Insomnia is epidemic and, in addition, most patients are sleep deprived. The need for sleep is vital for good health. We all will live longer and healthier lives with eight hours of sleep, yet todayï¿½s economics makes that 8 hours of rest impossible for many, so letï¿½s at least help our patients get meaningful sleep when they do go to bed.
Drugs like Ambien, Lunesta, and Halcion that are so widely used are dangerous and habit forming.
Dr Rowen has summarized a useful list of alternatives, any of which might work alone. This list of ingredients and why they are included should be very helpful for your insomniac patients since there is no one size fits all but some may find the prepackaged concept with all 8 suggestions in one product just right for them. Since insomnia for many is a life long issue, over time, patients may prefer to experiment with higher doses of one or two of these ingredients, as there is always a need to personalize nutritional programs whenever possible.
Garry F. Gordon MD,DO,MD(H)
President, Gordon Research Institute
The missing link to a peaceful night's sleep
Beyond melatonin or valerian. This simple "nutrient cocktail" can help you sleep like a baby ... without grogginess the next day.
By Robert J. Rowen, MD
Do you sometimes lay awake at night and struggle to fall asleep? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep again?
If you do, you're not alone. Millions of Americans sleep so poorly they feel exhausted during the day. And many say that poor sleep interferes with their daily activities.
You probably know that poor sleep can have a terrible effect on your health. Poor sleep raises your risk for many chronic conditions. It's even a factor in more than 100,000 car crashes each year.
So to solve your sleep problems, you may have tried popular natural sleep remedies like melatonin or valerian. But melatonin doesn't work consistently for everyone. It can cause daytime drowsiness, headaches, anxiety, and mood swings. As for valerian, it gives some people a morning "hangover" and has the added concern of potential liver toxicity.
If you really want to fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly through the night, you have to address the real reason behind your sleep problems...
The hidden reason you can't fall asleep or keep waking up
Very often, the real reason you can't fall asleep is because your body's natural "excitement" and "calming" mechanism is out of whack.
You see, your body produces chemicals that excite your brain and nervous system. And it also produces chemicals that calm your nerves down.
For example, if you're under stress or a sudden threat, your body releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin to speed up your heart and get your muscles ready for action.
This is the famous "fight or flight" response you've heard about.
Fortunately, your body also makes chemicals to calm down your brain and nervous system and help it relax. Like the neurotransmitters GABA, dopamine and seratonin. But if you have an imbalance in this system ï¿½ too much of the "excitatory" chemicals and not enough of the relaxing ones ï¿½ then chances are your body's not going to be able to calm down enough to fall asleep quickly or stay asleep all night.
The key is to find out what kind of imbalance you have, and correct it. Here's how...
too much stress and anxiety
It's hard to escape stress these days. With our 24/7, non-stop, always connected lifestyles, we're constantly having to deal with issues at home or at work. You may find it hard to switch off your worries about health, money, job security, retirement, or your children and grandchildren.
The trouble is, this constant stress causes your body to release cortisol. That's the "fight or flight" hormone I mentioned before. But cortisol doesn't just get you ready to slay a wild animal. It can also cause sleep problems.
That's because cortisol is your body's "wake up" hormone. Your cortisol levels jump by 50 to 60 percent within minutes of waking up each morning. So the last thing you want is to have high cortisol at nighttime. Ideally, your cortisol levels should gradually decrease during the day, reaching the lowest point just before bedtime. But if you're constantly stressed or over stimulated during the day...
... your cortisol levels get stuck in high gear! Constant cortisol can make it difficult to fall asleep. It can prevent you from getting deep, restful sleep. And too much cortisol can wake you up in the middle of the night.
In fact, studies show that people with sleep problems had the highest amount of cortisol in their bloodstream, especially in the evening.
So if you want to improve your sleep, you need to reduce your cortisol. Regular exercise helps. So do stress-reducing activities like yoga or meditation. But there's another way...
Nature's Stress Buster
You don't have to sedate yourself with drugs to lower your stress levels. Or dump hormones like melatonin into your system.
What I prefer to do with my patients is to give them the nutrients the body needs to manufacture its own "natural sleep medicine." That way, it supports your body's own ability to regulate your excitatory and calming mechanism.
And one of the best ways to do that is with niacinamide ... also known as vitamin B3. Niacinamide is a potent sleep inducer. It directly affects the "benzodiazepine" receptors in your brain. These are the same receptors that are targeted by a well-known anti-anxiety medicine. Niacinamide has been shown to induce a feeling of calmness.
So niacinamide can help you relax, sleep better and lower the anxiety caused by stress. You also want to address...
Imbalance #2 ï¿½ Aching muscles and cramps that keep you awake
Many people take calcium to help maintain strong bones. Some people take it at bedtime. That may sound like a good idea, since your body loses calcium at night, but it's not.
