Relieve stress quickly to fall asleep

Why Can’t I Sleep?

  • Let’s figure out where the sleep problem lies.
  • What is adrenal fatigue? Could this be your problem?
  • Do you have actual insomnia and if so, how do we treat that?

Not Being Able to Sleep IS Indeed a Problem:

coffeeIf you are not sleeping, you are not alone:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that lack of sleep is currently a major public health epidemic. According to recent reports, approximately forty-eight percent of the people in the United States have stated that they do not sleep enough every day. A shocking  seventy million people in the United States either suffer from “sleep issues” or a diagnosed sleeping disorder. Insomnia is a major cause of lack of sleep and it affects approximately one in three adults throughout the country.  As you can see, if you are not sleeping, you are not alone.

Sleep is essential not just to “function normally” but for many aspects of your overall health. When you are sleep deprived you have less energy, aches and pains feel worse, and you can get depressed. Chronic sleep deprivation is also associated with decreased immune system function.

This means: increased infections, a higher rate of cancer, increased risk of disease, and making weight loss and exercise impossible. Does this sound familiar? I can help.  After you are done with this article please DO get yourself a free download of my Amazon kindle best-selling book “How to sleep like a baby at any age” so that you will have “every trick in my book”-literally!

The Three Stumbling Blocks to Sleep You Need to Identify:

So many people come to me asking “Why can’t I sleep” that I would say this question coupled with the statement  ” I have no energy” are things I hear regularly. Before I can help someone sleep like a baby (and I do!), I need to know where exactly is their sleep issue occurring from, because they are often treated differently. This is the “beef” I have with general doctors who hear someone say to them “Why can’t I sleep”, give no real answer, but immediately start prescribing sleeping pills. Here are the three stumbling blocks to sleep for you to identify:

Sleep initiation (ability to fall asleep):

Many people have trouble falling asleep due to being stressed. Another cause could be that you are highly caffeine sensitive and any caffeine after lunch might keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Something else that affects sleep initiation is how long before heading to bed do you stop eating? This is something people often do not associate with poor sleep but it has a definite effect.

Not only eating before bed can interrupt your sleep pattern but also so can late-night exercise which for many gets the blood flowing (all too well for some people): it should be completed 4 hours prior to going to bed.

If you smoke, you may not realize that nicotine is also a stimulant, so it CAN impair sleep initiation. I hope no one reading this is a smoker because smoking causes more than just sleep problems. Quitting smoking doesn’t mean a patch or prescription; I have helped many patients quit easily and effectively.

Wake-Ups:

If you are getting poor sleep from waking up either during the night or too early, this may be caused by un-shielded LED’s, snoring spouses or dogs (These issues apply to sleep initiation as well), and excess food and/or fluids pre-bedtime. Something common that most people don’t know is that, while it might help you get to sleep if you’re stressed, alcohol is a big “wake-up” culprit.

Another thing that may manifest as wake-ups is mild depression, which you may not recognize. This is something I will go into further in my book previously mentioned. And of course I legally have to counsel you that if you KNOW you are feeling depressed, and especially if you have had any thoughts at all about killing yourself or hurting others, you must seek out professional help IMMEDIATELY!

Un-Refreshed Sleep:

Obviously if you are waking up all night, you’ll feel as if you are not rested in the morning. But if you ARE sleeping through the night, it may be that you are not getting enough REM or deep sleep. Causes of that can be stress, depression, and even melatonin deficiency. Other causes are that you may be getting inadequate amounts of sleep. Adults truly need 7-8 hours per night.

SO- if you have figured out where you problem is, which is generally not hard to do, and then when you say help me sleep – you bet I can! You should know if it’s #1, #2, #3 or “a combo”. I am also assuming you have seen a doctor and have had medical issues and sleep disorders “ruled out”. If not, the two main “missed” medical diagnoses are “thyroid problems” and “adrenal fatigue”. We’ll talk about adrenal fatigue next and then go over types of sleep disorders later on in this article.

