Insomnia. Just this word all by itself strikes more fear in the souls of most than our first (really) scary movie. As of today, 50 percent of American women report having sleep problems several nights per week. The average woman sleeps approximately six hours and 41 minutes per night during the work week.
Over the past century, sleep time has decreased by about 20%. More than 70 million people in the U.S. are affected by a chronic or intermittent sleep disorder and insomnia is the most common of these. If a lack of sleep becomes chronic, it can be a problem. Insomnia can result in decreased concentration and memory, an increase in accidents, depression and weight gain, as well as a greater risk for cardiovascular disease. When one falls asleep past 10pm, your internal clock – which regulates your circadian rhythms – can flip or move out of normal sequence causing the aforementioned problems.
The brain requires four full stages of sleep:
REM cycle 1 is light sleep
REM cycle 2 is so called ‘true sleep;
REM cycles 3 and 4 are deep ‘slow wave’ or delta sleep
A balance or lack thereof between certain hormones – particularly stress and growth hormones – seems to be linked to deep sleep cycles. By-passing through each REM cycle, waking becomes more difficult. There are different types of insomnia to consider:
Transient – lasts for a few days
Short term – lasts for no more than three weeks
Chronic – lasts for a month or more and impairs normal daily functioning
Primary Chronic – this is when it is the sole complaint of the individual
Secondary Chronic – caused by medical or psychiatric conditions, drugs or emotional disorders
Given that 80 percent of women report that premenstrual symptoms involve insomnia, this has become epidemic for baby boomers. What to do? First, darken your bedroom and keep your bedroom rather cool. Turn your backlit alarm away from your line of vision. Cover all TVs and computers so absolutely no light can penetrate. Your brain is activated by light, however ambient or dim.
Do not eat a heavy, late meal as your body should be detoxing and repairing – not digesting.
Consider divorcing caffeine and nicotine. As we grow older, our ability to move these stimulants through the system can become less efficient, hence keeping us up at night.
If your partner snores or tosses and turns, move to another quiet location.
Steroids, diuretics, anti-depressants and chemo drugs can all contribute to sleep problems.
Give up TV, the computer and cell phone texting 30 minutes before bedtime as all stimulate the cortex.
Avoid alcohol for four to six hours prior to bedtime.
If you have sleep apnea, try sleeping on your side to lessen snoring which can keep you from experiencing the last two deep sleep cycles. Also, try not to nap during the day.
Check your melatonin levels. If it is low, take one to five to ten milligrams of melatonin before bed.
I have a few other favorite products to help remedy insomnia as well. The magnesium in CAL/MAG 1001 from Douglas Labs tends to put the brain and body in sleep mode. Three at bedtime does the trick. For tougher cases, add two Serenagen from Metagenics. These two together works with approximately 90-95 percent of my clients. For my toughest, long term insomniacs, I recommend Theanine Serene with GABA by Source Naturals. This will act as a Nerf bat to the brain, noodlizing your zippy frontal cortex into all four REM cycles.