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6 Steps to Better Sleep
Over half of American adults will suffer from temporary or chronic insomnia at some point in their lives. If you have trouble getting a good night's sleep, try implementing the four methods outlined below to ensure you get the best sleep possible.
Insomnia is a condition that strikes about 40 percent of Americans at some point for short periods of time. Up to 15 percent of adult Americans suffer from chronic insomnia.
Insomnia is more than simply the inability to sleep. In fact, it can reduce a person’s quality of life significantly, and even lead to health problems, such as an increased risk for heart attacks, depression, osteoporosis, and weight gain.
If you have trouble sleeping, you may not consider it actual insomnia, but if you have trouble sleeping for more than three days in a row, you have a form of short-term insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping three nights a week for a month or longer, then you have chronic insomnia.
Take a look at the highest risk factors for insomnia and ways to prevent it naturally below.
According to University of Maryland, there are several factors that put certain people at a higher risk for insomnia. Individuals with these risk factors should work hard to prevent insomnia from starting to protect their health. The most common risk factors for insomnia are listed below:
The individuals at a highest risk for insomnia are older than 60 years of age. It is not known why the elderly have trouble sleeping, but some researchers theorize that changes in hormone levels, increase in pain levels, and fewer daily activities may contribute to insomnia in the elderly. Some medications prescribed to the elderly also interfere with normal sleep patterns.
According to a poll of over 10,000 American adults conducted by the Digital analytics company Resonate, individuals who are not married are more likely to suffer from insomnia. In fact, divorced individuals were 35 percent more likely to suffer from insomnia than married couples.
If you smoke, you are more likely to suffer from insomnia. According to the Resonate poll, tobacco users were 48 percent more likely to smoke. Other substance abuse, from alcohol or drug use can lead to chronic insomnia, according to University of Maryland.
Excessive alcohol intake disrupts normal sleep patterns, as does drug use- both medical and illegal. Quitting substance abuse can also lead to chronic insomnia- sometimes for several years after the person has quit.
Many medications are known for their disruption of sleep patterns. Common offenders are decongestants, medicine that contains caffeine, antihistamines, steroids, antidepressants, allergy medication, heart medication, and blood pressure medication. According to the Resonate poll, individuals on prescription medications were 32 percent more likely to have insomnia.
Women are more likely to suffer from insomnia than men. There are several medical explanations for this fact.
First, women have greater hormonal fluctuations than men based around their monthly cycle. During menstruation, progesterone levels drop. Progesterone is responsible for regulating sleep, and low levels lead to insomnia during menstruation. In fact, during ovulation, some women may become sleepier than normal. Progesterone changes during pregnancy also can lead to insomnia, as can the discomforts of pregnancy- such as the baby kicking or frequent urination. At menopause, the sudden change in hormone levels can cause insomnia.
Second, women are more likely to suffer from anxiety than men. Some women may stay up at night worrying about the present or future. Women are also more likely to suffer from depressive disorders, which lead to insomnia.
Stress is a huge cause of insomnia. Stress makes it difficult to sleep restfully, because the brain is always “on.” According to the Resonate poll, unemployed individuals, individuals with a low income, and individuals in high influence jobs were more likely to suffer from insomnia- in some cases, up to a 42 percent greater chance.
Your mental health can play a large role in how well you sleep. Depression, anxiety, and stress can all lead to a disruption in normal sleep patterns. Additionally, many medications for mental health conditions also lead to insomnia.
If you don’t work during the normal work day, you are at higher risk for insomnia. According to Harvard Medical School, more than half of shift workers suffer from some kind of insomnia a few times a week. Highest individuals at risk are those who’s shifts change often, who are over age 50, and those who work late at night and sleep during the day.
Jet lag is a real issue, and frequent traveling across time zones can lead to temporary or chronic insomnia. According to the University of Maryland, it takes about a day to adjust to each time zone crossed. However, it is easier to travel from east to west, since it is easier to lengthen sleep phases than shorten them.
A history of insomnia- either your own or a family history of insomnia, increases your risk of suffering from temporary or chronic insomnia. If you have had an attack of insomnia before, it is likely that you will suffer again. Additionally, if other people in your family suffer from insomnia, then you are more likely to have it at some point as well.
Pain can lead to an increased chance for insomnia. Pain makes it difficult to sleep. Arthritis, fibromyalgia, pregnancy, and other forms of pain contribute to a loss of sleep. Until pain is under control, it can lead to chronic or temporary insomnia.