And no matter what phase of sleep is a problem, (and hopefully the tips for each given above will be helpful to you), everyone needs “good sleep hygiene” and almost no one practices it. If you haven’t read article #1 please read “The best sleep aid isn’t a prescription drug” for all of the great lifestyle practices you can do for improved sleep.

Since everyone seems to be stressed, with thoughts rocking around their brain when their head hits the pillow, let me take some time to address what is increasingly the most common sleep issue for everyone who is in the age group where they are juggling work, families, and more. I’m talking about you, the person who needs help falling asleep.

Get more sleep by Reducing Stress with the Relaxation Response

  1. Lie down, make sure you have a comfy and soft pillow, dim the lights and then slowly close your eyes.
  2. Start to relax your muscles, beginning with your feet. Hold both legs straight out and point your toes away from your face. Relax, point your toes toward your head, repeat.
  3. Next, relax your torso. Pull your shoulders back, and arch your spine. Relax and repeat. Tighten your stomach muscles so that they feel hard, then relax. Take a deep breath slowly to fill your lungs. Hold it for five seconds, exhale slowly.
  4. Now, relax your hands and arms. Hold both arms straight out and stretch, then relax. Bend back. Straighten and relax.
  5. Relax your facial muscles. Press your lips tightly together, relax. Bring your tongue upward to the roof of your mouth, press it there, relax. Clench your teeth and relax. Wrinkle your forehead, raise your eyebrows, relax. Squeeze your eyes closed, relax.

After you have done good sleep hygiene, and the relaxation response it’s time for healthy and natural sleep aids:

Always purchase pharmaceutical grade supplements or else you are not getting what’s on the label and worse yet, you are getting contaminants such as heavy metals: NOT GOOD! Look for a GMP (good manufacturing practices) sticker. The good news is that there are actually natural supplements which DO work, and are “science based”. Note that a full description of all sleep supplements are found in the previous article.

What Works Best for Sleep Initiation?

it-return-simplifiedMelatonin:

For best sleep initiation liquid or chewable melatonin, chewed and put under the tongue will get you to sleep….and even faster when combined with GABA!

GABA:

You need to be careful when you choose supplements to augment GABA, which is the anti-anxiety neurotransmitter (brain chemical). It is the answer to sleep initiation and daily stress for many people and it might surprise you to know that raising GABA levels is just how anti-anxiety medicines and prescription sleep aids work! But, you can do the same thing without the side effects.  Either a spray or a chewable supplement that can be chewed and put under the tongue is acceptable. An oral supplement will not pass the blood-brain barrier and hence will not work.

And here are even more tips for falling asleep:

  • Meditation is one way to help improve your sleep, but this needs to be learned-doable and effective.
  • Do make sure you are following good sleep hygiene techniques which include controlling for noise, light, food and alcohol intake, caffeine intake and more. “More” includes bed comfort such as high thread sheets and a very very comfortable pillow.
  • The right aromatherapy is quite relaxing and therefore sleep-inducing for some people. Common essential oils for relaxation and sleep can be added to the bath, used as a bed linen spray, added to massage oil and to cotton balls placed on your pillow. Popular scents include lavender oil, roman chamomile oil and clary sage.  
  • A warm, Epsom salts bath works wonders to ease stress and help with sleep initiation. However some people find that “heat” before bedtime will actually interfere with “sleep initiation” so beware of that potential effect.
  • Hot showers and hot-tubs with the same “heat” caveat noted above. For “safe keeping” do the “hot things’ which DO increase circulation 30-60 minutes pre-bedtime.
  • Massage: Like bathing, massage is potentially stimulating to your circulation and should generally be avoided immediately before bedtime. Prior to bedtime, however, try gently massaging your feet and legs with a calming massage oil or lotion.
  • Chamomile tea or other herbal tea can help you unwind and get ready for bed. Some people find that “Sleepy Time Tea” available in grocery stores is helpful. Some herbs such as valerian root or passionflower are the ones most cited as helpful sleep aids but I personally have a different list which you can find in the other sleep article.

