Perhaps it’s 1:00 a.m., and you’ve been tossing, turning, and trying to fall asleep for hours. Or maybe you fall asleep at bedtime, but wake during the night and have difficulty getting back to sleep.
Many people suffer from poor sleep or a lack of sleep altogether, and the most popular conclusion is insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that, according to the National Institute of Health, affects 6% of the population. Insomnia’s symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, waking frequently during the night, and feeling fatigued throughout the day. Sound familiar?
The thing is, true insomnia, as defined by the American Psychological Association’s DSM-IV, is not as common as we may believe. In fact, there are many other causes for poor sleep. One of the main causes of sleep disruption is stress.
When a person is stressed, the body releases cortisol, a hormone which, along with adrenaline, sends the body into “fight or flight” mode. Other studies have found that women’s hormones, especially during and after pregnancy, can also lead to difficulty sleeping. Other causes of poor sleep can include illness, physical discomfort, and environmental factors such as allergens, temperature, and light.
Thankfully, natural remedies exist that can be used to gain more quality sleep. For instance, many are unaware that tart cherries contain a large amount of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Instead of simply chowing down on a bag of cherries, try mixing six to eight ounces of tart cherry juice with a couple of drops of pure vanilla extract. The melatonin in the cherry juice and the relaxing scent of the vanilla should help you fall asleep.
Another drink that has long been known to aid sleep is chamomile tea. Some research has shown that the tea attaches to certain receptors in the brain, which causes it to act similarly to an anti-anxiety medication. This can be useful if the cause of your sleep disruptions is due to worry or stress. Instead of drinking straight tea, try adding a bit of warm milk and honey, and even a bit of lavender, all of which have also been known to aid in sleep.
Whether you have clinical insomnia or just occasional sleep disruptions, natural remedies can do wonders in helping you catch some ZZZ’s. However, an important fact to note is that high levels of stress and anxiety are linked to all sorts of sleep disruptions, including insomnia.
So, even if you aren’t sure if you’re a full-fledged insomniac or not, it would serve you well to take an inventory of what might be causing you excess stress. Some find it helpful to write down their worries before bed so that they can leave them for the night and come back to them in the morning. Others have found meditation, sitting in a quiet place and intentionally focusing only on breathing, helps tremendously. A combination of these things, in addition to using the natural drinks mentioned previously, should help you to sleep better and longer.