Today’s modern workplace is often a very busy and stressful environment. Nowadays, people are spending more and more time working in front of a computer both at home and the office. The line between work life and home life has become blurred. The result is that people today are getting less sleep than we did a century ago. People often work late in the night forgoing sleep, not realizing how unhealthy this is. After a prolonged period at the computer, many people find it difficult to get to sleep. Prescriptions for sleeping pills have increased by 23 percent between 2006 and 2010 and are now being linked to both cancer and heart disease. Natural sleep aids are often much safer and non addictive.
Natural sleep aids may include vitamin B. When it comes to sleeping, vitamins in the B family can help stimulate the production of melatonin, a hormone that is used to induce sleep. Vitamin B6 in particular can boost the production of melatonin and help a person fall asleep. Hormone imbalances can happen when the hormone secreting glands are not functioning properly. This may cause sleep problems, especially when the adrenal glands are not working well. Vitamin B12 and B3 are also important to the proper functioning of the adrenal glands.
Sleep-related hormones also come from the pineal gland. Vitamin D can help improve the performance of this gland. Sometimes, problem sleep is not the result of hormone imbalances. A disorder known as Restless Leg Syndrome causes the leg to twitch and can prevent a person from easily getting to sleep. Sleeping vitamins like Vitamin E can help with this disorder.
All of these vitamins are available in supplemental form. Even though vitamin and mineral supplements are generally safe, it is best to consult with your doctor prior to taking them Pregnant women in particular should consult their physician before taking any supplements. The vitamins mentioned above can all be found in various food sources. Fresh fruit, soybeans, milk products, and leafy green vegetables are just some possible sources. These can all be part of a healthy diet that can contribute to getting to sleep and staying asleep.
For optimal sleeping, vitamins alone cannot guarantee restful, natural sleep. Instead, follow these steps:
- The most important step you can take is to establish a good sleep strategy that involves getting up and going to bed at the same time every day.
- Avoiding coffee at least 4 hours before bed. And turn off your computer and TV since the flickering lights stimulate the brainwaves making it difficult to fall asleep.
- Try taking a warm (not hot) bath before going to sleep.
Let’s face it: it is not likely that our lives are going to slow down anytime soon. People will still overschedule, multitask, and work late into the night. But when it is time to fall asleep and stay asleep, sleeping vitamins may be just what you need.
Tired of Being Tired? Tips for A Better Sleep
Sleep is vital for physical and mental health, yet it often gets sacrificed when we are busy. While it is thought that sleep is relaxing and passive, actually quite a lot happens in the body during sleep. During the deepest stages of sleep our bodies’ major organs and regulatory systems are busy working on repair and regeneration and secreting certain hormones.
Insomnia affects up to 33% to 50% of the adult population and 10% suffer from chronic insomnia.
Insomnia is characterized by persistent difficulty falling asleep, waking up too early, awakening frequently during the night, or waking feeling tired and not refreshed.
For some, insomnia may be triggered by stress, diet, medications or poor sleep habits. For some women, the hot flashes caused by hormonal changes in menopause can disrupt sleep. Regardless of the cause, a lack of sleep can take a toll on your health.
Short-term or transient insomnia is common and usually lasts only a few days. This may result from temporary situations, such as jet lag, stress at work, a brief illness, or a change in environment. When the precipitating factor disappears, the condition goes away, usually without medical treatment.
Insomnia is classified as long term or chronic when it lasts more than three weeks. Possible causes include:
- use of alcohol
- snoring or sleep apnea
- other medical conditions
The exact amount of sleep required is thought to be between 7 and 9 hours nightly.
Getting less than six hours is associated with health problems, such as memory loss, poor concentration, depression, headache, irritability, increased response to stress, high blood pressure, depressed immune function, low libido and weight gain.
Our bodies do not maintain a sleep reserve. You can’t “catch up” on a weekend. Depriving yourself of adequate sleep on a regular basis can take a toll on your health. Considering the vital role that sleep plays in our well-being, devoting seven to nine hours per night should be a priority.
Long term use of prescription sleep aids can cause short-term memory loss, dependency, and actually worsen sleep quality.
There are several types of medications that are used to promote sleep, called sedatives and tranquilizers. The most commonly used class is the benzodiazepines, including Ativan, Restoril, and Valium.
