As we get older, sleep becomes more elusive. We do not fall asleep as fast. We do not sleep as long. And we do not go as deep into sleep. And we wake up more easily.
Don't take sleep for granted. Sleep is the third most important component to health, besides exercise and diet. And some of the information below is based on the talk.
The sleep cycle involves Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4, and REM phases. REM is "rapid eye movement" phase where we are dreaming and our large muscles are paralyzed so that we do not act out our dreams. It is also when memory consolidation and learning happens.
This full cycle ending in REM sleep takes about 90 minutes. The cycle repeats throughout the night. Most people will get 4 or 5 full cycles in one night. If you do that math, that is 6 to 8 hours of sleeping.
Stage 4 is out deepest sleep. As we age, we start losing stage stage 3 and stage 4 phases.
At middle age, we start to loose stage 4 sleep. At age 70 to 90, we may loose stage 3 sleep as well.
Dis-regulation of Circadian Rhythm
The following sleep tips are not just for people with insomnia. In fact are best practiced for people who have not yet developed insomnia. It is to provide good sleep hygiene in order to maintain strong circadian rhythm in order to prevent insomnia years later.
Certain insominia is due to "circadian rhythm sleep disorder" for which treatment includes ...
"Behavior therapy or advice about sleep hygiene where the patient is told to avoid naps, caffeine, and other stimulants. They are also told to not be in bed for anything besides sleep and sex." (as quoted from Wikipedia)
Other tips mentioned are bight light therapy and blue-light block glasses.
The circadian rhythm is our biological clock of which all animals (and some plants) have. Many of the tips is aimed as strengthen this circadian rhythm.
A person does not develop chronic insomina overnight. It comes about from decades of poor sleep hygiene that little-by-little weakens the circadian rhythm. If you get to the point of chronic insomnia, then tips like "no TV in bed" is not likely to cure your insomnia overnight. That is why many insominac say that "I've tried all these tips and nothing works".
Since it took years to weaken the circadian rhythm, it may take years of proper sleep hygiene to strength the circadian rhythm. And that is what these 10 tips are all about -- strengthening the circadian rhythm. In the meantime, it does not help to weaken the circadian rhythm further by watching TV in bed at night just because you tried it one night and find that it does not work. You have to keep at it essentially forever.
For those who wants faster progress in correcting circadian rhythm, the best way to strengthen it is to be outside with high activity in bright natural sunlight whenever the sun is out. As soon as the sun sets, turn off all artificial light and avoid physical activity. That forces you to do only activities as natural light permits. That means no electronic screens after sunset. Listening to light music is good. Helps relax too.
Of course, in our modern world this is next to impossible to do, but the more you attempt to live like the ways that cavemen lived, the more it can help with circadian rhythm. After all our biological circadian rhythm is sync via environmental cues.
Have you ever flew from Europe to North America and the next two nights you end up waking in the middle of the night and unable to fall back asleep. This is due to circadian rhythm out of sync. Your circadian rhythm is still in European time while your nightstand clock is in North America time. It takes a day or two from North American environmental cues to reset and sync.
The circadian rhythm control all our bodily functions from body temperature, digestion, alertness, appetite, hormones, and of course sleep timing. For example, cortisol is high during the morning and low at night. Melatonin is high at night and low in the morning.
One sign of disregulation of circadian rhythm is that you feel sleepy in the middle of the day but can not sleep at night. So it is not a problem of not being able to sleep. It is a problem of not being able to sleep in sync with the day-night rotation of the Earth.
Different People Different Causes
There are many reasons for insomnia. For different people, it may be different causes and hence different solutions. So try all the following solutions until you find one that work for you. Or simply do all the tips. Because it is likely there are multiple effects that add up.
I write a lot about the circadian rhythm in this article because I found that this was my major cause of insomnia, more so than caffeine. But for other people if may the caffeine.
Some people have no trouble going to sleep, but wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes this can be due to low blood sugar in the middle of the night. When that happens the body pumps out cortisol (the fight or flight hormone) in order to raise blood sugar. This cortisol rush may wake the person up. This may especially be true when you wake up in a sweat. Use a glucometer (buy at drugstore) and prick your finger to test your blood sugar when you wake up in the middle of the night. I've checked mine at the middle of the night and was is normal. And have your doctor run an hemaglobin A1C test to get a general sense of your blood sugar regulation.
