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For many of us falling asleep at night is like work. For others, we may fall asleep fine but wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep. Whatever your sleep dilemma, I am here to help.

You may not be aware of the potentially severe health effects that decreased sleep can cause. Insufficient amounts of sleep or working odd hours are linked to the following diseases:

  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Insufficient sleep is also a major contributing factor to emotional and psychological problems, hospitalizations, and decreased work efficiency and death-yes death! Sleep can impact how well different systems of the bodywork. I know that when I am tired I will usually get sick. Others may have problems with their nervous system, cardiovascular system and hormonal balancing.

Why do we have problems sleeping? There are many potential causes of sleep problems, and are usually associated with various physical and psychological disorders, treatments, and environmental conditions. Physical problems such as: COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), asthma, emphysema, GERD (Gastroesophogeal reflux), Alzheimer’s, apnea, ulcers, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heartburn, menopause and restless leg syndrome are just a few of the many health challenges that can contribute to sleep issues. Certain classes of medications can also be contributing to your sleep problems. Drugs used for the following health issues can have a link to problems with sleeping:

  • Anti-hypertension
  • Antidepressants
  • Asthma
  • Diuretics
  • Steroids
  • Anti-histamines (including those for stomach issues)

Abnormal levels of certain hormones also may be causing your lack of sleep. Decreased levels of estrogen, growth hormone, melatonin and cortisol have a link back to decreased ability to sleep.
As you can see, why you may not be sleeping well can be caused by so many factors. For this reason you may wish to take a multifaceted approach to your sleep dilemma.

Following are some recommendations to help you sleep better at night:

Eliminate caffeine– caffeine is a drug and takes almost one day to be cleared from the body. There can actually be an additive effect from consume caffeine on a daily basis. This may be why you used to drink one cup of coffee in the morning and now you require 3 or 4 cups per day to keep from being tired. This stimulant is found in coffee, tea (all forms), chocolate, certain herbs (guarana, kola nut) and many beverages.

Food Sensitivities– this may shock many of you, but being sensitive to a certain food group has shown to impact your ability to sleep. If you have tried many techniques to improve your sleep and are still having issues then having yourself tested would be a great next step.

Avoid other drugs– Drugs like nicotine, alcohol (yes these are drugs), stimulants used for ADD etc. can all play a huge roll in your ability to sleep. I recommend you consult your pharmacist for a complete list of potential side effects of your medications to see if they are contributing to your sleep disturbances.

Get the TV out of your bedroom- This alone may be the biggest recommendation I can make. Too many of us will fight falling to sleep because we are too interested in seeing the end of a particular program. Record your program and watch it earlier in the evening.

Take a warm show or bath- This is one of my favorites when I travel. This is a trick we have used for decades to help our children sleep better at night. If you choose a bath, put a few cups of Epsom salt in the water to get an increased effect. The magnesium in the Epsom salt can be absorbed and help relax your muscles and decrease stress.

Increase your activity– increasing your activity/exercise will most likely have a huge impact on your sleep pattern. Don’t do the exercise too close to your bedtime because this will probably have the reverse effect. I already recommend 30 minutes of brisk walking per day as part of my Four Pillars of Great Health. Give it a try for 4 weeks; you will see remarkable changes in your sleep and overall health.

Take supplements – For supplements that I feel work particularly well for sleep, many contain one or more of these ingredients: valerian root, melatonin, passionflower, magnesium, chamomile, hops or l-theanine. Many people seem to fall into one or more categories of why they can’t sleep:

  1. Difficulty falling asleep- most likely due to the length of time it takes for them to “turn off” their thoughts from the day or other stressors.
  2. Difficulty staying asleep- the root of this can vary from having to get up to urinate in the middle of the night, bad dreams that lead to negative thoughts and even the liver “waking you up” because it is bogged down (this one relates more to Chinese medicine beliefs).

Based on my own research and observations, I feel that most people fall into both categories. If this is you, I would suggest using a new product I ran across—Natrol’s Melatonin +5HTP. This is a unique blend that comes in a bi-layered tablet that releases part of the dose immediately, so you can fall asleep, and the remainder is controlled release to help you stay asleep. 5HTP helps calm your mind so you can relax. It is a 100% drug-free approach that can help increase the amount of serotonin, which is known to help promote a feeling of “calm”.  Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps control sleep and wake cycles. In fact, melatonin has been one of my favorites for years for my use during and after travel across time zones. It is now part of my nightly routine regardless of my travels. Natrol’s Melatonin +5HTP is unique in its effects by giving you a 3-pronged approach to your sleep issues: Helping relax your mind (5HTP) fall asleep (Immediate release of melatonin) and stay asleep (controlled-released melatonin, all in a 100% drug-free product.

Last but not least-try my favorite trick, for each letter of the alphabet come up with something you are thankful or grateful for in your life. Lie in bed and breathe slow and deep. Then for each letter of the alphabet think of at least one thing you are thankful for. Here is how I have started out in the past: A is for Adam and Amanda my children. B is for the Bible; C is for Carolina (the college of pharmacy I attended) …you get the idea. When you use this technique you usually will not get to the letter Z. Most people will fall asleep well before the end of the alphabet. If you need to do this every night, change your answers. If it doesn’t help you sleep, at least you are doing something positive in your life to end the day.

Natrol recently sent me the Melatonin +5HTP to use and to give to friends I had with sleep problems in exchange for my opinion which is expressed above.