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Do You Have a Problem Sleeping?

You're Not Alone - Many People Have a Problem Sleeping Through the Night

            Sleeping occupies about 1/3 of our entire lifetime, and so it is obviously important for that reason alone. Sleep also helps repair and renew our bodies when we are in a resting state. When proper sleep occurs, we awaken refreshed and ready to start the day. However, many people do not get a good night’s sleep, and then do not wake up with the energy and vitality they should have. When insomnia symptoms start affecting the rest of someone’s life, it’s time to think about treatment options.

            At first, sleep is usually light, and then later is deeper, but it’s not deep throughout the night, even in healthy sleep. Sleep itself involves a number of cycles that are filled with different stages of sleep within each cycle. Sleep stages alternate between light sleep, intermediate sleep, deep sleep, and Rapid Eye Movement sleep. For reasons that are not completely understood, all stages within the cycles are needed for a restful and rejuvenating sleep. If the cycles are broken up significantly by lack of sleep, the symptoms of insomnia begin to occur. These symptoms can include: drowsiness, irritability, shortened attention span, lack of coordination, memory problems, lowered performance on complicated tasks, energy level, productivity, and social functioning. Some people think that they can get away with less sleep in order to be more productive, for example, working two full-time shifts, or working a full-time job plus full-time schooling. However, the lack of sleep with catch up with them and inhibit their productivity and problem-solving skills, so they are really only running in circles instead of progressing ahead.

            Insomnia affects about 10% of Americans and about 30% of seniors. Causes of insomnia can include: dietary and lifestyle factors (ex. late night snacks and spousal arguments), depression, pain, anxiety, poor sleeping conditions (ex. noise, a cheap mattress), illness, certain medications, lack of exercise, and stimulants such as caffeine. Half of all insomnia cases are thought to be psychologically-related, as you can see from the specific causes above. Insomnia can affect more than just the person who cannot sleep well. Lack of sleep is blamed for more than 100,000 car accidents in America each year. There is another related condition called sleep apnea that can also be dangerous. Sleep apnea is a disorder involving brief interruptions of breathing, can be associated with insomnia. It occurs from repeated airway obstruction at night, which results in the person waking up for very brief periods. Sleep apnea is also characterized by loud snoring. Many people with sleep apnea also have high blood pressure, for reasons currently unknown.

              How much sleep should someone have? The two most important factors that determine how much sleep someone should get are genetics and age. Younger children under five years of age need close to eleven hours of sleep. Teenagers usually need 8-9 hours of sleep. Adults need a highly variable amount of sleep, 4-9 hours, depending on the person. The adults that need only four hours of sleep have some genetic differences from the average person needing more sleep, and those differences are being investigated. Older people generally need less sleep than younger adults.

            Some people cannot get to sleep because of other disorders that they have, including restless leg syndrome. This semi-conscious response compels a person to move their legs often, even in prone positions. This is obviously very annoying and disruptive to sleep. This particular disorder may be due to a magnesium deficiency or possible iron deficiency. Stimulants besides caffeine can contribute to insomnia, including decongestants, cold medications, and some asthma medications. For chronic insomniacs, some psychological therapies, such as relaxation training, may be useful. Some people who can’t fall asleep at night choose to take naps. Experts are divided about whether naps are beneficial or not. If you do take naps, try to take them between 1-4 PM.

            Described below are some common-sense tips on how to help manage insomnia. Do not exercise too close to bedtime. Don’t take naps past 4 PM in the afternoon. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule, allowing for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Try to sleep on your side --- this inhibits snoring. People with insomnia need to eliminate all caffeine-containing beverages after four PM, including caffeinated coffee, colas, energy drinks, and tea. Alcohol, heavy meals at dinner, and bedtime snacks should also be minimized or eliminated. Sleeping pills can be harmful to the quality of sleep, because they disrupt the deeper stages of sleep within the sleep cycles, much like alcohol does. Sedatives have been used for insomnia, but they can cause physical dependence and many have withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation.

            There are some supplements that can help improve the quality of sleep. The herb Valerian improved sleep quality in a German study. Do not take valerian if you have liver problems or are taking prescription drugs. The hormone melatonin can improve the amount of sleep time in people with insomnia. Unfortunately, melatonin can cause depression in some people, and you should not take this supplement without notifying your physician. Copper, iron, and magnesium, all of which are found in many multivitamin or multimineral formulas, may help sleeping problems. A study found that poor sleep quality is associated with low copper, iron, and/or magnesium levels. Males should consult their physician before taking iron supplements.

            Lack of sleep can be a quite an annoying problem, but there are several methods mentioned above that can greatly help someone to get the rest that their body and mind needs. The two main goals for someone with sleeping problems are lifestyle changes and trying different supplements that have been described earlier. It can be hard for some people to make fundamental changes in the evening hours to try and improve their sleep, but after they begin the changes, they will realize that the extra effort is worth it. After all, without a good night’s sleep, the next day simply doesn’t have the same worth and rhythm needed to be satisfied with. If you would like more information on helping your insomnia, you can contact Dr. Jensen at 1-800-390-5365, or e-mail at drjensen@individualizednutrition.com.

Dr. Jensen provides science-based holistic health care and guidance. He can advise you on specific problems you are experiencing, or help you create a comprehensive health care plan for optimum health.

Dr. Jensen will provide you with a free initial consultation to discuss your situation and suggest a course of action.

Contact Dr. Jensen at 1-800-390-5365 or use the contact form.

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