Insomnia is occasionally a symptom of an underlying medical or psychological condition, but it may also be caused by stress
Santa Monica, CA (PRWEB) November 29, 2012
Sleep disorders affect as much as 34 percent of the U.S. population - a virtual epidemic.
In recent years studies have begun to link chronic partial sleep deprivation to serious physical health consequences. Regularly catching only a few hours of sleep can hinder metabolism and alters hormone production in a way that is similar to the effects of aging.
Chronic sleep loss may speed the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and memory loss. Researchers have shown that just one week of sleep deprivation altered subject’s hormone levels and their capacity to metabolize carbohydrates.
Insomnia is the inability to sleep during a period in which sleep should normally occur. While occasional restless nights are often normal, prolonged insomnia can interfere with daytime function, and may impair concentration, diminish memory, and increase the risk of substance abuse, motor vehicle accidents, headaches, and depression.
Insomnia is occasionally a symptom of an underlying medical or psychological condition, but it may also be caused by stress (from work, school, or family) or lifestyle choices, such as excessive coffee and alcohol consumption. About 50% of insomnia cases have no identifiable cause.
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
If you report symptoms of insomnia or sleep disorders to your physician, he or she will first obtain a detailed sleep history by asking questions about your sleep patterns and sleep quality. The primary care physician may recommend a sleep specialist or a sleep disorders center where brain waves, body movements, breathing, and heartbeats may be electronically monitored during sleep.
The following lifestyle changes can help prevent insomnia:
- Exercising regularly: best when done before dinner; exercise can stimulate arousal so should not be done too close to bedtime
- Avoiding caffeine (especially after noon) and nicotine
- Getting regular exposure to late afternoon sun: stimulates release of melatonin which helps regulate circadian rhythm
- Practicing stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep relaxation
- Early treatment of insomnia may also help prevent psychiatric disorders such as depression
- Behavioral techniques are the preferred treatments for people with chronic insomnia. Up to 80 percent of those with insomnia improve with these approaches, and, unlike many medications for insomnia, behavioral techniques do not carry significant risks and side effects.
- Mind/body therapies such as stimulus control therapy, bright-light therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Acupuncture and acupressure
- Valerian, an herb, may be useful for certain individuals.
- Biotherapy formulas
- Generally, medications by prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) are helpful in promoting sleep, but they are not recommended for insomnia that persists for more than 4 weeks. Long-term use of some medications may cause addiction. The list of side effects from prescription sleep drugs is long, with the most common being headache, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, muscle and joint pain. One popular sleep drug was even shown to cause people to sleepwalk into their kitchen, consuming thousands of calories with no memory of it in the morning!
Studies reveal that healthy sleep habits are essential for treating insomnia including:
- Maintaining a consistent bed and wake time
- Establishing the bedroom as a place for sleep and sexual activity only, not for reading, watching television, or working
- Avoiding naps, especially in the evening
- Taking a hot bath about two hours before bedtime
- Keeping the bedroom cool, well-ventilated, quiet, and dark
- Avoiding looking at the clock; this promotes anxiety and obsession about time
- Avoiding fluids just before bedtime
- Avoiding television just before bedtime
- Eating a carbohydrate snack, such as cereal or crackers, just before bedtime
- If sleep does not occur within 15 to 20 minutes in bed, moving to another room with dim lighting
Dr. Stuart H. Garber, D.C., Ph.D. has been practicing holistic medicine since 1981. He has lectured to medical, dental, chiropractic and acupuncture groups in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. In 1997 Dr. Garber became the first person in the United States to receive a Ph.D. degree in homeopathy. He is the developer of Dr. Garber’s Natural Solutions line of condition specific biotherapy formulas that are sold in Whole Foods Stores in California, other retail outlets, through doctors offices and his website. The sleep formula is the number one seller in the product line. He practices in Santa Monica, CA where he also conducts research in homeopathic medicine.