Losing just one night’s sleep is enough to offset our brain. It causes neurons to fire more slowly than usual, meaning our brain takes longer to translate visual input into conscious thought.
But as a society, we are sleeping less and working more.
Our country labels a day by the pattern of the sun and the moon. We associate daylight with activity and darkness with sleep, but not before performing more activity after the sun has set. This habit tends to leave Americans with an average of 4-6 hours of sleep every night, not enough to function at an optimal neurological level.
While you should try to sleep for 7-8 hours consecutively each night, I understand that adulthood does not make it easy to do so. However, if you have the ability to clear space in your afternoon for a short nap, your body (and brain) will thank you. While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve your mood, alertness and performance.
According to the Sleep Junkies,“Even a 20-minute power nap can clear our mind, help consolidate already learnt information, and allow our brain to pick up new material faster and more effectively. Even in the early stages of sleep, the brain starts to clear out adenosine – a chemical that gets created as we work and learn. This means that when we wake up, the brain is now able to collect more information, since it has additional free space. A slightly longer nap of 60 – 90 minutes has even more benefits; and mimics a good night’s rest that allows us to learn twice as fast. Research suggests that 20 – 40 minute naps can correct this problem; so that people who take a short nap are more alert, respond better and faster and make less mistakes. Brain scans show that people who take naps perform better at tasks.”
Naps can be typed in three different ways:
•Planned napping (also called preparatory napping) involves taking a nap before you actually get sleepy. You may use this technique when you know that you will be up later than your normal bed time or as a mechanism to ward off getting tired earlier.
•Emergency napping occurs when you are suddenly very tired and cannot continue with the activity you were originally engaged in. This type of nap can be used to combat drowsy driving or fatigue while using heavy and dangerous machinery.
•Habitual napping is practiced when a person takes a nap at the same time each day. Young children may fall asleep at about the same time each afternoon or an adult might take a short nap after lunch each day.
University of California psychology professor Dr Sara Mednick, author of Take a Nap! Change your Life, goes even further in listing the benefits of napping.
She claims it “increases alertness, boosts creativity, reduces stress, improves perception, stamina, motor skills, and accuracy, enhances your sex life, helps you make better decisions, keeps you looking younger, aids in weight loss, reduces the risk of heart attack, elevates your mood, and strengthens memory”
Even as the science shows that napping has many benefits, understand that every person is different. There is also researching showing that naps potentially increase the inflammation within the body, and they can cause an individual to feel more tired and groggier after waking. If you would like to start napping, try to make it a daily habit, and try to keep it just under 30 minutes to see how your body responds.
Here are a few items that might help you nap in your car, or in an empty dark room at work!
You may be risking your life for a good night’s sleep.
There are two different categories of sleeping medications: Over-The-Counter (OTC) and Prescription. I’m going to talk to you about the risks of both, beginning with OTC. OTC sleep aids may seem to be an easy fix, not addictive like prescription versions, and even safe because they are made so readily available. This is not the case, is it ever these days? If you are not sleeping well, or not falling asleep well, there is a deeper issue at hand. Finding a natural, healthy solution to the rooted issue will not only solve your sleeping troubles, but improve your overall wellbeing.
Most people assume that taking an OTC sleep aid won’t cause harm, but the sad truth is that a few doses can cause long-term problems. The main ingredient in many OTC sleeping pills is an antihistamine which results in the drowsy and sedative effect. Many OTC sleep aids also contain acetaminophen (Tylenol type products), especially if they advertise pain relief as well. For more specific information on Tylenol risks read here: http://peaandthepodchiropractic.com/the-truth-about-tylenol-dangers-for-infants-children-and-pregnant-women/
Most Common OTC Sleep Aids:
- Tylenol PM
- Advil PM
- Other store-name brands
OTC Sleeping Pills May Increase Your Risk of Liver Failure and are linked to brain damage.
The number one cause of acute liver failure in the United States is taking too much acetaminophen, which is incredibly easy to do considering just how many over-the-counter and prescription products contain this drug. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/07/21/FDA-Changes-Tylenol-Warnings-But-Doesnt-Tell-You-How-to-Take-it-Safely.aspx
Overdosing is as easy as taking a dose for a headache, cold or achy back that’s making it difficult for you to sleep, but having already taken one or more acetaminophen-containing products to relieve your pain and other symptoms during the day. Not realizing that compounding doses of acetaminophen can be extremely dangerous, even deadly, is what causes an overdose. This risk is important to be aware of, especially if you take Tylenol PM, Excedrin PM or other acetaminophen-containing sleep aids on a regular basis. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/05/29/overthecounter-sleep-meds-are-not-effective.aspx
The numbers are alarming, over $100 million or more is being spent on OTC sleep aids, and research shows that children 12 years and older along with adults are downing these medications like candy.
Taking these OTC Sleep Medications, even sporadically, can put you at risk of: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep-aids/art-20047860
- Skin rash
- Appetite increase, weight gain, loss of appetite, or even anorexia.
- Hypo-tension (abnormally low blood pressure).
- Blurred vision.
- Prostate problems.
- Liver toxicity.
- Morning hangover. Waking up groggy and feeling “drugged” is a common side effect.
- Daytime drowsiness and fatigue. OTC medications tend to last longer than 8 hours, leaving you unable to function well throughout the next day.
