while you sleep. If you do this ritual enough times, it becomes habit and calms anxiety in preparation for sleep.

Whatever rituals you come up with, try to do them in the same order and at the same time every night on a consistent nightly basis. Remember that you are training the mind to associate these actions with sleep, and so these rituals need to become routine.

If you have a white noise machine, turn it on before going to sleep and allow it to block out extraneous noises. Your brain will then be properly prepared for sleep and you will be able to fall sleep safely and possibly without the need to use prescription sedative medication.

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A Look At Alternative Medicine For Insomnia

Periods of insomnia affect everyone at some point in their lives. For some people, insomnia is a chronic problem, leading to sleep deprivation and difficulty in functioning during daily activities. The risk of accidents while driving or at work increases for insomniacs, along with risks for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Lack of sleep can have a substantial effect on your relationships and well-being in general, making it difficult to function at work and at home.

It is very important to see a licensed physician for on-going insomnia; still not everyone wants to go straight to a sleeping pill to help with sleep. Most prescription sleep aids are addictive and, once you are hooked on them, it is difficult to get off them.

Fortunately, many alternative and natural methods may help you sleep better. Some of these include developing good sleep habits, while others are herbal remedies or exercises that promote better sleep.

Alternative Medicine For Insomnia

The following are some ways you can fall sleep easier without the use of potentially addicting medications:

  • Analysis Of The Problem – One of the most effective ways to deal with insomnia is pinpointing the source for the difficulties of getting to and / or staying sleep. One example of this is stress or emotional issues. If either of those is the cause, it is best to address them directly and in this way you can see positive results in unhealthy sleep patterns. Perhaps there has been a recent trauma or upset in your life, and this type of emotional overload has led to insomnia. Financial, work, personal relationships and family worries are just the types of issues that can keep you awake at night. Seeking the help of a licensed therapist or sometimes even talking to a friend can help to ease painful feelings, thereby alleviating stress and anxiety that can allow you to sleep better at night.
  • Herbal remedies – Many herbs have been found over the centuries to bring about a quick and restful night's sleep. These include valerian root, which appears through research studies to help people get to sleep and sleep peacefully through the night. Chamomile is often drunk as a tea before bedtime in order to bring on the relaxation necessary to fall sleep. Other herbs that are often used in combination with chamomile or valerian root include hops, passionflower, and lemon balm. There are premade sleep-inducing teas that contain one or more of the above herbal remedies, which act together to promote sleep. Herbs can also be used as essential oils in aromatherapy that allow you to use the power of scent to relax your mind for better sleep.
  • Food – Warm milk and tart cherry juice contain tryptophan, a natural compound that induces sleep. Tryptophan is nature's precursor to the neurochemical serotonin, which then converts itself to the hormone known as melatonin. Melatonin rises in the evening after being released from the pineal gland in the brain, inducing a natural sleep pattern. You can drink up to a cup of tart cherry juice, which contains a great deal of tryptophan. Bananas, like cherries, contain tryptophan, which can be metabolized into serotonin and melatonin in the brain. Eat a banana about one-half hour before bedtime to induce a calmer state of mind and a better night's sleep. Eating too close to bedtime can also contribute to insomnia and it is recommended that big meals be taken no later than 4 to 5 hours prior to bedtime.
  • Melatonin – As previously mentioned, melatonin is a natural hormone made by the pineal gland and also exists in plants and animals and is believed to set the circadian rhythm (body clock) that is necessary for proper sleeping patterns. Melatonin is helpful in people who suffer from insomnia due to night shift duties and can help people with jet lag get over their symptoms of sleep deprivation. Melatonin can certainly be taken for a short time span; however, more research is needed in order to define whether this natural hormone is safe for long-term usage.
  • Acupuncture – Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine often turn to acupuncture as a way to help people get a better night's sleep. This involves the insertion of fine needles into particular acupoints of the skin. The idea behind acupuncture is to improve the flow of your natural body's energy, called qi, which flows along “highways” or merdians on the body. The Chinese believe that balance of the qi and therefore the body can help alleviate all kinds of ailments and that it is imbalance that is the source of all ill health. Acupuncture, when done correctly by trained specialists has been shown in many studies to improve the quality of sleep in patients suffering from insomnia. It has also been shown to work better when used alongside with herbs, and is more effective when used with medication than using medication alone.
  • Meditation – Meditation can be done in several ways and has been found to be very effective in decreasing anxiety, facilitating relaxation, and improving sleep patterns when practiced nightly. It can be especially helpful when the source of insomnia is stress from emotional or life situations. In meditation, the muscles of the body are relaxed and the focus is on the simple pattern of the breathing. You can chant a calming mantra or syllable as part of the meditative process. Alternately, you can use meditation as a part of guided imagery, in which you “see” yourself in a calming and relaxing situation. Using meditation and guided imagery, you can relax on your bed, lulling yourself to sleep in a natural and drug-free way. Meditation takes practice but, if practiced nightly, it just may improve your sleep habits within a short time.
  • Exercise – Getting at least thirty minutes of exercise daily and on a regular basis helps people sleep better. Studies have shown that moderate aerobic activity like walking is best for insomnia, versus more rigid forms like running. Ideally, any aerobic activity should be done between 4 and 5 hours before going to sleep with the exception of yoga and qi dong, which exercises you can do just prior to sleeping. Yoga is comprised of specific poses along with structured breath work and mindfulness. Yoga is especially good as an exercise for sleep because it relaxes the muscles and improves the flexibility of the trunk and extremities. There are about 15 specific poses known to be effective for insomnia. Research studies have shown that yoga is beneficial for sleep in persons who are older or who have cancer.
  • Aromatherapy – Essential oils extracted from plants can be very effective in inducing relaxation that can promote better sleep. Lavender, clary sage, marjoram, ylang ylang, Vetiver, valerian, Roman chamomile, and sandalwood are some of the most popular.

Getting Started

Everyone responds to medical and alternative therapies differently and even alternative therapies can have side effects. You should talk to your doctor whenever you are contemplating any alternative measure for sleep, especially if you plan to take herbal preparations, which may interact with the medications you are already taking.

Speaking to an herbalist can also be helpful when considering an herbal sleep remedy. You may need to try various herbal remedies for yourself to see if they are going to be beneficial to you, but it is always best to do so under the guidance of a professional.

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