Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep? Nearly one-third of Americans say they have sleeping problems! These issues are often exacerbated during the busy holiday season. Feeling tired and irritable are not the only symptoms of poor sleep. Evidence is accumulating strongly suggesting that lack of sleep may even be helping to fuel the current obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome epidemics:
Many supplement manufacturers are now touting valerian and melatonin as safe, effective alternatives to prescription sleeping pills. However, research tells another story. A careful review of nine valerian studies concluded that there was little evidence these products can help you sleep better.
Melatonin is another popular supplement considered by many to assist with sleep. Small amounts of this substance are produced in the body by the pineal gland in the evening, signaling our body clock to know when it is time to sleep. A common myth says that the older we get the less melatonin is produced. This is not true, but some medications such as beta-blockers and ibuprofen can cause production to drop.
Much research has been conducted on melatonin, with very conflicting results. It may be useful in combatting jet-lag when taken at the proper time and in the proper dose. As a sleep aid it may be helpful to some, but generally declines in it effectiveness with regular use. Perhaps the greatest risk of using melatonin is that if you take it at an inappropriate time during your circadian cycle you could reset your body clock to the wrong time and increase your problems.
So, if you are having trouble sleeping, what can you do? Before you turn to supplements or prescription drugs, try these proven sleep-boosters and avoid the sleep-busters listed below!
- Exercise appropriately every day, and no later than 6 hours before retiring
- Use a comfortable, firm bed and keep the bedroom cool
- A warm bath can help you fall asleep because of temperature changes it induces
- Establish a bedtime ritual (including regular times for sleeping and arising)
- Put your trust in God
- Vigorous exercise done within four-hours of bedtime
- Eating before going to bed, especially late, heavy meals
- Use of alcohol
- Common pain-killers such as aspirin or ibuprofen
- Viewing exciting or depressing TV
This holiday season make sure to get sufficient sleep so you can enjoy the festivities. Sweet dreams!