By Dr. Stan Headley, natural health consultant for Cypress Pharmacy
Restless nights. Tossing and turning. Waking up exhausted. Frankly, we just aren’t getting enough quality sleep these days. Spoiler alert: You’re not alone.
In fact, this affects one in three adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 70 million Americans suffer from some form of diagnosed sleep disorder. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend people between the ages of 18 to 60 should sleep a minimum of seven hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being.
Lack of sleep is more than a slight inconvenience of temporary brain fog. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep or both, and can have unwanted side effects like daytime fatigue, depression and anxiety. Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
So, what exactly happens when you sleep? The brain cycles repeatedly through various stages of sleep. Rapid-eye movement, or REM, sleep is the deepest stage of slumber, when we tend to dream. On average, studies show healthy adults go through three to five REM cycles per night.
Countless factors can have an impact on your quality and length of sleep each night, including stress, caffeine and alcohol, physical and mental health conditions and certain medications. Everything from what you eat to how much you exercise in a day can cause a positive or negative effect on your sleep. In many cases, people will turn to natural sleep aids and other effective ways to promote better sleep.
Natural sleep aids
Melatonin has become a popular natural sleep aid, with 3 million Americans using them in 2012, according to the CDC. However, dosage can be tricky and can often wear off before getting a full night’s sleep. While melatonin is still popular option for falling asleep, there are several other natural alternatives that can provide much better results without the potential for side effects.
For many people who face stress during the day, higher cortisol levels can interfere with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. L-theanine, an amino acid that down-regulates cortisol, can help effectively set the stage for improved sleep at bedtime when taken during the day.
For those who use a daytime product to help control elevated cortisol levels, magnesium can be a quality supplement to help restore the natural rhythm. Magnesium is highly recommended for anyone who has sleep issues because it acts as a calmative and helps our muscles relax, helping us fall asleep more easily.
Vitamins B12 and D3 have also been found to support better sleep. While vitamin B12 is well-known to generate energy in the body, people with B12 deficiencies can experience irregular sleep patterns and a lack of sleep. The intake of B12 can increase melatonin production and help regulate sleep patterns.
Vitamin D3 can also help support sleep cycles and your quality of sleep. Current research shows there’s a direct correlation between sleep disturbance and low levels of vitamin D.
Full-spectrum, pharmaceutical-grade CBD, or cannabidiol, oil is another natural option for achieving quality sleep. Current studies suggest CBD may help with falling asleep and staying asleep, according to Harvard Medical School. CBD-infused oil drops, administered under the tongue, appear to enter the bloodstream faster, binding to the targeted brain receptors through our body’s endocannabinoid system to induce REM sleep.
Combinations of natural sleep-inducing ingredients can also promote soothing and restful sleep. Blended formulas may include key ingredients such as valerian root, GABA, 5-HTP, chamomile, hops and passionflower to support healthy circadian rhythms for a peaceful night of sleep.
Better habits at bedtime
Sleep accounts for nearly one-third of the human lifespan. Melatonin, our natural sleep hormone, increases in the body about two hours before bedtime, which can be a good time to start your nightly bedtime routine.
If you’re looking to make every hour count, there are several ways to improve your sleep health through lifestyle changes, like limiting amount and timing of stimulants like caffeine and alcohol, limiting screentime prior to bedtime and increasing exercise including cardio, strength training and yoga. Even the food and drinks we consume can help improve sleep, including complex carbs, chamomile, ginger, peppermint and warm milk.
Ask your pharmacist or health care professional if the medications you are taking may be making it difficult to fall asleep. Many prescription medications, even medications prescribed for insomnia, can block the body’s natural production of melatonin.