For many years, melatonin has been a leading choice as a first-line natural therapy for mild insomnia. While melatonin has proven to be effective at preventing jet-lag when traveling across time zones, it is just not the “fix” most people are looking for when it comes to consistent deep REM sleep on a nightly basis.
Nearly 70 million Americans suffer from some form of diagnosed sleep disorder. There are many more people who are undiagnosed and struggle every night to reach any kind of restorative slumber. Millions of people resort to seeing their physician and requesting a sleep prescription, which generally includes either Ambien or Lunesta. Others may take Xanax at different dosage strengths if they also suffer from some type of anxiety. These medications can be helpful, but sometimes at the risk of some significant side effects, including dry mouth, dizziness, hangover feeling, and sometimes even memory or concentration problems. When it comes to Ambien, there is a host of known side effects, including potential hallucinations, changes in behavior, and even sleepwalking and sleep-driving without any recall. Since natural products, including nutritional supplements and herbal medicines, continue to gain in popularity, more and more Americans are turning to natural solutions for sleep as well.
Melatonin – The Standard For Natural Sleep – Until Now
There are several reasons why melatonin is not the best option for natural sleep. Melatonin gets secreted at night when it’s time to sleep. The problem is that most melatonin supplements do not mimic or simulate your natural circadian rhythm because it does not stick around long enough beyond helping you to fall asleep. For most people, it does not keep you asleep long enough to achieve a cycle or two of rapid eye movement (REM) level of sleep. Dosage adjustments can be a bit tricky too. With increased dosage, some report a sedative or drowsy effect the following morning, plus some report not feeling refreshed and mentally clear and ready to take on the day ahead. Other natural solutions have proven to be more effective at raising melatonin and serotonin levels in the mid-brain. The research indicates that most people with sleep disturbances need both of these crucial hormones to achieve quality sleep.
Taking A Closer Look At Insomnia
There are several different types of Insomnia, as not all cases of sleep disorder are identical. The two main types are short-term insomnia and chronic insomnia.
Short-term insomnia – also known as acute insomnia, this is a brief episode of difficulty sleeping. This is typically caused by a stressful life event, such as the loss of a loved one, a new difficult medical diagnosis, a pandemic similar to what we have been going through, drug rebound effects, or major life-changing events. Generally, the short-term version lasts for less than 3 months, and symptoms fade on their own as time passes, and a person copes with a stressful incident that gave rise to their sleeping problems. Short-term insomnia can become chronic or long-term insomnia in both children and adults.
Chronic insomnia – this is a long-term pattern of difficulty sleeping. To be classified as chronic, a person has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights per week for three months or longer. Some people with chronic sleep issues have a lifetime of poor sleep. Chronic insomnia has many potential causes. Like acute or short-term insomnia, it can be associated with stressful situations. Still, it also may be related to irregular sleep schedules, poor sleep hygiene, persistent nightmares, mental health issues, underlying medical problems, medications, foods, to name a few.
Nutritional Deficiency and Insomnia
You may not have realized or thought about vitamin and mineral deficiencies and the link to insomnia or sleep issues. Nutrients are the building blocks for neurotransmitters that send signals throughout the nervous system to calm down the mind and body. So, not having certain nutrients can make sleep more challenging. The body needs a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to function properly. Most of these nutrients come from a healthy balanced diet. Here are some of the common nutrient deficiencies linked to insomnia.
- Calcium and magnesium – lacking these two minerals can cause you to wake up after a few hours and not return to sleep.
- Vitamin D3 – there is a direct correlation between sleep disturbance and low levels of vitamin D.
- Vitamin B12 – because of the link between depression and B12 levels, many individuals with mild to moderate depression who also have insufficient B12 levels struggle with sleep. Ongoing research is looking into this relationship.
- Magnesium – magnesium by itself is still one of the vital minerals needed to assist in sleep quality. It helps to regulate circadian rhythm, which is the natural sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant and can help induce sleep. It can help produce melatonin and the neurotransmitter called GABA, both of which contribute to the sensation of calm to support healthy sleep.
Other Common Sleep Disorders
Two other sleep disorders that cause millions of people to struggle with their sleep are restless leg syndrome (RLS) and sleep apnea. RLS causes people to have involuntary twitching, jerking, and kicking of the legs when lying supine. This can often be related to other medical issues, but it does respond well to magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12, and alpha-lipoic acid supplementation.
Sleep apnea is another fairly common sleep disorder that sleep medicine physicians and pulmonologists deal with daily in their practices. Sleep apnea affects about 20 million Americans and is a potentially serious sleep disorder. This problem is commonly associated with snoring and extremely irregular breathing throughout the night. In sleep apnea, breathing actually stops for as long as two minutes at a time while the individual is asleep. When breathing stops, the level of oxygen in the blood drops, resulting in oxygen deprivation. Sleep apnea can cause daytime sleepiness as well as be associated with other, more serious health problems.
Natural Solutions For Sleep
When designing a protocol for sleep using natural solutions, it is important to evaluate several sleep factors, including severity, duration, sleep patterns, diet, medications, exercise, hormonal status, and current stress levels. After these have been established, natural solutions for sleep and general wellness can be implemented. While melatonin is still popular for many people to fall asleep, statistically speaking, it does not do a great job of keeping you asleep. It just does not last long enough in your sleep receptors. The following natural solutions provide much better results without side effects for various levels of insomnia.
- CBD oil – in my professional opinion, I have not seen another natural product to rival the effectiveness of full-spectrum pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil for sleep. The sublingual liquid tincture appears to enter the bloodstream faster, bypass the liver and stomach and bind to the targeted brain receptors via the endocannabinoid system and do its job to induce REM sleep.
- Magnesium – again, this mineral is highly recommended for anyone who has sleep issues. It does a great job of inducing relaxation and reducing nervous tension in the muscles.
- Sleep Perfect Formula is one of the most innovative blends of nutrients that promotes soothing and restful sleep. It supports healthy circadian rhythms and relaxes the entire body. Some of the key ingredients include valerian root, GABA, L-theanine,5-HTP, chamomile, hops, and passionflower. It also includes 3 mg of melatonin.
Generally speaking, there are no hard and fast rules about how much sleep is enough because every person’s needs are different. Some people can function on as little as five hours, while others perform best with nine or ten. Most adults require 7 to 8 hours to feel refreshed and operate at peak efficiency. Children and adolescents require more sleep. Seniors tend to sleep less through the night and awaken earlier than young people.