Some people say they wake up in the middle of the night because of their need to use the restroom. If that was the case, they should be able to fall back to sleep right away. If not, then it may be the other way around. They woke up first, and then decided "Hmm, maybe I mind as well go use the restroom.".
There is even mention that gluten sensitivity can result in insomnia. See article linked here for reason.
Dr. Ellen Hughes Lecture on Sleep Tips
1. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine acts on the central nervous system and has the effect of raising alertness and anxiety -- not something that you want when you are trying to get to sleep. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate are among the foods that have caffeine. Some over the counter medications can have caffeine.
Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than other. Caffeine is also a diuretic for some people. This means that it increases the frequency of urination. Don't you just hate it when you have to get up to go to the bathroom just when you are about to fall asleep.
Avoid alcohol as well. It may help to get you to sleep. But it makes the sleep of lesser quality and may interrupt your sleep at night. Your sleep may become fragmented. So alcohol is not a good for chronic insomniacs.
The book UltraPrevention has a section about getting better sleep in which it says that alcohol causes you to wake up just a few hours later and ...
"interferes with normal sleep patterns and can decrease REM sleep, leading to a chaotic rhythm and all its attendant ills." [page 312]
And it says this about caffeine...
"spiral of disturbed biological rhythms that include difficulty falling asleep, reduce sleep deficiency, and significant metabolic and mood effects, including depression." [page 312]
Also check what other medications that you are taking and ask your doctor if they can be affecting your sleep. Any medication including over-the-counter cold medications that can cross the blood-brain barrier can potentially affect sleep.
2. Sleep in Total Darkness
Having total darkness when sleeping is ideal. Sleep should be done in the dark. Light will suppress the body's melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone which regulates sleep. Light can come through closed eyelids.
Many people will find the experience that if they go camping and sleep without any street lights or city lights to bother them, they will sleep better. Find light-blocking shades if you have to. You may need to get thicker curtains if there is a street light outside your bedroom window. Use cardboard if you have to.
Don't use nightlights. If you can still see things in the room, it is not dark enough. Some people are more sensitive to light than others. For some, even the lighted digital display of a digital watch can affect sleep. Try dimming or turning away the lighted bedroom clock. Knowing what time it or how long you have been awake is often is not helpful. Sometimes it is better not to know.
Article in NaturalNews says ...
"Cortisol secretion is promoted by the presence of even the tiniest bit of light. This is why it is so important to sleep in a room that is completely dark with no alarm clock glowing in the dark."
Amber lensed googles
Another tip is to avoid electronic artificial light near bedtime. Chris Kresser mentions that ...
"nighttime light exposure suppresses the production of melatonin"
And that the blue-wavelength light often emitted by back-lit electronic devices such as computer monitors, ipads, iphones, etc. may hinder melatonin production.
Afterall, it is the blue-light of the sky that signals to the body that it is daytime and hence to drop melatonin production. As human animals, it is the blue-wavelength light (the same wavelength of the daytime blue sky) that helps signal our hormonal cycles. What hormones? The cortisol hormone rises in daytime and is low at night. The melatonin hormone which is low in daytime and high at night. And many other hormones have such daily cycles as well.
Of course, it is difficult for us to give up our electronics at night. So some remedies that may help is to use amber-lensed goggles that filters out the blue light. Or an amber filter over your computer screen from LowBlueLights.com, which is what I use.
There is also a software called f.lux that changes your monitor color display based on time of day. They have a bunch of links to research on blue light and melatonin here. Here is a New York Times article about blue light.
You can learn more about sleep health on Harvard's website.
Alasdair Phillips talks about EMFs in this youtube video. He says do not use hair dryers or bright lights late at night. Hair dryers generate electromagnetic frequencies near your head that can decrease melatonin production.
BreastCancerFund.org reports that ...
"Several epidemiological studies have demonstrated that women who consistently work night shifts have increased breast cancer risk."
