Welcome to the February 2013 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Addressing Sleep Challenges.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month our members have written posts about how they address sleep challenges in their homes.
When you suffer from insomnia and sleep problems, you often feel alone. However, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2009 Sleep in America poll, more people are struggling with sleep than you’d think.
In fact, 1 in 3.45 adults have trouble falling asleep at least a few nights each week. In addition, 1 in 6.25 adults have trouble falling asleep every night or nearly every night.
What’s more, women are more likely than men to have insomnia: when conducted in 2005, the same survey found that 1 in 3.85 women have difficulty falling asleep at least a few nights a week, compared to 1 in 5.88 men.
Sleep deprivation can cause all sorts of problems like difficulty concentrating, depression, anxiety, weight gain, a weakened immune system and more. It’s amazing how much our bodies need a good night’s sleep to function properly.
Unfortunately, many Americans are turning to sleep aids, many with harmful side effects, to get sleep. Women and Sleep, a 2007 study by the National Sleep Foundation, found that nearly 3 in 10 American women use some type of sleep aid at least a few nights each week.
Fortunately, most people don’t need to turn to prescription sleep aids to get to sleep. There are natural remedies for insomnia that should be tried before going to pharmaceutical route.
Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule
If you can manage to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, it should help you get to sleep more easily. I know this is easier said than done for most moms, including me, but it’s something to consider. You should also avoid naps, especially in the evening, or you risk having more trouble falling asleep.
Avoid Stimulants in the Evening
You should avoid caffeine in later hours of the day. I try not to drink any caffeine after noon or I find I have even more trouble sleeping. I recently cut out coffee and now only drink green tea some mornings. For some people, alcohol consumption can also induce insomnia.
Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Shut off the TV 2 hours before bedtime, and instead take a nice, hot bath. If you can add some magnesium bath salts to your bath, it will help even more. Then sit in a dimly lit, quiet room and read a relaxing book.
Eliminate Potential Food Allergens
People with untreated food allergies often experience insomnia, so if you’re experiencing trouble sleeping, you may want to be tested for allergies. Common food allergens include wheat (gluten), dairy, soy, corn, preservatives and food additives.
Eating a healthful diet is important for your body to function properly. You need to cut all processed and refined foods out of your diet – basically anything that comes in a box, bag or can. Add more antioxidant-rich foods to your diet like leafy greens, blueberries, pomegranates and cherries. Make sure you’re getting plenty of healthy protein and be sure you’re drinking at least 8 glasses of pure, filtered water each day.
Get More Exercise
When you regularly exercise, your body releases endorphins that can help decrease stress levels. When your stress levels are lower, you typically sleep deeper. Shoot for a minimum of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day, such as walking, running or biking. I like yoga for this because you also get stretching and strengthening in. Try to get your exercise in first thing in the morning. If you exercise in the evening, your brain may be too stimulated to sleep.
Meditation can help slow your mind and relieve stress and anxiety. When you’re more relaxed, it’s easier to fall asleep and sleep deeper. This article has some tips for using meditation for better sleep.
If you’re not getting enough nutrients from your diet (most of aren’t), you may want to consider adding some supplements to your routing. Try taking a food-based daily multivitamin and Omega 3 fatty acids, such as fish or krill oil. Topical Magnesium has become a wonder supplement for me when I have trouble sleeping. Other supplements that have been shown to support sleep include CoQ10, GABA, valerian root, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), and L-theanine.
Increase Your Melatonin Levels
While I don’t recommend a melatonin substance as your body can become dependent on them, there are ways to help increase your melatonin levels natural. Our bodies produce melatonin in response to light, and release it in response to darkness, which helps promote sleep. Studies have shown that tart cherry juice can increase melatonin levels and lead to more and better sleep, so try drinking a glass of tart cherry juice every day.
Eat Roods Rich in Tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body can’t make on its own. Once Tryptophan reaches your brain, it’s converted into serotonin, which promotes relaxation and sleepiness. In order to obtain all of Tryptophan’s sleep benefits, you need to combine it with a carbohydrate-rich food. Tryptophan-rich foods include turkey, beans, eggs, sesame and sunflower seeds, peanuts and dairy. One reason chamomile tea works so well is because it’s also full of Tryptophan! So try sitting on a cup of chamomile tea as part of your relaxing bedtime routine.
Break Out the Essential Oils
Essential oils are a great natural sleep aid. Many people are familiar with the relaxing effects of lavender essential oil. However, my favorite blend for full relaxation and sleep induction is Young Living’s Peace & Calming Blend. It’s an amazing blend of Tangerine, orange, ylang ylang, patchouli and blue tansy essential oils. I like to rub a drop into the bottom of each of my feet, on my wrists and neck before bed. One smell of it and I instantly feel relaxed. I think it’s my favorite essential oil blend of all time.
If none of these natural remedies for insomnia solve your sleep challenges, you may want to talk to your doctor about other causes.
If you’ve suffered from insomnia, what tips have worked for you?
Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed: