Getting a good night’s sleep is critical not only for energy, but also to decrease pain related to muscle overuse, improve mental clarity, and support a healthy immune system.
Inadequate sleep can occur for a number of reasons. Many Americans simply do not make enough time for adequate sleep. A hundred and thirty years ago, before light bulbs were invented, the average American was getting nine hours of sleep a night. Anthropologists tell us that 5,000 years ago, the average night’s sleep was 11 hours. When the sun went down, it was dark, boring, and dangerous outside, so people went to bed. When the sun came up, they woke up. The use of candles initially shortened sleep time. Then light bulbs were developed, followed by radio, TV and computers. We are now down to an average of 6 3/4 hours of sleep a night, and this is simply not adequate to allow proper rest and tissue repair.
Some people get inadequate sleep because of poor sleep practices, while others have difficulty sleeping because the sleep center in the brain (called the hypothalamus) is not working properly (which is often the case when fatigue is present along with insomnia).
But between a few natural solutions and better sleep practices, you can start getting better sleep this week! Here are 4 natural sleep aids to consider.
4 Natural Aids for Restful Sleep
One of the best (but oft-ignored) keys to a restful sleep is an amino called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA for short. If GABA levels are too low, falling asleep can be a nightly struggle
Your brain naturally produces this neurotransmitter, and it works as a calming agent as your mind disengages from the wakeful state to the sleeping state. It’s released directly into active brain circuits to inhibit alertness and promote relaxation. Before you know it, your racing mind quiets down and quickly and gently fades off to sleep.
In a Harvard Medical School study, scientists found that people with chronic sleep problems had 30% lower levels of GABA on average than normal.
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by our bodies and helps us sleep. Melatonin is excellent for those with occasional problems falling asleep. While most melatonin sold is 3 mg or more per dose, but some people find success on even less—as low as .5 mg.
Magnesium deficiency is one of the most important nutritional deficiencies of modern life, and in addition to helping people sleep and relax, magnesium is associated with improvements in heart health and many other benefits. In some people, magnesium can cause stools or gas. In these cases taking a sustained release magnesium can avoid this problem. For sleep, It’s best to take 200 mg along at bedtime. To further help relax tight muscles, add 2 cups of Epsom salts to a tub of hot water and have a nice soak before bedtime.
4. Herbal Mixes
There are natural, herbal combination formulas that can help you fall asleep faster and maintain a healthy sleep cycle — without feeling groggy the next day. These can also help support muscle recuperation from normal muscle exertion and overuse, so that you experience less fatigue upon waking. I’ve listed a few recommendations at the bottom of this article, so be sure to check them out.
Good Sleep Practices for a Better
These are some important things to consider that enhance good sleep:
- Do not consume excess alcohol near bedtime.
- Do not consume caffeine (except perhaps for a little chocolate) after 4:00 p.m.
- Do not use your bed for problem solving or doing work.
- Take a hot bath before bed.
- Keep your bedroom cool.
- If your partner snores, sleep in a separate bedroom (after tucking in or being tucked in by your partner) or get a good pair of earplugs and use them. The wax plugs that mold to the shape of the ear are often the best ones.
- If you frequently wake up to urinate during the night, do not drink a lot of fluids near bedtime.
- Put the bedroom clock out of arm’s reach and facing away from you so you can’t see it. Looking at the clock frequently aggravates sleep problems and is frustrating.
- Have a 1 to 2 ounces high-protein snack before bedtime. Hunger and low blood sugar cause difficulty sleeping in all animals, and humans are no exception. For your snack, eat high-protein foods such as a hard-boiled egg, some cheese, an ounce of meat or fish, or a handful of nuts.
Dr. Teitelbaum, also known as “Dr. T,” is an integrative physician and one of the country’s foremost experts on fatigue, sleep and pain management. The treatment program he developed for combating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia and related conditions has helped hundreds of thousands of sufferers reclaim their health and vitality.
Dr. Teitelbaum is the Medical Director of the National Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and author of the best-selling books, From Fatigued to Fantastic! , Beat Sugar Addiction Now! and Pain Free 1-2-3 . He has also authored several landmark scientific studies. Dr. Teitelbaum has firsthand experience with CFS and Fibromyalgia — he battled the condition when he was in medical school and had to drop out for a year to recover. Since then, he has dedicated his career to developing effective strategies to treat these conditions and educating the millions of people who need help.
Visit his web site to learn more.
Vicki Dawson, founder of The Children’s Sleep Charity, which provides support to families for children’s sleep, told The Guardian, “We are increasingly seeing families where both parents are out working and this can mean that bedtime becomes later, bedtime routines may be rushed or abandoned all together … A good sleep routine is key in supporting a better sleep pattern.”4