Some believe that it is the decrease of melatonin that may be a contributing factor.
3. Keep it Quiet
Similarly, it is important not to have any distracting sounds. Do not sleep with the TV or radio on. The brain is always listening even when you are asleep. Otherwise, alarm clock would not work. So having a quiet environment that is not interrupted by distracting sounds is important. Use earplugs if you have to.
Dr. Mark Hyman Gives Sleep Tips
4. Sleep Regular Hours
Sleep regular hours at the same time each night (including weekends). This helps to keep your circadian cycle regular. Get your body adjusted to a regular rhythm that matches the normal day night cycle of the sun.
Dr. Mark Hyman, says ...
"Go to bed and wake up the same time every day, and try not to nap." [YouTube video on right]
That includes waking and sleeping at the same time for weekdays as well as weekend. Your biological body does not care if it is Monday or Saturday. The sun rise and fall at the same time on those days. So you should go to bed and wake up the same way on Monday as well as Saturday. For most people, that means doing less during the weekday so that you can sleeping longer. Sleep on the weekday as you would sleep on the weekend. And for some, that may mean getting to work later or working less hours.
In short, don't burn the midnight oil on both ends of the sleep period. If you practice proper sleep pattern when you are young while you are able to still sleep well, you will have less sleep problems as you get older. Nearly universally, sleep quality deteriorates with age as indicated by sonogram graphs in sleep labs.
Wake up with red light, so that you get the dawn/dusk effect. Get regular exposure to sunlight during the day (at least 20 minutes out in the sun every day). Sunlight enters our eyes and trigger the body to release certain chemicals. This get our body's hormonal system back into a regular cyclical rhythm.
Both Dr. Ellen Hughes and Dr. Mark Hyman and other feel that it may not be productive to nap during the day if you have chronic insomnia.
5. Don't Watch TV in Bed
Another way to habituate your body to associate bed with sleep is to not watch TV in bed. Don't talk on the phone in bed. Don't lie awake listening to the radio in bed. Don't read in bed. Do all those thing out of the bed and your body will associate bed with sleep.
And especially do not watch TV in bed at night. Ideally better to not watch TV at all during the night. This goes back to the idea of avoiding electronic back-lit light at night. And it gets into the ideal that watching TV and faces and socializing at night may disturb circadian rhythm which we will talk about next.
6. Don't Eat Right Before Bed
Don't eat right before bed. In fact, don't eat for a three of hours before bed. And certainly don't eat in the middle of the night. How can the body sleep when it is busy digesting food?
By confining your eating to during daylight hours, you enforce your circadian rhyme and get your body back in sync with the motion of the sun. Sleeplessness can be a symptom of disturbed circadian rhythms. Paul Jaminet suggest confining eating to within an 8-hour period during the daytime hour. That may involve intermittent fasting where you occasionally skip breakfast.
In the hunter gathered times of long ago, humans hunted and ate only during the day. They do not go wandering about at night; otherwise they become food for larger animals. This was how our body was evolved.
Hence ideally you should sleep or at least wind down at not more than two hours after sunset is you want your body to be in tune with nature. You can hear more on the Livin La Viva Low Carb podcast where guest T. S. Wiley talks about Good Sleep for Good Health -- episode 673.
That also means trying to eat dinner before sun sets. Human animals hunt and eat during the day. Only modern human people with refrigerators and restaurants eat after dark, further dis-regulating the circadian rhythm.
"The circadian clock is strongly influenced by diet: indeed, food intake dominates light in setting the circadian clock. If you regularly eat at night and fast during the day, the body will start treating night as day and day as night. … This suggests that controlling the timing of food consumption can help to maintain circadian rhythms. … Daytime feeding: Eat during daylight hours, so that food rhythms and light rhythms are in synch."
Other things that support our circadian rhythm is to socialize, look at faces, exercise, get exposure to bright natural light, and do activities during the day. Rest and avoid doing those things at night.
Seth Roberts did some self experimentation to try to solve his long term early awakening sleep problem. You can watch his talk in the video on the right.