These drugs are recommended only for short-term use (a few weeks). Side effects can include daytime drowsiness, headaches, nausea, and dizziness. Abruptly stopping use of these drugs can cause withdrawal symptoms therefore they should be weaned off slowly (reduce dosage and take every other night) under doctor supervision.
There are a few dietary strategies that result in a better sleep.
- Try a light snack before bed of a food that contains tryptophan. This amino acid stimulates the release of serotonin and makes you feel sleepy. Examples include: turkey, chicken, soy foods or whole grain crackers or cereal.
- A warm glass of milk is an old-time remedy for sleep and there is actually some basis to this. Milk contains certain proteins that aid sleep and the calcium in milk helps promote muscle relaxation.
- Caffeine (coffee, tea, pop, and chocolate) can affect sleep quality, and should be avoided 8 hours before bed time.
- While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it causes nighttime wakening and reduces sleep quality, so minimize or avoid it completely.
- Go easy on sugary foods (cookies, candy) especially in the evening as these foods can cause a sugar-rush and affect your ability to fall asleep.
Sherry Torkos, pharmacist and author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, says there are many natural ways to a better sleep that do not require a prescription.
Torkos recommends the following tips for people who struggle with insomnia.
- Set aside at least 7 to 8 hours for sleep. Leaving only 5 or 6 hours may make you feel stressed and impact your ability to fall asleep.
- Establish a regular bed and wake time and try to follow this routine even on the weekends.
- Do relaxing activities before bedtime – read a book, listen to relaxing music or have a warm bath.
- Reserve your bedroom for intimacy and sleep.
- Make your bedroom dark, quiet and comfortable.
- Exercise regularly early in the day.
- Don’t smoke – nicotine is a stimulant and impairs your ability to fall asleep and have a restful sleep.
- Consider acupuncture, massage, yoga and meditation to promote relaxation.
- Prescription sedatives should only be used when all else fails as they are addictive and cause numerous side effects, including impairment in short term memory.
Natural sleep supplements can help with a better sleep without the side effects of prescription sleeping pills.
- Supplements can help reduce the time needed to fall asleep, reduce nighttime wakening and improve sleep quality.
- Look for a product with the following ingredients:
- 5-HTP: (5-hydroxytryptophan) increases serotonin and melatonin levels which promotes relaxation and better sleep
- L-theanine: an amino acid found in green tea which reduces stress, promotes relaxation and improves sleep.
- Melatonin: a hormone naturally secreted by the brain that regulates our sleep/wake cycles.
The impact of technology on our lives has been dramatic. While technology has in some ways made our lives easier it has created a climate of instant gratification. We are bombarded with updates, emails, text messages, all from people who expect an immediate response. We spend hours in front of a computer, constantly learning faster ways to do things. We multitask, we overextend ourselves, and we create deadlines that we can barely meet. All of this activity in overdrive has significant consequences. We are so mentally stimulated that by the end of the day, when it is time to get some needed rest, we can’t. We often lie awake in bed unable to shut down and sleep. Some people reach for prescription sleeping pills or alcohol to help them sleep but this can be dangerous. Fortunately, there is a natural alternative, a vitamin for sleep, which can allow us to fall asleep and stay asleep safely.
Vitamin D, like vitamin B6, is a vitamin for sleep which is beneficial to the pineal glands and the production of melatonin. Someone trying to get to sleep may be suffering from existing disorders that make it difficult to achieve slumber.
Restless Leg Syndrome is one such condition that can prevent a person from getting needed rest. The negative effects of this disorder may be helped with daily use of vitamin E.
A person may need to buy vitamin supplements if their diet is vitamin deficient in any of these vitamins, but daily consumption of food such as dairy products, whole-grain bread, and various types of salad greens will provide these essential vitamins. This is the best way of getting the vitamins you need. If for any reason you can’t or won’t consume these kinds of foods then a vitamin supplement may help. More is not better when it comes to taking a vitamin supplement. Some vitamins are fat soluble which means an excess amounts are stored in our fat cells which can have potential health consequences. Excess amounts of vitamin D can result in the formation of kidney stones. So, it’s always best to take the daily recommended amount.
A good vitamin for sleep can help but some people, particularly pregnant women, need to be careful. If you are considering beginning a sleep management regimen, it is best to speak with your doctor first as some vitamins and mineral supplements may interfere with a medication that you are taking.