A 2010 survey conducted by the Journal of Sleep Research found that up to 40% of adults experience some form of insomnia. The sales of prescription and over-the-counter sleep remedies continue to soar as adults try to find ways to relieve insomnia or poor sleep habits.
Though you may have found a pharmaceutical treatment to help you sleep, there are natural remedies and supplements that have been proven to help promote good sleep. These natural remedies may be safer and have fewer side effects than traditional pharmaceutical treatments. They may impart other benefits to your overall health, as well.
Below is a list of common natural remedies that may help you sleep soundly. We’ve also included some lifestyle changes and tips that may help you establish a better sleep routine just through small choices you make each day. As always, we recommend you discuss any medical advice with your doctor before you change, add to, or discontinue any treatment or supplements.
Nature’s Relaxing Remedies
- Valerian – One of the most well-known herbs available to help you sleep, valerian supplements work by calming the nerves and relaxing the muscles. It can be taken in a tincture formula or in a capsule, and is not known to have many side effects for the average person. For a few (1 in 10 individuals), it can have a stimulating effect, so try it on a weekend to make sure it works properly for you.
- Melatonin – In your body, melatonin is the hormone that controls your sleep, and it is well-proven for its ability to induce sleep. Supplements are available over-the-counter and side effects are virtually non-existent (though, follow the dosage instructions on the package, as too much melatonin may cause toxicity in the body).
- Herbal Teas – Some teas, such a chamomile, are known for their ability to help you prepare your body to drift off to sleep. While some of the herbs may be helpful in inducing sleep, it’s also possible that establishing a nighttime routine with a mug of tea and a calming moment of relaxation also helps to prepare your body for bed.
- Magnesium and Calcium Supplements – These supplements, when taken separately, can both help increase the quality of your sleep, but when taken together, they are even more effective. While helping your sleep, they also are effective dietary supplements for many other conditions, such as heart problems and osteoporosis.
- Wild Lettuce – Suggested as a helpful supplement for those with Restless Leg Syndrome, wild lettuce is thought to have a calming and anxiety-reducing effect. It may help you fall to sleep, especially if you have trouble drifting off due to anxiety or restlessness.
- Hops – Probably best known for their involvement in the beer brewing process, hops are the female flowers of the Humulus lupulus plant. Taken in supplement form, though, these flowers have effects as a mild sedative and anxiety-reliever.
- Aromatherapy with Lavender – Studies have proven lavender’s ability as a sleep aid, and many people use aromatherapy and essential oils to help with a variety of conditions. Spritz lavender spray on your bed linens, right before bedtime, or buy a lavender-filled pillow.
- L-theanine – This compound is the same amino acid found in green tea, and while it promotes alertness during the day, it also encourages a deeper sleep at night and can boost the quality of REM cycles during your night. Unfortunately, you cannot get enough L-theanine from drinking tea alone; instead, find a pure L-theanine supplement at your local health food store.
Healthy Habits for Better Sleep
- Yoga or Meditation – Not only does yoga provide proven health benefits, including a huge boost to your overall flexibility, it can also provide a great relaxing transition before bedtime. Be sure to choose gentle poses so as not to energize yourself with vigorous exercise before bed. Follow your routine with a few minutes of meditation for the most relaxing experience.
- Dietary Changes – Don’t eat close to bedtime, cut out caffeine (especially during the evenings), avoid excess sweets, eat magnesium rich foods, and help eliminate the desire for afternoon naps by choosing smaller, and less carbohydrate-heavy, lunches.
- Exercise – Participating in vigorous exercise, during the day, 3-5 times per week not only helps establish a strong sleep routine, it also helps with your overall health in a big way. Find a sport or exercise routine you can love, and stick with it. Be careful not to exercise vigorously too close to bedtime, as it might keep you from easily falling asleep.
- Be Comfortable – It’s important to make sure you love your surroundings when you sleep. Many people consider their bedrooms to be their personal sanctuary, and understandably so. Ensuring you have a comfortable bed and good mattress will not only help you get to sleep, it can also prevent or help morning back pain.
- Have a Routine – A strong nighttime routine is key to good sleep. Your body follows certain signals to prepare itself for nighttime and sleep. Following a similar, preferably calming, routine each night will ensure you drift off to sleep easily.
- Get Outside – Soak up some sunshine during the day! Our bodies run on complex circadian rhythms that were developed long before indoor lighting. It’s important to absorb the natural light cues that nature offers by getting sun during the day and decreasing lights as nighttime approaches. Also, soaking up sunlight increases your Vitamin D level, and important component in your overall body and bone health.