That's because calcium can make you feel anxious, and it causes your muscles to contract. Calcium can also contribute to restless leg syndrome and leg cramps that can wake you up in the middle of the night and keep you up.
Fortunately, there's a simple solution for aching muscles and cramps: magnesium. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer and sedative. In fact, magnesium often reverses restless leg syndrome and cramping in both your legs and feet.
Of course, achy muscles and cramps aren't the only thing that can keep you up at night...
Imbalance #3: What to do if your mind keeps racing
Do you sometimes crawl into bed feeling drowsy and ready to sleep? But then lay awake, eyes staring at the ceiling, as your mind races over details from your day ... or worries about tomorrow?
There's a natural solution for this problem, too. And it comes from a surprising source. In fact, it's why a lot of people feel so relaxed after drinking a cup of green tea, despite the fact that green tea has caffeine.
Green tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine can blunt the stimulating effects of caffeine, and has an overall calming effect.
A number of studies, including double-blind clinical trials, show that L-theanine calms you down and reduces the stress and anxiety caused by everyday life.
Studies also show that L-theanine helps increase "alpha-wave" activity in your brain.
Alpha waves correspond to the same state of calm relaxation that you feel with meditation and yoga.
So taking L-theanine is like getting a mini-dose of meditation for calming down your mind and promoting deep, restful sleep!
Aside from dealing with stress, anxiety, and a mind that just won't quit, you also have to make sure your body isn't lacking its natural "sleep aids", including...
Imbalance #4: Not enough serotonin
Serotonin is your body's natural "feel good" neurotransmitter. It helps regulate your mood and appetite as well as your sleep.
If you crave sweets and high glycemic carbohydrates like cookies, crackers and potato chips, then you might have a serotonin deficiency. You are also more likely to have a serotonin deficiency if you're a woman.
A serotonin deficiency can cause you to struggle with worry, anxiety, obsession, winter blues, and low self-esteem. People with a serotonin deficiency often have sleep problems. Here's why...
During the day, your body slowly converts serotonin into melatonin. Your body stores this melatonin inside your pineal gland. When daylight turns to night, it signals your pineal gland to release the melatonin. The melatonin then helps you fall asleep.
But if your serotonin levels are too low during the daytime, your melatonin levels will be too low at night. But you don't have to take melatonin to correct this...
A simple, natural way to increase your serotonin and melatonin
One of the best ways to reverse a serotonin deficiency is to take a natural amino acid called 5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan). 5-HTP is the "precursor" to serotonin. That means it's the final step in your body's production process for serotonin. So by taking 5-HTP, you bypass the conversion of other molecules and directly produce more serotonin.
Several double-blind studies show 5-HTP decreases the time needed to fall asleep and reduces the number of nighttime awakenings.
5-HTP also improves the quality of your sleep. 5-HTP increases REM sleep by about 25 percent and boosts your deep, restorative sleep. And 5-HTP does this without increasing total sleep time.
Build up your B vitamins
Supplementing with B vitamins helps boost your serotonin, too. Your body canï¿½t make neurotransmitters like serotonin without them. That's why you need the vitamin B3 (niacinamide) I mentioned before. Plus, you need vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 is involved in thousands of reactions in the body. It's essential for the creation of serotonin. Vitamin B6 also helps your body minimize the effects of stress. It helps you feel comfortable and prepares you for a good night's rest.
There's one more neurotransmitter deficiency you need to address...
Imbalance #5: You may be suffering from a GABA deficiency
Do you sometimes feel anxious or have panic attacks? Do you ever feel over-stressed or burned-out? Then you might have a GABA deficiency.
GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is your body's most abundant "inhibitory" neurotransmitter. That means it's the cornerstone of your body's "calming" system.
Without enough GABA, you can feel out of balance, prone to anxiety and sleep problems. You may also feel stiff, tense, and unable to relax or loosen up. Without enough GABA, it's hard to unwind after a busy day.
Think of GABA as the ï¿½brakesï¿½ when it comes to neurotransmitter activity. When stress triggers a spike in adrenaline, causing the "fight or flight" response, GABA slows down the response by blocking the signal. GABA relaxes, sedates, and reduces overstimulation.
The obvious way to increase GABA is to supplement with GABA. But itï¿½s important not to take too much. So in addition to an appropriate amount of GABA, you should also supplement with the building blocks of GABA, which are amino acids.
These amino acids are able to cross the blood brain barrier. That means they go right to the brain where GABA is created.
Taurine is one of these important amino acids. Taurine helps increase GABA without any adverse side effects. Taurine is also an excellent stress buster. Taurine inhibits the release of adrenaline, the stress neurotransmitter I mentioned before.
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