He found that skipping breakfast help. Watching Jay Leno during the day helped -- this was equivalent to socializing during the day. And what he found really helped was standing nine hours a day -- this was his equivalent of exercise during the day. But since standing that long takes a lot of time, he discovered a short-cut which had a similar effect but you did not have to do it for so long. That was to stand on one leg. And he also mentioned that eating animal fat helped.
These worked for him at least. A plausible explanation may be that these activities supported the circadian rhythm. Or it could be that watching Jay Leno and standing tired him out so much that his body needed more sleep during those times. In any case, it is something worth thinking about or at least trying.
7. Get Regular Exercise in the Sun During the Day
Regular exercise is a relaxant and may help provide better sleep as well as improved quality of life. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins which boosts mood and reduces pain. Regular exercise decreases risk of depression and reduces stress. 
Do the exercise during the day in the sun. Exposure to outdoor sunlight in the morning and during the day helps the body get back into its circadian rhythm of wakefulness during the day and sleepiness during the night. Dan Pardi talks more about this in a podcast linked here.
Blue light will affect your circadian rhythms more any other part of the light spectrum. So blue light in the morning (as in outside) is good. Avoid blue light at night.
The book, The Mood Cure, writes ...
"Even though bright light at night can diminish your melatonin production, if you are around bright light early in the day, your melatonin levels will rise higher at night." [page 239]
Other article (such as linked here) writes similarly...
"External cues entrain the circadian cycle and keep the body "on track". ... The most powerful cue is daylight. ... exposure to bright light during the day also makes sleep feel deeper and more satisfying the next night.Low light is thought to be a cause of sleep disorders in people who are institutionalized and spend all day inside. … Quick cure for insomnia: going out during the day. The contrast between a brightly lit part of the day and the dark night is important in telling the brain that it is time to sleep at night. Even brightly lit interiors such as office buildings and health clubs are dim compared to the outdoors. Brightly lit indoors might be 100 Lux, while outdoors on an overcast day is 10,000 Lux. "
People in Antarctica and astronauts have poor sleep "due to low lighting and to other artificial conditions"
It may not seem like outdoors is that much brighter than indoors. That is because our eyes adjust immediately.
For every hour that you spend indoors in the office, try to walk outside and spend 5 minutes in the sun. Having a window office helps but is still not as good as directly sunlight since the glass blocks some of the UV light.
Do not exercise after dinner or before bed. Otherwise, exercise increases blood flow to the brain and makes you more alert.
Light Therapy Box
If you are in the world where it is hard to get sun, or if you have to be in the office before sun comes out and leave the office when it is dark, then you can try light therapy box. Read the instructions for your specific box. You are not supposed to have it on all the time. Use for short time periods during the morning -- never at night.
There are boxes that give out 10,000 LUX, equivalent to overcast sunlight.
But I bought the Happy Light with 5,000 LUX because my insomnia is not so bad (and is way less expensive) and I'm doing more natural sunlight exposure.
"Seasonal effects were found for Norway, … insomnia, fatigue, and low mood were more prevalent in winter. These winter-summer seasonal differences were not found to be present for Ghana."
This is the reason why insomnia increases …
- during winter,
- in northern countries,
- with insufficient light exposure
- in people who spend all day indoors
Some possible causes of seasonal affective disorders and insomnia may be due to lack of sunlight. An article writes ...
"more bouts of insomnia as winter approaches … Your risk of having this condition increases the further you get from the equator"
8. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Ideally, you should "ramp down" one to two hours before bed so that your mind is not so active when it hits the pillow. If right before bed, you check your email inbox and discover 10 things you need to do or problems to solve, you might have a hard time falling asleep.
Having "too much things on your mind" can hamper sleep. Try meditative practice of counting breaths or counting thoughts (its just like counting sheep).
There may be some truth to telling kids to count sheeps when they can not sleep. But instead of counting imaginary sheeps, try counting your breath -- mentally that is. Not aloud. Just mentally notice your in and out breath and count each cycle starting at one. Then two, three, four, and so on. When you get to 10, start at one again.
