Sleep like a Dream

Think the brain is busy when it’s active and awake? On the contrary – the brain is doing some heavy lifting while the body sleeps.
While sugarplums dance in our heads, the brain forms new pathways that promote memory, and enables the vascular system to enjoy a well-deserved break.
A body at sleep also produces cytokines, bolstering the immune system’s ability to fight infections and chronic inflammation. Sleep is a highly regulated pattern the body requires for optimum performance – hardly passive!
Sleep is critical to our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Without enough sleep, the body constantly produces adrenaline and stress hormones, so blood pressure and heart rates don’t have a chance to slow down, posing a risk to heart health.
In the spirit of American Heart Month, while we sing the praises of nutrition and exercise, sleep should be a vital part of the conversation. Insomnia, one of 70 known sleep disorders, wreaks havoc in 1 in 3 people across the globe.

Q&A: Getting Enough ZZZZZZ’s:

Consider the following, according to the Sleep Health Foundation:
What causes insomnia? Depression, anxiety, stress, loss, chronic pain, illness, some medications, caffeine, alcohol or smoking, any a combination of these, can cause insomnia. Sometimes, there is specific cause of a sleep disorder, other times, there is none.
Who is more prone to insomnia? The elderly, women and shift workers are at a higher risk for insomnia.
What health risks does insomnia pose? Decreased concentration, compromised emotional stability and irritability are only the beginning. A range of mild to severe consequences are associated with insomnia and sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea) including lethargy and fatigue, hypertension and heart attack, obesity, diabetes, and stroke. Sometimes, lack of sleep poses risk to people operating vehicles or heavy machinery at work.

Supplements vs. Sleep Aids: Which is more effective?

Many people want to know which are more effective – more natural solutions such as calming supplements, sleep aids, over-the-counter or prescribed?
First, many sleep problems can be turned around by making consistent lifestyle changes. While prescribed or over-the-counter sleep aids can be effective, many contain antihistamines, and the tolerance to the sedative effects can develop quickly. Plus, they often promote a feeling of grogginess the following day. (Which leads to more caffeine, which leads to night-time wakefulness…)
When recommending calming supplements to promote relaxation and sleep, look for ingredients including Melatonin, L-Theanine, and Valerian among others . Take a look at the benefits associated with each:
Melatonin: The (circadian) rhythm is gonna get you … back to sleep
Also a powerful antioxidant, Melatonin is the primary hormone of the pineal gland, from which data about light and dark is processed and transmitted to cells throughout the body. The signal for darkness can help maintain normal circadian rhythms to promote a restful night’s sleep, especially for individuals experiencing the lingering affects of jet lag and night shift work.
L-Theanine: Tea Time for Sleepy Time
A unique amino acid derived from tea, L-Theanine has been recognized for its relaxant properties. Free of the side effects commonly associated with other relaxing agents, L-Theanine helps promote a restful, relaxed state without diminishing daytime alertness. Furthermore, L-Theanine has been reported to moderate the effects of caffeine on the central nervous system.
Valerian: Hippocrates knows best
A perennial plant native to Europe and Asia, Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries, its therapeutic uses even described by Hippocrates. Many human clinical trials conducted on Valerian and have demonstrated positive results in achieving a restful night’s sleep without the “hangover” effect associated with pharmaceutical sleep aids.
All supplements used to support restful sleep should be taken under the careful supervision of a health care provider to ensure proper dosage, frequency, and to ensure safety in combination with other medications.
Finally, everyone can benefit from establishing a calming routine to create optimal sleep, so advise your sleep-deprived patients to:

  1. Establish a sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night (or day, for shift workers), and create a calming cue that signals a wind down period for your body, including a warm shower, a decaffeinated cup of tea, or listening to music. (And turn off the devices – those can stimulate rather than relax the brain.)
  2. Refrain from foods and beverages that stimulate. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, and limit the intake of fluids before bedtime to eliminate waking up to go to the bathroom.
  3. Get comfortable. A good portion of our life is spent sleeping, so invest in linens and pillows that offer a soft, warm place to saw off some zzzz’s.

Happy Heart Month – give your patient’s the gift of a good night’s sleep! It’s a gift that keeps giving. (And share your experiences; what works best? Chime in or make a comment on our Facebook page!)

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
**This blog was written by an outside source. This blog does not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Natural Partners.