We’re all familiar with that silly image of the person who resorts to counting sheep when they just can’t seem to fall asleep. But when you’re the one who’s been tossing and turning all night, insomnia is no laughing matter.
According to a new survey from Consumer Reports, around 27% of adults claim to have issues falling asleep or staying asleep. Plus, 68%, or roughly 164 million Americans, have trouble with sleep at least once per week. And according to a Harvard study, as many as one in four adults report suffering from mild insomnia.
At some point or another, most of us will experience a short bout of insomnia. Often, it’s the result of stress or a change in routine, work schedule, having a baby, or medications that mess with sleep like antidepressants, blood pressure meds, allergy meds, and corticosteroids. The good news is once you find a way to deal with the situation, your sleep pattern will get back to normal.
Insomnia can also become chronic; a long-term thing. This can be the result of a more serious health condition, like depression, anxiety, or sleep apnea. Other times, insomnia can stem simply from poor sleep habits, like eating too many heavy snacks before bed, sleeping in an uncomfortable environment, or staying glued to your smartphone or tablet all night long or living in an environment being bombarded by WIFI, smart meters, sleeping with or near your cell phone, etc.
Either way, missing out on sleep leaves you feeling exhausted, irritable, and generally unable to function during the day. And over a period time, it can cause obesity and put you at risk for health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Inability to fall and stay asleep could stem from a short-term issue, or be the result of a lifetime of poor sleep habits. Either way, you can’t rely on prescription meds to solve the problem. The good news is, no matter how long a person has suffered from insomnia, there’s usually a way to deal with the root of the problem and start sleeping better. And fortunately, there are plenty of options to consider.
To start with, you may not be getting all of the vitamins and nutrients you need to get a restful night.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of vitamin C is that it is a great immune system booster and you are totally right, but that is not all this super vitamin can do for you. It has also been shown that individuals who have particularly low levels of vitamin C, also suffer from being able to catch a good night’s sleep and when low on vitamin C, you are also more likely to wake up sporadically throughout the night, which means the sleep you do get is going to be less restful.
Adding a supplement of vitamin C to your daily wellness regimen may help you quit tossing and turning as well as prevent you from catching a cold, flu and getting cancer. Bear in mind however, ascorbic acid that is sold as Vitamin C is not vitamin C. The best source is fresh fruits and vegetables. You may try juicing a fresh lemon daily and if you know the lemon is organic, you can even blend peeling and all because the largest amount of Vitamin C is in the peeling.
Intuitively, you might vitamin D would wake you up, not help put you to sleep. In reality, vitamin D has also been linked to the maintenance of good sleep and during those long winter months, when we have far less exposure to the sun, supplementing with vitamin D is especially important.
Some studies have gone so far as to associate certain sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia, with low levels of vitamin D.
Early morning and late afternoon sun is the best source during summer, but during winter, especially if living in the northern hemisphere, it is a good idea to supplement with Vitamin D.
Seize the Night with Melatonin
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that aids in the regulation of the body’s circadian rhythm. It is an internal pacemaker that controls the timing and our drive for sleep. It causes drowsiness, lowers body temperature, and puts the body into sleep mode.
Melatonin supplements can be purchased, but the best and safest melatonin is that which your own body produces.
Magnesium is the mineral that helps your body produce melatonin. Magnesium also helps the mind and muscles relax, therefore, magnesium is a good bet for improving sleep quality. Research has shown that even a marginal lack of magnesium can prevent the brain from settling down at night and a majority of Americans are just not getting enough of this crucial mineral. In fact, the Nutritional Magnesium Association states that over 75% of all Americans don’t get the recommended daily dose of magnesium.
This mineral has wide-ranging effects in and on the body, one of which, it influences the various processes that promote sound, restful sleep.
Magnesium is so important that every single function that goes on in your body requires magnesium. Every cell and organ needs this mineral to function properly. It also contributes to bone health, as well as proper brain, heart, blood circulation and muscle function.