This is a simple meditation technique. It can be considered mindfulness meditation because we are mindful of our breathing. As soon as we notice that our thoughts has drifted away from our breathing, re-focus our thoughts on our breaths. If you lose count, start from one again. The idea is to focus your mind on your breath rather than all the other things in your mind.
Some may find breath counting so boring that they might even fall asleep. Some people find that this technique is a way to keep the mind from ruminating on things. Others may find this extremely difficult to do because their minds are constantly drifting away. As an alternative, you can also count thoughts. Notice whenever your mind drifts to a thought. But do not follow it. Just count one and then watch your mind again. When it drifts to another thought, count two. And so on.
Another way to elicit the relaxation response is to take 5 deep breaths to the count of 5. Hold breath for a count of 5. And then breath out to a count of 5. This forces you to slow down your breathing and produce a calming effect.
Calcium supplements may not be good for everyone. Read "Should We Take Calcium Supplements?"
9. Minerals That May Help with Sleep
Two minerals that can help with sleep is magnesium and calcium. Both these minerals are stored in our bones. As we get older, we have decrease levels of these stores.
- Dr. Mark Hyman says that magnesium is the "most powerful relaxation mineral available" on YouTube.
- Dr. Andrew Weil writes about magnesium and calcium as among some of the natural cures of insomnia on drweil.com.
- Elizabeth Lipski writes in her book Digestive Wellness, "Take calcium and magnesium before bed. This helps to relax your nerves and muscles." [page 174]
There is not much concern with taking magnesium, especially when a large percentage of the population is magnesium deficient. Magnesium plays such an important role in many of the bodies processes that even healthy non-symptomatic individuals who doesn't need help sleeping can benefit from taking it. Although, if you have kidney disease or severe heart disease, do not take magnesium supplements without consulting with your doctor. Read about the importance of magnesium here.
Although some women like to take calcium for bone health, there can be problems with calcium supplements in general which you can read here. Generally speaking, healthy men do not need to (and perhaps should not) take calcium supplements.
But those with detected deficiencies in magnesium and calcium, should definitely talk to your doctor about taking these supplements.
Some conjecture that consumption of enough dietary fat may help with sleep. We do know that adequate amount of fat is good for the brain. People who go on a low-carbohydrate high-fat diet tend to have better mood. So it would make sense that it may improve sleep as well. Seth Roberts PhD did talk at Ancestral Health Symposium 2011 about the three foods that he found made his brain work better: flax seed, pork fat, and butter. His original impetus was to find ways to improve his sleep.
10. See a Sleep Specialist
The above tips may take some time to work and you may need to try it for a few weeks. If nothing seem be helping with the insomnia, it is time to see a sleep specialist.
There can be many different causes of insomnia. And there are over 100 different sleep problems. Insomnia can be a symptom of a serious health condition. For frequent and/or severe insomnia, you need to see a sleep professional to determine the root cause of the problem.
Get tested for sleep apnea. This condition is where air passage way is blocked during sleep. Many people have sleep apnea and is not aware of it. Once the cause is determined, there are ways to fix sleep apnea.
Fluoride Over-exposure Decreases Melatonin?
One of the reason why some older people can not sleep is because the pineal gland is no longer producing optimal amounts of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that increases at night to make us sleep. That is why some sleep aid supplements contain melatonin.
Why does the pineal gland no longer produce enough melatonin? Some have speculated that the years of accumulated exposure to fluoride (yes, the stuff in toothpaste and in some municipal water supply) can cause calcification of the pineal gland.
Some references to this is found on The International Center for Nutritional Research site which writes that ...
"Besides being a known enzyme poison, fluoride causes calcium to be deposited in soft tissue where it does not belong. The fluoride is directly responsible for causing stiffness of joints, soft tissue rigidity, premature aging of the skin, skeletal fluorosis (severe brittleness of bones), painful arthritis, calcification of areas of the brain that deal with sleep (decreasing melatonin production) and behavioral centers."
And Dr. Briffa writes ...
"There is also evidence that fluoride can accumulate in the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain which secretes the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin." [reference]
Supplements That May Help with Sleep
At this point on, the following is no longer sleep tips. Rather, you should consult with your doctor before trying.
