Most mothers will laugh hysterically at the idea of getting in a full 8 hours of shut eye. For most, they haven’t known sleep like that since before the birth of their babies. However, there is a difference between losing an hour of sleep here or there due to a busy schedule and the health concerns that come with insomnia. According to the Mayo Clinic, a person with insomnia is someone who on average takes 30 minutes or more to fall asleep and typically gets less than six hours of sleep three or more nights a week. A person suffering from insomnia has far more to be concerned with than just being a bit sleepier than the average person. This condition can also lead to depression, anxiety, weight gain, poor immune system and even heart disease and diabetes. When it comes to treating this condition, most women shy away, fearing that medication will only lead to daytime drowsiness. And let’s face it: who has time for a sleep clinic? If you are a woman suffering from insomnia, there are other options. Modifications to your daily routine and even natural herbal remedies can be used to bring your sweet dreams back to life!
Making these small changes to your daily and bedtime routine can help ease your mind and allow you to forget your worries long enough to catch some Zzz’s.
Relaxation techniques: Engaging in stretches, deep breathing and even light yoga 30-45 minutes before bedtime can help to quiet your mind and your body. Oftentimes if your body isn’t relaxed, your mind cannot relax either, and vice versa. Therefore stretching out the kinks in your body and calming down the woes in your mind can work together, eventually leading to better rest.
Stimulus control: Too often we use our bedrooms for more than what they are intended for. We watch television, hang out with friends or family and even do our work in there. Realistically, the bedroom is meant to for only two activities: to sleep and to make love. That’s it. If you’re suffering from insomnia, try restricting your bedroom to only those two activities. Don’t watch television, read books or even carry on lengthy conversations in your bedroom. The sooner your brain can relate your bedroom to sleep, the sooner your body will as well.
Create some white noise: When most people fall asleep, the world around them just seems to melt away. But for people with insomnia, everything is magnified. Outside sounds become louder, creaks in the floor are more apparent and even just the sound of your loved one sleeping next to you can be loud enough to keep you awake. One way to make these sounds disappear, or at least lessen their effect on you, is to cancel them out. Sound machines are a great tool for creating white noise and most come with multiple sounds to choose from like ocean waves and thunderstorms. If you’d rather not spend that kind of money only to add one more sound to your brain’s orchestra, at least try a fan. Oftentimes just the sound of a fan blowing in the background is enough to fade out other distracting noises and allow you to quiet your mind.
Say no to sugar and caffeine: Well, at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. We all love a yummy dessert after dinner, but if you’re eating that dessert close to bedtime, the affects of the sugar won’t even hit you until you’re ready to go to sleep. Same goes for caffeine. Make 3:00 pm your cut off time for caffeinated beverages and try to do the same for the sweet stuff. Both act as stimulants in the body making it nearly impossible to wind down and fall asleep.
If you’ve tried modifying your habits and still find yourself counting sheep at 3:00 a.m., perhaps it’s time to try some alternative medication. Unlike prescription sleep aids, alternative (or herbal) remedies are all natural and derived from substances already made in our bodies. They can be found at your local drug store.
Valerian: When taken about an hour before bed, Valerian affects levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA causing you to become sleepy. It works much like prescription sleep aids; however, there have been few reports of morning grogginess from users of Valerian. (via WebMD)
Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body. The pineal gland in the brain makes serotonin, which is then converted into melatonin at night when exposure to light decreases. Much like Valerian, taking Melatonin 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime will increase sleepiness and allow the body to relax. (via WebMD)
Magnesium: Taking a magnesium supplement or eating magnesium-rich foods such as legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds and cashews can help the body regain its natural sleep cycle. More often than not, people who suffer from insomnia find they are highly deficient in this mineral, and find relief when adding more of it to their diet. (via WebMD)
Of course, before trying any supplement or herbal remedy, be sure to first talk with your doctor to ensure that you are not currently taking another medication that could interact with these herbs. Insomnia is a very serious condition that should not be ignored or taken lightly. Your body needs a proper sleep cycle to build and repair, and your mind needs it to function properly. See your doctor to ensure that there isn’t another medical condition causing your insomnia and then begin trying the options. You never know, you might just find the key to finally getting a good night’s sleep!