If you are at risk for insomnia, there is no need to worry. You can prevent insomnia by following the steps outlined below. These steps will help you manage your insomnia from the inside out, and help you sleep better and have better overall health.
There are several supplements that can create healthy sleep patterns. If you have trouble sleeping, or have one or more of the risk factors of insomnia, add these supplements to your daily routine to ensure you give your system the building blocks for healthy sleep functioning.
Valerian Root: Valerian root has been used as a traditional sleep remedy for thousands of years. You will find it in many sleep-supporting supplements and teas. Valerian root has a mild sedative effect, and it can also relieve minor anxiety. In clinical studies, valerian root has been shown to improve sleep quality and provide insomnia relief. A 2000 review of 9 studies of valerian published in Sleep Medicine, it was shown that valerian can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, reduce nighttime awakenings, and improve overall sleep quality.
GABA: GABA (also known as Gamma Amino Butyric Acid) is an amino acid that calms brain activity and promotes restfulness. Several studies have shown that GABA levels are lower in individuals with insomnia. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry investigated the role of GABA in anxiety disorders, and found that the amino acid was helpful in reducing anxiety and promoting calmness, which can help reduce insomnia symptoms.
Hops: Hops (also known as Lupulin and humulus lupulus) have been shown to promote sleep with mild sedative effects. Hops can also soothe anxiety. In a 2005 study published in the journal Sleep, it was shown that a mixture of hops and valerian was able to modestly improve sleep disorders in 184 women.
Passion Flower: Passion flower is a traditional Aztec remedy used in traditional medicine for thousands of years for insomnia and anxiety, however, it has been studied less in modern medical studies. A 2011 study from Monash University in Australia looked at the possible benefits of passion flower in insomnia. The researchers found that passion flower improved sleep and reduced anxiety in patients by an increase of 5 percent versus patients taking a placebo.
5-HTP: 5-HTP is a natural neurotransmitter that is present in the brain. 5-HTP is responsible for regulating mood and sleep patterns. According to several studies, 5-HTP supplements can improve insomnia, depression, and anxiety. In one study cited by the University of Maryland, supplementing with 5-HTP helped individuals with insomnia get to sleep quicker and sleep more deeply than individuals who took a placebo. It takes up to 12 weeks for 5-HTP to be fully effective.
Exercise can be highly effective at preventing insomnia. Exercise boosts mood, which can reduce anxiety and depression, but exercise can also stimulate normal wake-sleep cycles, which fights insomnia.
According to a 2010 study conducted by Northwestern University, elderly persons who started an exercise after a sedentary lifestyle were able to improve their sleep habits after implementing a moderate exercise program 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes a day. Within 16 weeks, participants woke less frequently during the night, and slept an average of 45 additional minutes per night.
Establishing a strict bedtime routine can help trick your brain into establishing better sleep patterns. If you always do certain activities before bed, such as having a warm cup of tea, taking a warm bath, or reading in bed for a few minutes, your brain will start to associate that with sleep, which can help you shut down at the end of each day. A regular bedtime will also help you establish normal sleep/wake cycles.
Stimulation late in the day, in the form of coffee or other stimulants, can prevent sleep later in the evening. Even a large meal can keep you awake as your stomach tries to digest the food. Smaller meals later in the day will help you sleep better at night.
Your bedroom should be a haven of rest. You can easily create a haven of rest by keeping objects that do not promote sleep out of your bedroom. For example, blue light is a huge sleep disruptor, which can even interfere with the production of melatonin.
A 2011 study published in Neuro Endocrinology Letters showed that participants exposed to blue light had significantly reduced melatonin levels. Other things you can do to promote sleep include blocking out light from outdoors, turning on a fan or other white noise machine to block out strange sounds that may wake you at night, and banning work and electronics from the bedroom.
Stress and anxiety lead to insomnia. You can prevent insomnia related to these conditions by actively relaxing. Relaxing for a few minutes each night can help you improve your sleep habits. Relaxing activities will help you prepare for sleep, and remove the stress of the day, which will lead to overall improved health.
Even if you have many of the risk factors for insomnia, it does not mean that you have to suffer from chronic insomnia for the rest of your life. There are many steps you can take to promote sleep and improve your overall health. Try taking the natural steps outlined above to improve your sleep patterns without the aid of sleep medications, which may have dangerous and uncomfortable side effects. Taking sleep-promoting supplements and simple lifestyle changes can help significantly reduce your chances of suffering from insomnia for more than a day or two.
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