There are herbal supplements that are often suggested as sleep aids. Although these do not require a prescription, you should be careful when using these. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA for consistency, efficacy, nor safety. Try all of the above sleep hygiene tips before trying supplements or drugs. Consult with your doctor before taking these supplement. Do not use any of these for long-term or when pregnant or lactating or driving. These can have various drugs interactions with other medications or supplements that you are using. Do not used in combination with other sedative medications or anti-depressions. They should be stopped two week prior to any surgery.
Dr. Hyman give some sleep tips which includes trying the herbal supplements passion flower and valerian. He also mentions melatonin.
Valerian is best taken shortly before bed. The nice thing about valerian is that it does not alter the sleep architecture pattern of the sleep cycle or REM sleep.[reference]
PassionFlower works by increasing the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. WebMD says that PassionFlower is possibly unsafe when taken by mouth in large amounts.
St. John's Wort is another herb. It is traditionally intended to be used for mild to moderate depression. However, it is sometimes found in some sleep aids. The problem with St. John's Wort is that it has a lot of drug interactions with other medications. Do not use in combination with other anti-depressants, birth control pills, warfarin, and many other drug interactions listed in Office of Dietary Supplements. If you are taking any other medication or supplements, you need to consult with your doctor about drug interactions. France has banned the use of St. John’s wort products due to its potentially interactions with other supplements and medications. Other countries are following suit.
Melatonin is not from an herb but WebMd says it is safe in low-doses and short term. Melatonin is naturally found in body because it is the hormone secreted by the pineal gland that plays a major role in controlling sleep. It is produced at greater abundance during night, because light coming in through our eyes suppresses its production. However, as we age, the nighttime production of melatonin decreases.[reference]
As a supplement, melatonin has various drug interactions as listed on MedlinePlus. So it should not be taken in combination with certain medications or even birth control pills. As a supplement, melatonin can raise blood melatonin level above what they ever would be naturally. So start off with low dosages.
5-HTP and other supplements
Julia Ross, in her book, The Mood Cure, talks about tryptophan and 5-HTP. She prefers using 5-HTP over melatonin because 5-HTP is a precursor to melatonin. So we are just supplying the raw ingredients and let the body decide how much melatonin to make. She also mentions GABA as a relaxation supplement that may help with sleep. However, it should not be taken if you have low blood pressure as GABA has a blood-pressure lowering effect.
The pathway in which tryptophan is associated with sleep is that trytophan can be converted to 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP), which in turn can be converted to serotonin (a calming nuerotransmitter), which in turn can be converted to melatonin. [source: Tryptophan on Wikipedia]
There can be some adverse health effects if you use it inappropriately. Both tryptophan and 5-HTP should not be used with depression medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), imipramine (Tofranil). They have drug interactions with many other drugs as listed in WebMD. And of course they are never intended for long-term use.
Chamomile tea and lavender aromatherapy have also been suggested as sleep aid.
You may find places on the web that may suggest kava as a sleep aid. Although kava is an herb, avoid using kava. Even though it may not require a prescription, the FDA in 2002 has issued consumer advisory for dietary supplements containing kava due to the possibility of it causing severe liver damage. And it is one of the 12 dangerous supplement listed by Consumer Report in 2010.
I'm in the process of exploring the amino acid glycine at bedtime to see if it helps with sleep. I'll update this as I get more information.
There is not much scientific studies of glycine as a sleep aid. There is some connection between glycine and the NMDA receptors in the brain. However, glycine appears to be very safe. I think it is much safer than even 5-HTP. Glycine is found in meat and fish. And is also made by the body.
When we get older, our stomach acid and digestive enzymes decreases leading to decrease efficiency in which we can extract glycine from meats.
Because glycine is safe and does not have huge potential of negative side effects, I'm willing to give glycine a try despite it not having much scientific support. Afterall, many people with insomnia have "tried everything".
Can Gluten Sensitivity Affect Sleep?
People with insomnia often will say "I've tried everything". Have you tried a gluten-free diet? There is some evidence that people with Celiac disease have poorer sleep. And there is the occasional mention (like here) where if an gluten sensitive individual accidentally consumes gluten, the sleep is affected.
