It can be torturous when you desperately want to sleep and simply cannot. Someone with insomnia feels as if they are the only person in the world who isn’t getting sound sleep. These individuals toss and turn, wide-eyed, during the wee hours of the morning, unable to close their eyes and become one with Mr. Sandman. Between 40% to 60% of folks over the age of 60 have insomnia and women are twice as likely as men to suffer from it.
African Americans, in particular, suffer from a sleep gap. Fewer Black people are able to sleep for the recommended six to nine nightly hours than any other ethnic group in the United States. Poor sleep has cascading effects on racial health disparities, including increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Sobering facts underscore why sleep enhancing remedies are so necessary for the health and well-being of people who are desperately seeking to just get a little shut-eye! Sure a doctor can prescribe one of many sleep meds for those who are sleep deprived but why not try the home remedy route first? Here are few tried and true recommendations for those who are struggling with the lack of sleep:
- Warm milk and raw honey is a centuries-old natural sleep aid. Milk contains the sleep-inducing amino acid, tryptophan and this increases the production of serotonin, a natural sedative, in the brain. The natural sugar found in raw honey allows the tryptophan to enter our brains more easily. An ancient Chinese saying calls for “eating honey every night,” and European folk healers have recommended drinking a cup of warm milk with a teaspoon of honey before bedtime since the Middle Ages.
- Do not nap as it will put the kibosh on any sleep that you might expect to get at night. Sleep experts also recommend that folks go to bed and wake up at the same time every single day in order to adopt a regular sleeping schedule.
- Try stimulus control therapy which means creating a calm sleeping environment. Remove those electronics like a cell phone, laptop, digital clock or cable box that can cast a glow or make annoying noises in your bedroom. Invest in inexpensive window treatments like room darkening shades that can block light from entering a room. Try not to be on your laptop, read, or even watch TV while in bed. Eating in bed is also out of the question. The bed should be used for just sleeping.
- Avoid caffeine before bedtime because it can keep you awake. Drinking caffeine late in the day will interrupt your sleep as it has a half-life of about eight to ten hours (meaning that eight hours after your last sip, half of the caffeine is still in your system). As we age, the body cannot process caffeine as quickly as it did once-upon-a-time when we were younger.
- Consider counting backward from 300 by 3s to bring on sleep. It is OK to just lie in bed awake as long as you are relaxed and at peace.
- Yoga and meditation are great and effective sleep aids especially for those adults age 55 and over. Both types of stress relievers are a safe and sensible way to help settle the brain’s arousal systems.
- Valerian tea is the way to go as far as herbal teas that induce sleep. It can be found at health food or drug stores and can produce a deep restful sleep. Menopausal and postmenopausal women with insomnia will find comfort in knowing that according to an Iranian study of fellow female sufferers, 30 percent of them got better sleep after drinking valerian tea. Some people swear by chamomile tea as a sleep-inducer as well. The tea contains the flavonoid apigenin, which has a calming effect on the brain.
- A hot bath can actually lay the foundation for a good night’s sleep. A study published in the journal Sleep found that females with insomnia who soaked in a hot tub for about 90 to 120 minutes slept like lambs. Temps for bath water range from 98 to 100 degrees F, but the Goldilocks temperature hovers at around 112 degrees.
- A lot of folks seem to rely on melatonin to help them fall asleep. While the supplement may be taken to help treat sleep problems, it’s not a cure for insomnia; it can help induce sleep, but it won’t help anyone stay asleep. A dose of 0.3 or 0.5 mg at night helps induce sleep but higher doses can produce daytime sleepiness, grogginess, reduced physical performance, headache, cold-like symptoms, joint pain, diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infections, nightmares and cause a decrease in normal body temperature. Folks should follow the instructions of their physician (preferably a sleep physician) on what dose they should take in general. Melatonin should be purchased at a pharmacy or health food store and it should be made in a lab, not from animal sources, as these are more likely to have contaminants. Finally, if side effects or perceived side effects are experienced after starting the supplement, it should be stopped and a physician should be consulted.
- Sleeping in the raw lets your skin breathe and keeps body temperature cool and comfy. All of these plusses make sleep easy and lasting. Another added extra is that it can also make you frisky which is a real relationship bonus.
- There is nothing wrong with cuddling a stuffed animal like a teddy bear when you are trying to get some sleep. A recent study found that sleeping with a stuffed animal also helped to decrease snoring. According to psychology experts, if the cuddly object brings someone a sense of comfort and safety, then so be it.
- There are a slew of prescriptions that can interfere with sleep including beta-blockers, thyroid medications, decongestants, drugs containing caffeine, and certain antidepressants. If you’re tossing and turning at night, talk to your doctor about changing meds or dosages.
Need more information about everything sleep-related? Visit the National Sleep Foundation’s website at www.sleepfoundation.org