Magnesium has been linked to a number of benefits, including fighting inflammation, relieving constipation, reducing pain, muscle cramping and twitching, lowering blood pressure and even treating treat sleep problems.
In order to fall asleep and stay asleep, your body and brain need to relax and magnesium is the mineral that helps you relax.
On a chemical level, magnesium aids this process by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for getting you calm and relaxed.
First, magnesium regulates neurotransmitters, which send signals throughout the nervous system and brain. It also regulates the hormone melatonin, which guides sleep-wake cycles in your body.
Second, this mineral binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA is the neurotransmitter responsible for quieting down nerve activity. It is the same neurotransmitter used by sleep drugs like Ambien.
By helping to quiet the nervous system, magnesium may help prepare your body and mind for sleep.
Most magnesium supplements are poorly absorbed unless accompanied by hydrochloric acid and you need to typically take enough to give you diarrhea. ShopFreeMart PureMag however is readily absorbed by the cells and is the only kind of magnesium supplement that crosses the blood-brain barrier and if magnesium doesn’t get into your brain, it is not going to improve your cognitive function and help you sleep better.
L-theanine. This amino acid found in ShopFreeMart Vitalize helps combat anxiety that interferes with sleep. A 2007 study showed that L-theanine reduced heart rate and immune responses to stress. It’s thought to work by boosting the amount of a feel-good hormone that your body makes. It also induces brain waves linked to relaxation.
Vitamin B6. This vitamin that has been shown to help you sleep better and to remember your dreams. Vitamin B6 aids numerous functions of your body, including cognitive function and development, so it makes sense that it would impact your ability to sleep and remember your dreams. If you can remember your dreams, you are also more likely to have lucid ones. ShopFreeMart Activate not only contains vitamin B6, but it may also help to control the overgrowth of candida, which can also disrupt sleep.
Vitamin B12. This vitamin greatly impacts your sleep, too, as studies have linked low levels of vitamin B12 with insomnia. It also turns out your sleep-wake cycles are regulated by this vitamin. Vegetarians especially need to supplement vitamin B12 as it is found in meat, eggs, fish and dairy products. ShopFreeMart Vitalize contains the form of B12 that is best used by the body.
Warm milk. You can put a tasty spin on your grandmother’s natural insomnia remedy of sipping warm milk before bed. Almond milk helps the brain make melatonin and if you warm it slightly, it may spark pleasant and relaxing memories of your mother warming milk to help you fall asleep.
A deficiency in calcium can lead to a disruption in your REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. As you may recall from your high school psychology class, REM is the most critical stage in the sleep cycle for dreams.
Most people however are not deficient in calcium, but instead are deficient in magnesium and boron, which are the two minerals that help the body utilize calcium and keep it mobile in the body.
Calcium is found in plenty of foods, including many dairy products as well as collard greens, kale, sardines, sesame seeds and mustard. Calcium found in dairy products are not as easily absorbed as calcium found in green vegetables. The exception to that is goat milk and cheese and most calcium supplements are the wrong form of calcium, which causes plaque in the arteries, joints and muscle tissues. If you think you may be lacking calcium, try eating more greens and then supplement with ShopFreeMart PureMag and D-Cal, so that the calcium you get goes toward making strong bones and teeth and helping you sleep better at night.
Making Time for Exercise
Being physically active is essential for sleeping well. Mounting evidence shows that people who work a job that requires physical work and also people who exercise regularly tend to snooze better than their couch potato counterparts; especially when it comes to those with chronic insomnia.
One study concluded that people who get at least 60 minutes of exercise five days per week have more normal REM sleep than those who do not, but you might not need to sweat it out for quite that long to reap the benefits. Other findings show that insomniacs who engage in thirty-minute spurts of exercise just three or four times a week sleep for nearly an hour longer than sedentary folks and wake up less frequently during the night.
And if you can swing it, working out in the morning might be even more beneficial than later in the day. Experts didn’t say why exactly, but it could have something to do with morning exercise’s ability to help regulate the secretion hormones that help manage blood pressure, which may lead to better sleep.
