Sleep disorders not only rob us of a restful night, but they also have side-effects that go far beyond our simply feeling tired in the morning. Sleep apnea and insomnia are two of the most common sleep disorders and both pose long-term, serious health risks if left untreated.
If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, if you disturb the sleep of others, or if you often find yourself needing a “cat nap” during the day, these issues should be discussed with your doctor. In particular, if you know you snore, and you often feel exhausted, you could have Sleep Apnea. According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep apnea affects more than 12,000,000 Americans…. and 85% of them don’t know it!
The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a simple questionnaire that can be taken in under 5 minutes, offering a simple and quick way to assess your level of daytime sleepiness. A score of 10 or higher indicates that you need to improve your sleep hygiene and/or see a sleep specialist for further evaluation.
Other actionable steps to help ensure you’re getting some much-needed rest include:
- Keeping a consistent pattern of sleep – even on weekends – that allows for 7-9 hours of sleep every night
- Avoiding all caffeinated beverages after 3 pm
- Getting regular physical exercise (3 – 4 times a week)
- Avoiding artificial light from your computer screen at night due to the fact that it may interfere with melatonin production; and,
- Proper room temperature, ideally 68-70º F
Sleep Aids for Sleep Disorders
Sleep aids can help individuals who have difficulty falling asleep (as is the case with insomnia), but it’s not uncommon to experience brain fog (forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, and in some cases, confusion) along with drowsiness when these are taken. Over-the-counter and prescription medications, nutritional supplements, and Chinese herbs can all have side effects or cause drug interactions. When shopping for supplements, it’s also very important to note that the FDA does not regulate the supplement industry with the result that some products may have labeling inaccuracies. For these reasons, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any type of sleep aid.
The following 7 supplements help to regulate sleep, naturally:
▪ Magnesium helps to calm the body’s nervous system and relax the muscles which is critical for a good night’s sleep. Most people do not get enough magnesium from dietary sources alone. If your magnesium level is low, you may experience problems with nerve conduction, muscle contractions, muscle cramps, and insomnia.
▪ Cortisol Manager is a stress hormone stabilizer that promotes relaxation and helps relieve fatigue. It’s safe to use every night.
▪ Phosphatidylserine is a supplement that stops hyperactive production of cortisol in the body, allowing unhealthy, elevated cortisol levels to decrease, and consequently, more restful sleep to occur.
▪ Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland and it plays a role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin supplements are commonly used to help people recover from jet lag by reorganizing the sleep cycle, but it has also shown to help shift workers who have difficulty falling asleep.
▪ L-Tryptophan is a serotonin-precursor and an amino-acid that can help initiate sleep and can also be used to reduce chronic pain and depression.
▪ 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the body. It’s also found in the plant species, Griffonia simplicifolia. 5-HTP increases the production of the chemical serotonin, which can have a direct effect on sleep.
▪ L-Theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in green tea. Much like Valerian, L-Theanine is thought to improve sleep by stimulating the production of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is responsible for “quieting down” heightened neuronal activity.
Sleep disorders can seriously disrupt your life and the lives of those around you but there are many ways to improve the quality and quantity of sleep, naturally.