If you are feeling more than tired-meaning “fatigued”:

If you do not have any medical conditions or sleep disorders and your doctor says “nothing is wrong” and you are not severely depressed then you might have adrenal fatigue. People with adrenal fatigue consistently report that they wake up exhausted, not just tired.

cantsleepIf you are saying to yourself “I have NO energy”, and ” I wake up exhausted ”  you probably have adrenal fatigue. YOU are the person searching the internet to find supplements for energy. Often people self-medicate with extra caffeine and/or energy drinks which will just worsen this condition.  The reason stimulants worsen the condition is that stimulants (either made by the body or taken externally) CAUSE the condition.

Adrenal fatigue (read carefully and THINK) is usually brought on by preceding or currently occurring physical or emotional stress. Any/all of this makes the adrenal glands pump out cortisol and adrenaline at whopping doses and this causes a host of symptoms.  

Symptoms include a variety of sleep problems including “unrefreshing sleep”, and varying levels of fatigue during the day. The poor sleep quality very commonly also includes several wake-ups during the night. It often causes mild signs of depression due to the lack of quality sleep, and as a result, many doctors erroneously treat this condition with anti-depressants.

Adrenal stress or full adrenal fatigue is the main reason why patients say they wake up exhausted and then feel exhausted much of the day. This condition is very commonly missed by non-Anti-Aging doctors because, quite frankly, they are not educated about the phenomenon. People tell their doctors they feel as if they have a “burn-out,” but the problem is their doctors don’t know how to recognize this not uncommon syndrome.

Treatment is easy once we know “what we are dealing with”. It includes behavioral techniques to relax, easing up on stressful things by delegating, using soothing Epsom salts baths and taking “adrenal support” which is often an herbal mixture containing astragalus, ashwaganda, Siberian ginseng and rhodiola.

Several types of sleep disorders can be the un-diagnosed sleep-robbing culprits:

There are several different types of sleep disorders, from mild to severe. Most disorders are diagnosed by a physician or a specialist such as a Pulmonologist or Neurologist and require keeping a sleep journal as well as undergoing a sleep study.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing during sleep. It is associated with snoring, and often but not always associated with obesity.

A special note about treatment here:  If your sleep apnea is related to your tongue or jaw position, a trained dentist can design a custom oral appliance to address the issue. These include mandibular repositioning devices or devices to help hold your tongue forward without moving your jaw.

Relief may also be found in the form of speech therapy treatment called oral myo-functional therapy, which helps to re-pattern your oral and facial muscles

The conventional treatment for sleep apnea is a machine called CPAP (“continuous positive airway pressure”), which creates a forceful pressure that mechanically opens up your airway.

But while CPAP is recommended for severe sleep apnea, it’s important to realize that it does not address the cause of the problem, although it may relieve your symptoms. So when seeking out a sleep specialist, make sure he or she has the knowledge to help you address your sleep apnea at the root cause level.

Restless Leg Syndrome and Narcolepsy

Restless leg syndrome occurs when a person has an irritating feeling in their legs such as cramping, tingling or pulling, causing them to feel the need to move their legs. Partners report “being kicked.” Narcolepsy is a disorder in which a person has difficulty controlling whether they sleep or stay awake and tend to alternate between the two.

Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder and Hypersomnia

In Rapid Eye Movement Disorder (RBD), a person acts out nightmares that occur during the REM sleep cycle. Hypersomnia occurs when a person has excess drowsiness during the day, even after getting the appropriate amount of sleep.

Sleepwalking and Nocturia

When sleepwalking, one acts out something they would normally do when they are awake, such as walking or eating. Nocturia is the recurring need to use the bathroom throughout the night with no physiological causes including no excessive fluid intake.

Bruxism and Hypopnea

Bruxism is a condition where a person clenches or tightens their jaw unintentionally during sleep. Hypopnea occurs when a person breathes shallowly during sleep and does not receive enough oxygen as a result.

Other Less Common Sleep Disorders

Other less common sleep disorders include snoring, jet lag, delayed sleep phase syndrome, cataplexy, night terrors, parasomnia and sleep paralysis.