The number of health complaints believed to be related to Obstructive Sleep Apnea are plentiful, with cardiovascular disease, GERD, and high cholesterol all possibly related to untreated apnea. One of the most well-researched related health conditions, though, is the life-changing and very common Type 2 Diabetes. The most common form of diabetes by far, Type 2 is marked by high glucose levels in the blood and can be associated with obesity. It is now estimated that up to 1 in 4 individuals with Type 2 Diabetes will also have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and, unfortunately, many of these people are currently undiagnosed and untreated.
Untreated OSA makes controlling blood sugar more difficult as, it is theorized, the hormones released during interrupted sleep inhibit the effects of insulin in the body. So not only could someone with untreated OSA be opening themselves up to a host of other related medical problems, they also could be inhibiting their diabetes treatment, or causing their diabetes to be harder to manage.
One study followed 25 individuals with Type 2 Diabetes who were diagnosed and treated for their underlying apnea. After beginning CPAP treatment, their average after-meal blood sugar went from 191 mg/dl to a healthier 130 mg/dl.
If you have Type 2 Diabetes, you should be evaluated for Obstructive Sleep Apnea through a physician-recommended sleep clinic. Conversely, if you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you should also consider being evaluated for Type 2 Diabetes, as you are 9 times more likely to have the blood sugar disorder than someone without OSA.
We've all heard of alternate treatments to CPAP use, the gold standard for the treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, but most have no scientific validation and many are no more than "snake oil" treatments. In 2006, though, a Swiss study studied the effects of playing the didgeridoo, an instrument played commonly by Australia's Aborigines, on mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Surprisingly, the study found that playing the didgeridoo regularly can treat up to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea effectively. The theory is that playing the didgeridoo, an instrument that requires a complex pattern of respiration called "circular breathing", strengthens the muscles of the mouth and throat, preventing the soft palate collapse that characterizes an obstructive apnea or hypopnea.
See more about the study and about playing the didgeridoo on About.com. And while we would never recommend discontinuing your (possibly life-saving) CPAP usage, this could be a fun therapy to try in conjunction with your current treatment program. Now, where to find a didgeridoo teacher??
On April 11th, ResMed announced the release of its long anticipated S9 VPAP machines. Following the success of the innovative S9 CPAP series release, the VPAP series includes four new bilevel treatment devices that have improvements in size, technology, and features over the previous S8 VPAP series.
Included in this release are the S9 VPAP S, the S9 VPAP Auto, the S9 VPAP Adapt, and the S9 VPAP ST. Below is information from ResMed about the new machines:
"'We are proud to announce the launch of the bilevel range of products on the S9™ platform, our latest and most innovative flow generator system for treating respiratory disorders including sleep-disordered breathing. Now, for the first time in our history, health care providers have one platform that can treat obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and Cheyne–Stokes respiration, as well as provide noninvasive ventilation for patients requiring ventilatory support," said Michael Farrell, Sr. Vice President of the Global Sleep Business Unit at ResMed. "Our goal is to increase patients' quality of life by providing comfortable, quiet, easy-to-use and highly effective treatment. A critical element of successful treatment is long-term adherence to therapy. Since its launch just over a year ago, the S9 Series has been able to help physicians and respiratory therapists achieve that goal—driving therapeutic compliance by patients around the globe.'"
For more information on the new S9 bilevel machines by ResMed, please contact CPAP Supply USA. The new machines will also be available very soon for purchase on our website. Check back for more details.
Update: We will be carrying the S9 VPAP Auto and the S9 VPAP S on our website for purchase beginning April 20, 2011.
Sleep apnea sufferers may not realize this, but there are local support groups available for just those with apnea. Finding out you have a sleep disorder like Obstructive Sleep Apnea can be a devastating diagnosis, as the health repercussions and lifestyle changes associated with sleep apnea can be daunting. It might be difficult for your friends or loved ones to understand what you are going through, so it can be helpful to talk about your disorder with others who share the same diagnosis. Local support groups can accomplish this, while also helping you get tips and hints from seasoned CPAP users.
The American Sleep Apnea Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness of and research about sleep apnea, sponsors a network of sleep apnea support groups across the US called A.W.A.K.E. (Alert, Well, And Keeping Energetic). Local A.W.A.K.E. support groups are available in each US state and each Canadian province. You can search for a local sleep apnea support group by visiting www.sleepapnea.org, home of the ASAA.
If you cannot find a local A.W.A.K.E. group, don't forget that there are many communities of CPAP users online who can be a great resource for a newly diagnosed person. Search online for forums, blogs, or community sites dedicated to sleep apnea sufferers.