Sleeping Well Naturally
Good physical health and sound mental acuity require getting a restful night’s sleep on a regular basis. Complications potentially arising from or worsened by lack of sleep include cardiovascular and kidney disease, diabetes, obesity and breathing difficulties. Lack of sleep can also have a negative effect on concentration, memory, logical thinking and mood.
Occasional short-term use of prescription or over the counter drugs can provide temporary relief from some sleep disorders, although their continued use can have serious side effects, including physical and psychological dependence. Fortunately, there are some inexpensive and readily available natural alternatives to help you get the rest you need for optimum physical and mental performance.
Natural Sleep Aids
Melatonin is a naturally occurring substance produced in the human body by the pineal gland. Melatonin regulates the body’s circadian rhythm, which controls the sleeping and awakening cycle. Production of melatonin, however, can slow as people age, often resulting in disrupted sleep patterns and insomnia. Taken regularly in small doses, melatonin supplements can help promote and induce sound sleep.
Another natural substance known to help promote relaxation is valerian root, which is found in health food stores and the vitamin aisles of most pharmacies and grocery stores. Used for centuries to treat anxiety and insomnia, it’s an herbal sleep aid that has a soothing, calming effect on the human body. Available in capsule form or brewed as a tea to be taken shortly before bedtime, valerian root helps promote sound, restful sleep by increasing the body’s level of gamma aminobutryic acid or GABA, a naturally occurring chemical that relaxes the brain and relieves anxiety.
The same chemical substance in turkey that makes Uncle Eddie – and most of the rest of us – feel like taking a nap after eating a huge Thanksgiving Dinner is called tryptophan, an amino acid frequently used to treat insomnia by producing serotonin. The pineal gland then converts serotonin into melatonin, which as mentioned above controls the body’s sleeping and waking cycles. Tryptophan is a dietary supplement available at health food stores, and also occurs naturally in foods such as nuts, legumes and dairy products.
Chamomile is another readily available herb known for both its sleep-inducing effects and its mild tranquilizing properties. A 2009 study by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine concluded that chamomile was effective in reducing stress levels in patients diagnosed with anxiety. Sometimes called “sleep tea” when brewed, a cup of caffeine-free chamomile tea taken shortly before retiring for the night can help relax the body and promote deep, restful sleep.
Other Means of Improving Sleep Quality
Physical exercise has been directly linked to providing relief for chronic insomnia sufferers. A study by the National Sleep Foundation indicates that regularly spending even as little as 10 minutes a day walking, cycling or engaging in other aerobic exercise can dramatically improve sleep quality. In addition to promoting relaxation and sleep, exercise can also help reduce the risk of stroke, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and other sleep-related disorders.
In many instances, simply replacing that worn and sagging old mattress with a new sleep system can provide immediate relief from insomnia, bodily aches and pains and various other sleep ailments. Stop by one of Sit ‘n Sleep’s many conveniently located Southern California outlets to try out various types of mattresses and support levels. Knowledgeable sleep consultants are always on duty to help you select a mattress that’s best for your body type and weight, preferred sleeping position and physical condition.
As with any physical disorder, it’s advisable to consult with your health care provider before using sleep inducing supplements or beginning an exercise routine.