Beat Insomnia Without a Prescription
Sleep deprivation can be devastating, taking its toll on your physical and mental health. Yet, most of us do suffer from occasional bouts of insomnia. In fact, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison study 25% of Americans have ongoing difficulty falling and staying asleep.
Travelling, work and family demands, heath problems and hormonal changes all can lead to sleepless nights. If you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep and would like to avoid taking sleeping pills try some of these remedies:
A cup of chamomile tea before bed may be enough to calm your body and prepare you for sleep. Valerian is another popular herb for bringing sleep, but it tastes and smells rather foul so taking it in tincture or pill form may be easier to stomach. Passion flower, skullcap and linden flowers are also used to help induce sleep. Recent studies indicate that passion flower may help to reduce anxiety as well.
Essential oil of lavender, marjoram, geranium, ylang ylang, neroli, sandalwood and rose are all used to promote relaxation. You can put a drop of these essential oils in your bath or use a diffuser to fill your bedroom with the scent. Smell first before you buy, and let your nose be your guide. If the scent does not appeal to you, it won’t help to soothe you to sleep.
Over-the-counter sleep aids
Melatonin is a substance in our bodies that effects our sleep/wake cycle. It is available in pill form in most drug stores. It is particularly helpful for sleep disturbances caused by jet lag or those experienced by shift workers. Most other over-the-counter sleep aids contain diphenhydramine, the primary ingredient in Benadryl. If you’ve ever taken it for its antihistamine properties, you know how sleepy it can make you. It can, however, also leave you groggy in the morning and may cause constipation.
Take a warm bath
Not only will the warm water relax you but when you come out of the bath your body temperature will drop, just as it does naturally in the hour preceding the onset of sleep. This can trigger your body to prepare for sleep. Just make sure you do leave at least an hour between the bath and bedtime for the cool down.
Put all your worries on paper
It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the act of writing out a to-do list for the next day can help you sleep. The more you need to get done, the more effective this can be. Your brain doesn’t need to keep reminding you of all you need to accomplish. It’s all there captured on paper ready for you when you wake up.
If every little sound brings you back from the brink of sleep, try a recording of nature sounds. If that doesn’t work for you, a white-sound machine might do the trick— it makes a sound similar to the static you’ll hear on a TV or radio that isn’t set on a station. There’s no variation in the sound to jolt you awake, and it will drown out other extraneous sounds.
Bore yourself to sleep
Some people swear by counting backwards from 500 or doing their times tables in their heads. This can shut off those anxiety-driven loops that our brains can get caught up in, allowing us to drift off. This is basically just a variation on the old counting sheep trick. It's just a little more complex, so it can hold your concentration until you begin to drift off.
Imagine yourself floating on a cloud, or lying in a hammock in the sunshine or anything else real or imagined that makes you feel safe and relaxed. You may also find it helpful to imagine placing all the thoughts and worries that are circling in your brain into a large box for safekeeping first. Visualizations come more naturally to some people than to others, but with practice you will be able to go directly to the world you have created and enjoy that relaxing feeling whenever you want.
Relax your body
Try relaxing your body one body part at a time, releasing tension wherever you find it. Don’t forget your jaw. Your jaw relaxes when you sleep; keeping it clenched can signal the rest of your body that you aren't ready for sleep.
Although regular exercise can help you sleep more soundly and for longer periods, don’t try to wear yourself out with strenuous exercise right before bed. Exercise stimulates your entire body, which can prevent you from falling asleep, even if you feel exhausted. Make sure you leave at least three hours between your exercise routine and bedtime.
If all else fails and you simply cannot fall asleep it’s probably best to cut your losses and get up until you feel sleepy again. Sometimes the fight for sleep can be so intense it can keep you awake.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.