And what about the blanket diagnosis of “insomnia” – what does that mean?

Insomnia is an extremely common sleep disorder and it occurs when a person has trouble falling and/or staying asleep. There is no specific time interval for when we classify someone as an “insomniac” but I would say that when item #3 “unrefreshed sleep” kicks in. Then, if you are asking “do I have insomnia” I would say at this stage it would be yes. However, this is very common and in turn, very curable.

Now, for the “purist” who wants to know about  home remedies for insomnia, I have read close to 20 articles on home remedies. I had to read up myself since, as a doctor, I don’t use home remedies for insomnia. However, I wanted to review “what was out there” in order to give you the best advice.

And guess what? I found sleep hygiene techniques-everything listed on the previous article and nothing more. I found everything I listed under tips for falling asleep and the help falling asleep section, and really nothing more! But the one exception is that I DID find something rather “offbeat” that I have no experience with but thought I’d “come clean” and share it all.

onionsThe Basic Onion Jar Cure:

Slice up any kind of medium-sized onion, and put the slices in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Prior to bedtime, inhale the vapors in the jar for as long as comfortably possible. Re-cap the jar, and you should fall asleep within fifteen minutes. Keep the jar by your bed to inhale as needed.

Modified Version of the Onion Jar Cure:

Dice a medium sized onion into very fine pieces. Boil one liter of water in a pan, remove from heat, and put the diced onion pieces into the boiling water. Let the mixture steep for about five minutes, until the water has cooled. Add five drops of honey to one teaspoon of the onion water, and drink this mixture. This mixture should help you sleep faster, and can be stored for a few days.

If either of these work for you (I’ve asked around and no one has heard of it or tried it) – please do let me know!

What to do When You Can’t Sleep & You Have Tried Everything in this Article:

You might be the person for whom sound is the key. Perhaps the silicone earplugs block out noise but what YOU need is a form of “white noise”. It’s worth a try!

Often, a little background noise in the bedroom can help when it comes to falling asleep. But picking the right kind is essential. When determining which type of sound is best, try one at a time for a few nights. A few sounds to help you sleep which are logical are as follows: (And note that most of these are considered home remedies for sleep to me, they sure don’t sound as goofy as that onion jar thing, LOL!)

  • White Noise: To generate white noise in your bedroom, try downloading a white noise app on your smartphone or tablet or buy a machine (sold at drugstores, and major retailers such as Bed Bath and Beyond or online at Amazon.com).
  • Nature Sounds: Download a nature sounds app on your smartphone or tablet or download a music album online. Just make sure that the sounds you choose are constant – a random whale cry or bird song can jolt you out of a light stage of sleep. Find one that’s relaxing!
  • Calming Music: If you can avoid songs with lyrics that keep your mind active or thumping bass lines, listening to soft, mellow music may help you get to sleep faster.
  • Voices: Try Human voices when other noises do not work. For instance, one app called Pzizz features a human voice that says nonsensical things—the idea isn’t to focus on the words, but to let the tone and rhythm of the voice lull you into sleep. I am not personally fond of the idea of using apps as that keeps the smartphone on with its EMF and LED components but I’m here to list it all for you.

NOTE – sometimes any or all of this is just plain annoying and will do the opposite of what you want so just experiment.

  • Consider seeing your doctor for a more full check up with labs including things to check for inflammation, correct thyroid tests, a urine test, a chest X-ray.
  • Consider a psychological evaluation for mild depression or more advanced behavioral stress management techniques.
  • Read the previous article AND my “Sleep book” to handle all of the other things that can interfere with sleep such as weight, GI tract function and the content of your diet.

I will share with you that many patients and members come to me with low energy, mildly depressed mood due to lack of quality sleep and pounds they want to lose. Regular doctors are overwhelmed by this, I’m not. That said, when “things” are being fixed it tends to be that weight loss starts ,then energy picks up, sleep initiation is then good, mood improves, and sleep slowly but surely becomes better. In other words, hang in there!

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