Do you climb into bed and you can’t go to sleep?
Your brain’s racing, you can’t relax, and you stare at the clock. It’s already an hour past when you should be asleep. You’ve got a big day ahead and need to get enough sleep. You rummage around in your nightstand or head to the bathroom medicine cabinet and you pop a few sleeping pills.
You’ve taken them for a few weeks now and you figure they’re safe… after all, they’re sold over the counter (OTC). What could be the harm? If this sounds like you than you aren’t alone. Millions of Americans suffer from poor sleep or insomnia. Consumer Reports revealed that 30% of folks surveyed reported taking an OTC sleep aid or supplement within the past year. And 48% of those folks said they used the drug several times a week could this be a habit that’s dangerous and possibly robbing their memory.
Here’s a list of some of the most common OTC sleep aids:
- Advil PM
- Simply Sleep
- Tylenol PM
These medications contain a drug called diphenhydramine. This is an antihistamine used to treat allergic reactions and is the main ingredient in Benadryl. Worse, sleep aids with pain killers (like Advil PM or Tylenol PM) contain ibuprofen or acetaminophen, both of which can affect your liver.
The problem is that drugs like Benadryl are anticholinergics. Basically, that means they block a neurotransmitter in our nervous system called acetylcholine. We need this chemical in our brains to help with memory. Your brain is made up of 60% fat and acetylcholine is a fatty neurotransmitter.
That’s why long-term use of drugs like Benadryl contributes to dementia. A study published in JAMA INTERNAL MEDICINE discovered that people taking an anticholinergic for three years or more had a 54% higher risk of dementia than those taking it for shorter periods!
Here are some of my tips to help you sleep without OTC or prescriptions medications.
Sleep Hygiene Tips
- Keep your room dark, cool and quiet- remember the light bulb was invented in 1879, less than 150 years ago. Our bodies have been genetically wired to sleep in the dark!
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom (including modem for wi-fi)- you may feel watching TV helps you fall asleep but in reality your sleep is disturbed do to the noise and blue light.
- Turn off screens from Phones, computers and iPads one hour before bed. Keep them out of the bedroom and turn off wi-fi and cellular data to minimize signal coming into the house.
- Meditate or pray when you lay down to sleep – include deep breathing. Breath in for a count of 5, hold for a count of 5, exhale for a count of 5 completely emptying lungs of air, repeat five times.
- Have a pen and paper next to your bed. When you have “things to remember” pop into your head write them down. You may want a small flashlight next to the bed to do this.
- No caffeine after 12pm
- No sugar in the evening – if “snacking” is a problem keep it to protein, low carb snacks such as celery stuffed with peanut butter, raw nuts and seeds, cheese and apple etc. Eat no later than two hours before bed.
- Set a “sleep schedule” – to bed at the same time and rise at the same time, this trains your body.
- Epsom salt bath with Lavender Essential oil – Epsom salts have magnesium in them which are calming. Hot shower if time is limited, using Lavender oil (real, not synthetic) on your wash sponge.
Natural Sleep Aids
Natural Sleep Aids are also an option. If you are “hooked” on pharmaceutical sleep aids you will have to gradually reduce the dosage as you add in the natural solutions. Your brain has become accustomed to the drug and will not “take up” the natural solution as an alternative as quickly. Give yourself two weeks to transition and remember, none of these will work if you are not following some of the sleep hygiene ideas from above! Don’t expect to take a natural alternative, still watch TV or be on your computer right before you close you eyes and have it work!
Natural Sleep Aids
- Calcium/Magnesium – take one hour before bed to relax muscles and nerves
- Melatonin – start with 1mg one hour before bed and increase gradually to as much as 5mg
- Valerian Root – 75-100mg
- Passion Flower – 25-50mg
- L-theanine (from Camellia Sinesis)- 25mg
- Hops Strobile Powder – 25mg
- Chamomile Flower – 25mg
- Progesterone cream – especially for Menopausal women! Getting your hormones tested can give you an insight into what might be keeping you awake.
Install f.flux on your computers, iPhones (new ones have night settings) and iPads. This free computer software changes the settings of your monitor according to the time of day and the types of interior lighting you have in your house. Buying Gunnar glasses glasses to wear while working on computers in the evening con also help.
Sleep Yoga can be an incredibly relaxing way to get ready for bed. Use this when you feel your brain is not going to stop. Along with the deep breathing mentioned above, I do this and get into bed and fall asleep quickly. (Also on nights with my brain racing I take Night Formula which has many of the natural products listed above.)
Whew! That’s A LOT of information! I’m passionate about helping people get the rest their bodies need without OTC or prescription medications. There are a few people that do not make the neurotransmitters (such as GABBA) or who do not methylate (use B vitamins) and these folks need support during the daytime hours to prep their brains for sleep (we see this on Genetic testing). You can also take a neurotransmitter questionnaire HERE and see what amino acids you may be low in.
I’ve given you ton’s of information so where to start? Pick two or three things that you KNOW you CAN do and DO those first for two weeks. Then add in two more and keep going. Imagine falling asleep naturally, sleeping most of the night, and waking up refreshed!
To Your Health,
P.S. If you would like to know how to get 25% off the products I highlighted email me and let’s set you up for a discount!