Insomnia & Sleep Disorders
Approximately 20 percent of all Americans are affected by chronic sleep disorders, and are thus deprived of the restorative benefits that a healthy night’s sleep provides, such as stress reduction, regeneration of the immune system, and repair of free radical damage, as well as the improved mood that a good night’s sleep can provide upon awakening. Lack of healthy sleep can not only increase your susceptibility to other types of illness, it can also dramatically raise stress levels, impair your mood, and affect your ability to concentrate and function optimally at work. Lack of sleep and other sleep disorders also contribute to a minimum of 100,000 automobile accidents in the U.S. each year, and leaves nearly half of the adults feeling so tired during the day that they are unable to perform their daily activities without some degree of interference caused by fatigue, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Research shows that healthy sleep is in part dependent on the body’s internal “clock,” which is influenced by what are known as circadian rhythms. The term circadian is Latin and means “around a day.” Circadian rhythms tend to follow the same cycles and patterns of the sun during a 24-hour period, and influence the times of day when a person feels most awake and alert, as well as those times when he or she feels tired or sleepy. People with healthy circadian rhythms have little trouble rising early in the day with lots of energy, and also tend to easily fall and remain asleep at night, usually retiring well before midnight. This was the normal waking and sleeping pattern of our ancestors. However, due to many factors of the modern world, especially artificial light, it is much easier to disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythms. When this happens, restless sleep, as well as various other physical and psychological health disturbances, are apt to occur.
All told, poor sleep is such a significant problem in the U.S. that Americans spend nearly 20 billion dollars each year on sleep-related medical care, especially sleeping pills, and over 13 million people a year use prescription medications in order to try and get a good night’s sleep. Not only do such medications fail to address the underlying causes of sleep disorders, they can also cause serious side effects, including abnormal brain wave patterns, imbalanced brain chemistry, diminished deep and REM (rapid eye movement or dream) sleep, addiction and withdrawal symptoms, and impaired physical and cognitive ability during the day. Moreover, sleep patterns and the quality of one’s sleep often become even worse following discontinuation of sleeping pills, compared to how they were before the medications were used.
Types of Sleep Disorders & Their Symptoms
There are many types of sleep disorders. What follows is an overview of those that are most common.
- Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome: People who are affected by advanced sleep phase syndrome typically find themselves falling asleep in the early evening (6 to 9 p.m.), only to wake up again around midnight to 2 a.m., after which time they are unable to fall back asleep. As a result, they are often tired throughout the day, and prone to anxiety and depression, mood swings, and stress.
- Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome: People affected by this condition typically find themselves chronically staying up to 3 or 4 in the morning, and are usually unable to get up any earlier than 10 to 11 a.m. without experiencing daytime fatigue, memory and cognition problems, and impaired physical functioning. Despite being tired during the day, they are also unable to sleep again until well past midnight.
- Insomnia: Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. 58 percent of all American adults suffer from insomnia at least one night per week. In people who work nontraditional “9-5″ shifts the percentage rises to 66 percent. Insomnia is characterized by difficulties falling or remaining asleep at night. The end result is being tired and more prone to stress during the day. There are three types of insomnia. Sleep-onset insomnia refers to insomnia that is characterized by difficulty falling asleep once a person has gone to bed. Once sleep does occur (often hours later), such people tend to sleep well for the rest of the night. Sleep-maintenance insomniarefers to problems sleeping throughout the night. It is characterized by waking up several times during the night, followed by difficulties falling back to sleep each time. The last category of insomnia is known as early-awakening insomnia. People who suffer from this condition routinely find themselves waking up much earlier in the morning than they would like, so that they fail to get enough sleep.
- Narcolepsy: This chronic sleep disorder affects people by causing them to fall asleep during the day due to what can be characterized as “sleep attacks.” When a sleep attack strikes, the person will fall asleep, sometimes for only a few seconds, but other times for half an hour or more. In addition, the sleep attacks can occur more than once throughout the day, even while a person is talking, eating, walking, and working, and despite the person having had a good night’s sleep. Additional symptoms of narcolepsy include cataplexy, a condition characterized by an abrupt, temporary loss of muscle function; disorienting hallucinations; and sleep paralysis, which can cause narcoleptic persons to temporarily become unable to move or talk. Between 20 to 25 percent of all people with narcolepsy suffer from all four of the above symptoms, while the majority of sufferers primarily only experience sleep attacks.
- Night Terrors: Also known as sleep terrors, this condition causes people affected by it to suffer from intense, nightmare-like experiences that can result in loud cries and screams, agitated leaps out of bed, and running out of the bedroom. Night terrors are not nightmares, however, and typically occur during non-dream stages of sleep. Moreover, the people who suffer from them usually appear awake during the experiences, though they are in fact still asleep. Symptoms of night terrors include dilated pupils, heart palpitations, and intense sweating. The majority of cases occur among young children, yet an estimated one percent of all adults are also affected by this condition.
- Periodic Limb Movements in Sleep (PLMS): PLMS is a sleep disorder that is characterized by abrupt, involuntary, repetitive movements of the limbs, especially the legs during sleep. It can occur at the beginning of the sleep cycle or later. During episodes of PLMS, the limbs can jerk about every ten to 60 seconds and be repeated for up to hundreds of times, leaving sufferers feeling tired during the day.
- REM Behavior Disorder (RBD): RBD is a sleep disorder that occurs during the dream, or REM, sleep stage. People who suffer from RBD physically act out their dreams while they are occurring without being aware that they are doing so. As they dream, their bodies will often exhibit rhythmic movements, as well as jerking, repetitive movements of the head and neck, and rocking motions in their torso and limbs. Because people who suffer from RBD are unaware that their bodies are physically engaged during their dreams, they fail to realize when their movements can prove dangerous, such as head banging. In addition, because of their physical exertions, they are usually tired during the day and may find parts of their bodies bruised or cut as a result of RBD activity.
- Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS): Restless legs syndrome is characterized by sensations of burning, itching, prickling, or tugging in the legs that occur while a person is asleep or resting. In some cases, these sensations can also occur in the arms. The end result is a feeling of discomfort that makes falling and remaining asleep difficult because the sensations can often continue for extended periods throughout the night.
- Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is a potentially serious health condition that is characterized by periodic interruptions in the breathing process, forcing the sleeper to awaken to gasp for air, often throughout the night. Each episode of interrupted breathing can last for up to a minute, depleting the blood of oxygen and increasing the supply of harmful carbon dioxide. This eventually causes the brain to signal a need to wake up, resulting in the sleeper doing so briefly before falling back asleep again—usually with a loud gasp—until the episode repeats itself. As many as thirty such awakening episodes can occur each hour, although they usually go unnoticed by the sleeper because of how brief they are. Because of the ongoing interrupted sleep, people with this condition are often very tired or sleepy during the day, and can also suffer from anxiety, depression, headaches (especially in the morning), high blood pressure, heart attack, memory and cognition problems, and stroke. Caution: Children who suffer from sleep apnea are also more susceptible to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If your child has sleep apnea, seek prompt medical care.
All sleep disorders are caused, or negatively influenced, by one or more of the following factors, most of which are typically ignored by conventional physicians.
Your diet is one of the most important self-care approaches you can take for preventing and reversing sleep disorders. To begin, you should determine whether or not you are allergic or sensitive to any of the foods you eat. This can be accomplished using a food allergy blood test, or through an elimination diet in which you avoid eating suspected foods for a minimum of four days. As you do so, notice any improvements in your health. Then reintroduce the suspected food, eating it by itself. If you experience a return of symptoms within 24 to 96 hours after you do so, you should avoid eating that food.
Another simple way of detecting food allergies is to take your resting pulse before you eat. Then eat the suspected food by itself. Retake your pulse ten minutes later. If your pulse has risen by ten points or more during that time, most likely the food you ate is something you are allergic or sensitive to.
To further improve your diet:
- Eliminate alcohol and caffeine in all forms (including chocolate, non-herbal teas, and soda).
- Avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates.
- Avoid unhealthy fats, and refined salt.
- Emphasize a diet that contains plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables (especially raw vegetables and salad greens).
- Include whole-grain, complex carbohydrates and protein foods such as legumes, nuts, free-range meats and poultry, and wild caught fish.
- Use only healthy oils, such as coconut, flaxseed, olive, and walnut oils to ensure an adequate supply of healthy fats to the brain, improving brain function and mood.
- Take raw organic milk from grass fed cows, warm it (but do not boil) and drink.
- Eat a banana before you go to bed.
- A light bedtime snack of free-range turkey can also be helpful because turkey supplies L-tryptophan, an important amino acid for increasing serotonin production. Be sure that you don’t eat a full meal near bedtime, however, as doing so can keep you awake at night.
To avoid adding more toxic waste, adhere to the following:
- Do not consume any artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, NutraSweet or Aspartame
- Do not consume high fructose corn syrup or mono-sodium glutamate.
- Do not drink any carbonated beverages.
- Avoid all fast food restaurants.
- Avoid all canned food.
- Eliminate conventional dairy products. The best dairy products are raw, unpasteurised and homogenised dairy from grass fed cows. If this is unavailable, then buy organic dairy.
- Avoid conventional beef. The best beef is organic grass fed beef. www.grasslandbeef.com The second best is organic meat; this includes beef, veal, lamb, chicken and turkey.
- Drink magnesium – specifically a product called Kalms.
- Drink Calcium magnesium
- Valerian root
- Kava Kava
- Nerve calming products such as Dr Schultze Nerve Formula www.herbdoc.com
- Melatonin Supplement www.qnhshop.com
- Tryptophan www.organicpharmacy.com
- Take Vitamin D3 50,000-100,000 International Units a day for periods of four weeks at a time.
- Wholefood supplements are the best way of ensuring your nutritional needs are met. The best we know on the market is Kevin Trudeau’s “KT Daily” product. You can find more details here.
- Take Omega 3s:
Prescription and non-prescription medication:
What non-prescription and prescription drugs are you taking? Your non-prescription and prescription are partially the reason that you have this illness or disease – you need to get off these medications but do so only under the guidance of a licensed health care practitioner.
We know that when the body is out of balance, energy doesn’t flow, leading blockages and eventually disease. Here are some things you can do to combat stress and restore balance:
Andrea Butje | Aromahead firstname.lastname@example.org – aromatherapy
Carrie Vitt email@example.com – organic food recipes.
David Spector-NSR/USA firstname.lastname@example.org – meditation, stress
Judith Hoad email@example.com – herbalist.
Kath May firstname.lastname@example.org – reiki, tai chi.
Lillian Bridges email@example.com – Chinese medicine, living naturally.
Monika firstname.lastname@example.org – aromatherapy.
Rakesh GAC@AyurvedicLifeStyles.com – Ayurvedic Practitioner.
Transcendental meditation – see www.tm.org
Melatonin, Sublingual Spray www.sourcenaturals.com
Alarm Clock, Sun Alarm Clock www.mercola.com
Full Spectrum Valerian Extract www.planetaryformulas.com
Passion Flower, Gaia Herbs www.gaiaherbs.com