- Dental Decay
Benadryl and Sominex have previously been found to cause hallucinations in the elderly. All of the listed OTC drugs can negatively affect your brain, causing long-term cognitive impairment. These drugs, called anticholinergics, block acetylcholine – a nervous system neurotransmitter. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease typically have a marked shortage of acetylcholine. The results of some studies indicate that these drugs with anticholinergic effects may be yet another piece of the puzzle that might explain the sharp rise in dementia and cognitive decline.
Other anticholinergic drugs, such as Paxil, Detrol, Demerol, and Elavil are available only by prescription.
“Research involving data from more than 10,500 people who received drugs for poor sleep (hypnotics) showed that “as predicted, patients prescribed any hypnotic had substantially elevated hazards of dying compared to those prescribed no hypnotics” and the association held true even when patients with poor health were taken into account — and even if the patients took fewer than 18 pills in a year.
The study suggested that those who take such medications are not only at higher risk for certain cancers, but are nearly four times more likely to die than people who don’t take them.
Sleeping pills linked to these risks included benzodiazepines (such as temazepam), non-benzodiazepines (such as Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata), barbiturates, and sedative antihistamines.” http://www.darksideofsleepingpills.com/
Not only are prescription sleep medications linked to increased risk of death, but they place you at a 35% higher risk of cancer.
In addition to the side effects of the OTC versions, prescription sleep aids add the side effects:
- Sleep walking, sleep eating and even sleep driving
- Confusion and disorientation
- Complete amnesia from events, even those that took place during the day
Sleeping Pills Help You Fall Asleep Just 13 Minutes Faster and Sleep Only 11 Minutes Longer
Sleeping pills do nothing to help the underlying reasons why you’re having trouble sleeping in the first place. This is likely why studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy can treat insomnia better than drugs
Better Options for a Good Night’s Sleep
Whether you are not able to fall asleep, wake up too often, or don’t feel well rested when you wake up in the morning, these options may provide you with techniques to improve sleep problems.
There are many factors that can influence your sleep, but one that many fail to consider is the use of lights, such as your TV, iPad, and computer, before going to bed. These emit the type of blue light that will suppress melatonin production and hamper your ability to fall asleep. Ideally, you’ll want to turn them off at least an hour prior to bedtime.
Next, making sure your bedroom is ideally suited for sleep can also go a long way to ensure restful and uninterrupted sleep:
- Cover your windows with blackout shades or drapes to ensure complete darkness.
- Consider using a Himalayan salt lamp. It will give off a soft red glow, purify the air, and help you rest easier.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom at or below 70 degrees F (21 degrees Celsius)
- Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs).These can disrupt your pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well.
Natural sleep aids and insomnia treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy take time to treat this sleeplessness, usually a minimum of several days or weeks. It takes time and hard work to learn how to sleep if you have insomnia.
Chiropractic care and wellness adjustments will help you to relax. It also improves the blood flow in the nervous system and corrects any misalignments, or sublaxations in the spine. These subluxations compress the nerves and cause lack of communication between the spine and the brain. These subluxations lead to a process called stress response which puts the body out of balance and do not let the body rest.
Avoiding gluten, grains, dairy and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels are one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
Omega-3 fats (Like Krill Oil or Fermented Cod Liver Oil) are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins.
B vitamins are important for energy production in cells. And vitamin B6 works with the sleep aid 5-htp to help create serotonin.
Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin D3:
Adequate calcium and magnesium in your daily diet are also important nutrients for helping you relax and get a good night’s sleep. But according to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements, millions of Americans are not getting adequate amounts. Magnesium in particular may help with fatigue and stress reduction. Multivitamins almost never contain much calcium or magnesium, so you may need to supplement if your diet is lacking in these two essential nutrients. You should also make certain you are getting at least 400 IU of vitamin D3 every day (1,000 IU supplements are even better, especially during the dark winter months). Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption.
Make sure to use high quality supplements.
A melatonin sleep aid can be very effective for some people, especially for jet lag. Melatonin can be taken by itself as a natural sleep aid. It is also often seen as a blend in supplements, which may be the most effective way to use it.
Also known as 5-hydroxytryptophan, this substance is produced in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. In supplements, 5-htp often comes from Griffonia simplicifolia seed extract. 5-htp is a precursor to serotonin and increases serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that has many functions, one of which is to regulate sleep. One of the great things about 5-htp is that it crosses easily from the blood into the brain. That’s why 5-htp taken by itself may be effective for reaching a natural calm mood and also help with depression.
As a natural sleep aid, it’s probably best to use 5-htp as part of a supplement blend.
This brain neurotransmitter is included in some natural sleep aids because it has a calming effect and relieves anxiety that can keep a person awake at night. GABA does promote drowsiness and may help some people fall asleep faster.
This is the most abundant amino acid in your body. It has a wide range of uses, including for insomnia, anxiety, and to improve mood.
This is also an amino acid and is naturally found in green tea. Studies have shown that green tea contains about 1 to 3% theanine. It has a relaxing and anti-anxiety effect on the mind.(Green tea itself is not a natural remedy for insomnia because this tea contains caffeine, but you can find a decaffeinated version.)
Herbal Sleep Remedies:
The best natural sleep aid will have some combination of sleep herbs in them.
- Lemon balm
Not all of these herbs need to be present for an all-natural sleep aid to be effective. Most herbal sleep aids will also often have melatonin mixed in with them, though not always.
Tips for falling asleep fast: http://www.sleeppassport.com/how-to-fall-asleep.html