About 30 million people suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. With time-saving technologies at our fingertips, we now can cram as much as possible into every waking moment.
But how do we tune out and shut off our 24/7 culture? We seem to be having problems logging off ourselves and our health is being affected by what every human must have in order to function—sleep.
According to WebMD, about 20% of Americans report that they’re getting less than six hours of sleep a night. In order to feel our best and for optimal health, at least seven hours of sleep a night is necessary. Failure to do so can lead to a plethora of problems, including mood disorders and even more serious health risks such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Sleeping Pill Use by Youths Soars, Study Says. An article from the Health section of the New York Times states that sleeping pill usage among children and young adults rose 85 percent from 2000 to 2004. During that same time period, adults swallowed 50 percent more pills in order to catch some much-needed Zs. Pretty scary statistics for what seems be a dire indicator of a nation of people who just need to get some rest!
Using alternative therapies and employing behavior and lifestyle changes can result in better sleeping patterns. Are there certain techniques and holistic treatments we can use in order to sleep better? What about natural remedies such as aromatherapy, acupuncture, or alternative medicines? More importantly, are they safe and do they work?
Gear Down for the Night
Make it a priority to log off from your computer at least three hours prior to sleep. The light from your computer monitor stimulates brain activity and confuses it into believing it’s still daylight, releasing hormones that keep you “on alert.” Watching television right before bedtime can do the same thing. Reach for a good book instead. Grab a journal and write. List what you’ve got to do the next day and put it aside. Mentally preparing yourself this way will help you to let go of your worries.
Meditate for ten minutes each night before sleeping. This simply means closing your eyes in a sitting or lying position and being still. Some people say a mantra or word over and over in order to quiet the mind; other people pray. Whichever method quiets your mind is the best one for you.
Alternative Therapies and Remedies to Induce Sleep
Acupuncture is an ancient Oriental alternative treatment that millions swear by to help with insomnia. The therapist uses tiny needles inserted in certain areas of the body that adjust the flow of Qi, or energy in the body. The theory of this practice is that the Yang energy within us is what keeps us active and alert during the day; at night this energy must return to the Yin areas in order for us to sleep. If the two become imbalanced, the result is insomnia. Most people report sleeping better after one session.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy, spicy foods that heat or stimulate the body. Many believe drinking chamomile tea or drinking warm milk helps one to relax. Whether these remedies do indeed have a physiological effect is yet to be proven, but the psychological effect does seem to help some feel more relaxed.
Some scents have been purported as being calming or soothing. Lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, ylang ylang, and jasmine are just a few oils that one can add to a bath or sachet underneath the pillow to induce a more restful sleep. Most can be found at alternative grocers with instructions for safe use.
We must seek new ways in which to soothe our mind, body and spirit. Physicians are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of using alternative medicines and holistic cures in order to quiet the mind for sleep. Using common-sense methods and employing these gentle, proven techniques may be just what we need for a good night’s sleep.