It is quite possible that gluten can affect the brain directly. The number one organ that gluten affects is the central nervous system (including the brain), and not the gastro intestinal system that many people associate gluten sensitivity with. Other speculate the gluten sensitivity causes malabsorption that reduces the nutrients that the brain needs for sleep.[reference]
But the research in this area is not clear.
Be Careful of Pharmaceuticals Drugs
When all else fail, your doctor may prescribe certain pharmacological drugs. These are even more powerful and hence even more dangerous than herbal supplements. All of the warnings about herbal supplement applies here and even more so. Use these drugs only as a last resort since they can be quite powerful and may have serious side effects. Afterall, these pharmacological drugs are altering your brain chemistry. The use of such medications should always be done under the guidance of a doctor and never taken long-term.
They are not to be taken while pregnant or breast feeding or driving. There are long lists of drug interactions with other medications and supplements and there is a possibility of overdose.
As mentioned in Dr. Hughes video, pharmacological drugs can have ...
- side effects
- cause dependence
- increasing tolerance to the drug so that you have to take more and more to get the same effect.
- rebound and withdrawal effect
- and strange amnesiac behaviors (example reports such persons getting up in the middle of the night to eat or even drive and then having no recollection of the event)
Some sleep drugs under the category of benzodiazepine hypnotic may affect sleep architecture, depress breathing, over-sedation, dependence, short term amnesia, and impair cognition. Another generation of drugs of the class benzodiazepine receptor agonist (BZRAs) is not supposed to affect sleep architecture. Ambien and Lunesta are under this class. The former is for short-term use only. And the latter can be used slightly longer (up to six months). And newer class of drug still is the class of drugs called melatonin-receptor agonist such as Ramelteon.
More references information is found in this Google Talks video where the speaker Steven Fowkes says that if you are going to use a sleep drug, he advises against the use of Ambien, and rather to use Xyrem instead. Ambien is a brand name for the drug Zolpidem. Zolpidem is classed as sedative-hypnotics drug which works by slowing the activity of the brain. Xyrem is a brand name for the drug Sodium Oxybate which enhances the stage 3 and stage 4 phase of sleep.
For more information, WebMd.com answers the question as to whether taking sleep drugs are good or not.
WebMD also has slideshow of 20 Tips for Better Sleep which conveys pretty much the same ideas as presented.
Dr. Andrew Weil has some sleep tips on his site many of which are listed in above.
Jack Kruse writes that iodine deficiency and EMF leads to poor sleep ...
"Loss of iodine degrades sleep and synaptic function as the first step in disease generation. .... EMF ruins calcium signaling in the brain and it destroys melanopsin in the retina and pineal gland. This ruins melatonin signaling at night because of blue light exposure. Eventually this degrades their sleep and their ability to think clearly."
Fluoride can aggravate iodine deficiency. Kruse also talked about the Magnetico Sleep pads helping to mitigate EMF.
This article is only opinion at the time of writing in March 2012. It is not medical advice. Author disclaims any liability and may receive revenues from display ads within article.
BlissfulWriter (author) on June 01, 2014:
This article had been written 2 years ago, but the sleep tips are still relevant. However, has become increasingly clear that circadian rhythm disregulation plays a part in insomnia. I have just added a section on circadian rhythm to this article.
BlissfulWriter (author) on November 26, 2012:
I'm glad people are finding these tips helpful.
healthylife2 on November 26, 2012:
Thanks for sharing these excellent tips. I need to make the room darker and stop watching TV in bed. I also like the suggestion of some type of meditation two hours before bed instead of going over the bills. I will try them.Voted up!
nanadolls from Stratford on October 07, 2012:
Great article, thanks for the information.
BlissfulWriter (author) on October 06, 2012:
I'm continually adding new information as I come across them. For example, I just found this podcast about sleep quite informative: http://chriskresser.com/why-most-people-are-sleep-...
nanadolls from Stratford on October 06, 2012:
Thanks for writing and sharing, enjoyed and found this hub very informative.
BlissfulWriter (author) on August 15, 2012:
Thanks for the vote up.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on August 15, 2012:
Very informative hub and I love your tips. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!