Why is working out seemingly so beneficial? The mechanisms aren’t entirely known, but National Sleep Foundation experts say that it could have to do with exercise’s ability to promote feelings of relaxation and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Staying active might also help to keep your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle in sync—particularly if you exercise outdoors.
Still, the explanation might be even simpler: Think about the days when you’re running around all day, or after you’ve wrapped up a really tough workout. Don’t you just feel more tired on those days compared to the ones where you just lay around all day and do nothing?
Using Sunlight to Promote Healthy Melatonin Production
The sun might force you awake in the morning, but it’s also essential for helping you achieve restful sleep at night. That’s because your body relies on natural light to figure out what time it is, and determine whether to pump out energizing hormones or ones that leave you feeling relaxed and sleepy, like melatonin.
In other words, daylight helps your body’s natural clock—which is dictated by the 24-hour cycle of day and night—know when to feel awake and when to feel tired. “When your pineal gland is triggered by light, especially sunlight, it sends signals and releases wake-promoting hormones,” says Michele Roberge, RT(R), RPSGT, a neurodiagnostic lead technologist at Parrish Sleep Disorder Center. “A simple walk to the mailbox every morning could really benefit someone who is suffering from insomnia.”
When your hypothalamus—the gland responsible for regulating sleep and energy levels—senses a change in light, it tells your body to ramp up or ramp down its production of the sleep hormone melatonin. During the day, you feel energized and alert because you don’t produce much melatonin. At night, you produce more, so you feel sleepy.
One way to keep everything on schedule is by flooding your body with light as soon as you get out of bed, which sends a clear message to your body that it’s time to wake up. Try opening your blinds, exercising outside, or even going without sunglasses on your way to work.
And throughout the day, keep the natural light flowing. Sit near a window at work and spend time outside during your lunch break. One study suggests that doing so could help you sleep for nearly an hour longer. On the weekends, plan a picnic or take a hike instead of watching Netflix and chilling on the couch all afternoon.
Taking Steps to Manage Stress
If you consistently find yourself lying in bed with your mind racing, stress could be stealing your ability to fall asleep. Nearly 40% of Americans say that they often feel tired or fatigued because of stress.
And it gets worse. When you’re wiped out during the day from not getting enough sleep, you tend to feel even more stressed, anxious, and irritable. Over time, the whole stress-sleep thing can turn into a vicious cycle. Which is why taking steps to manage your stress is so critical for achieving deeper, more restful sleep.
Should you sit cross-legged and sing Kumbaya before bed? Well, sure, if you want, but there are plenty of other effective ways to ease feelings of stress and promote feelings of relaxation. A few to try:
- Journaling. You might think that writing stuff down would make you dwell on it, but instead it helps your mind let go of it. Better yet is to focus only on the things that you appreciate. Not only will it help you sleep better, but you will be carrying thoughts of the things that you desire into your subconscious mind while preparing for sleep and by doing so, you will begin to attract more of the things that you desire into life and less of the things you don’t want.
- A study published in Applied Psychology, found that students who wrote in a gratitude journal for just 15 minutes per night worried less at bedtime—and achieved better sleep.
- Guided imagery. Experts say that mind games like guided imagery can help you doze off faster. And it couldn’t be any simpler than that. While you’re lying down, picture yourself in a relaxing, peaceful place. Over time the image becomes a sort of signal to your brain that it’s time to nod off.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Because relaxing your physical body can be just as effective as relaxing your mind. Experts at the University of Maryland Medical Sleep Disorders Center recommend repeatedly tensing and releasing your toes to the count of 10. It’s crazy simple, but it can actually help relieve pent up energy and help you feel more relaxed.
- Going to sleep early. It sounds counterintuitive, but trying to turn in earlier might make your worries sort of disappear on their own. People who go to sleep early tend to relax easier and sleep better, and those who stay up late are more likely to be overwhelmed by restless negative thoughts.