(PRWEB) November 15, 2005
According to National Sleep Foundation polls, nearly 60% of the U.S. population — 126 million people — experiences trouble sleeping.
As a result more and more people are turning to prescription sleeping aids for help. But are these medications the best answer to our sleep dilemma? No, says Dr. Joseph Mercola, New York Times bestselling author and founder of Mercola.com, the second most visited non-government health website after WebMD.
The rising use of prescribed drugs as sleep aids, particularly for children and older individuals concerns Dr. Mercola.
He notes that from 2000 to 2004, sleep medication usage doubled among adults ages 20-44. Even more shocking, use of these medicines for children ages 10-19 soared 85%. And older adults receive nearly half the sleep prescriptions, even though they comprise only about 20% of the population.
They are particularly vulnerable to side effects of these pharmaceuticals, including confusion and falls, risk of dependence or toxicity, daytime drowsiness, and interactions with other drugs.
Dr. Mercola cites evidence that those who sleep less than six hours per night are at serious risk of diabetes due to disturbances in insulin metabolism. He believes many people experiencing insomnia could benefit from simple, safe, and inexpensive approaches to better sleep.
His list of 29 natural insomnia-relieving suggestions includes these top tips:
1. Darken your bedroom as much as possible. Light can disrupt your circadian rhythm, the biological clock controlling your sleep/wake cycle. The pineal gland in your brain responds to light and switches off production of melatonin, a hormone that naturally rises after darkness falls to induce sleepiness.
2. Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This provides enough of the amino acid L-tryptophan necessary to produce melatonin and the brain chemical serotonin, a precursor to melatonin.
3. Maintain your normal bedtime. Maintain a consistent schedule of going to bed and getting up at the same time, even on weekends. This assists your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.
4. Go to bed as early as possible. Before electricity came into widespread use, people used to go to bed when darkness fell, and rise with the sun. This natural schedule coincides with our circadian rhythms.
5. Avoid snacking before bed, particularly on grains and sugar. These snack foods raise blood sugar and hinder sleep. Later, when your blood sugar drops, you may wake up and have problems going back to sleep.
6. Avoid caffeine, especially in the afternoon or evening. The effects of caffeine can last long after drinking caffeinated beverages, and interfere with your body’s natural sleep pattern.
7. Steer clear of alcohol. The sedative effect of alcohol wears off quickly; you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep. Drinking alcohol may also stop progression to deeper stages of sleep, during which many of the body’s regenerative processes occur.
8. Lose weight. A potentially debilitating disorder called obstructive sleep apnea has been linked to excessive weight. This condition consists of snoring accompanied by gaps in breathing, with symptoms of daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
9. Don’t drink any fluids within 2 hours of going to bed. This will reduce the need to go to the bathroom during the night, and the risk of not being able to get back to sleep.
10. Exercise regularly. Daily aerobic exercise of at least 30 minutes is one of the best cures for insomnia. Make it vigorous enough to sweat a little. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime however; this may keep you awake.
Fortunately, there are 19 more natural, simple and effective ways to help you drift off to dreamland without resorting to expensive and potentially problematic medications. Check out the complete list of Dr. Mercola’s 29 secrets to a good night’s sleep at http://mercola.com/article/sleep.htm.