There are three forms of insomnia – transient, acute, and chronic.
A good night’s sleep is a huge factor in people’s health and wellbeing.
An estimated 50-70 million US adults have a sleep or wakefulness disorder!
This Sleep Guide infographic was produced by LiveLoveSpa.com
- Institute of Medicine. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2006.
- Studies have suggested a relationship between chronic sleep deprivation and increased obesity risk.
- Research has linked short-term sleep deprivation with a tendency to eat bigger portions, a preference for high-calorie, high-carb foods and a people being more likely to choose unhealthy foods while grocery shopping.
- Studies have linked lack of sleep to both colorectal and aggressive breast cancers.
Insomnia is medically defined as the inability to obtain the proper rest needed for adequate functioning throughout the day. Insomnia may often present as a symptom of an underlying medical condition, be traced back to lifestyle habits, mental or emotional disturbances, or linked to a disruption in the body’s circadian rhythm — the natural 24-hour clock that has been observed in humans, plants, animals, and cyanobacteria.
The following provides information on insomnia natural treatments.
Insomnia is experienced differently by those suffering from the condition, but it is marked by the inability to feel sufficiently rested, regardless of the amount of sleep acquired during the night. In some individuals, insomnia and its symptoms follow a night of restless tossing and turning but for others, insomnia sets in despite six or seven hours of sleep.
Unfortunately, insomnia can affect individuals at any age. It is estimated that 30%-50% of the population is affected by insomnia at some point in their lives, and 10% suffers from chronic insomnia.
There are many medical conditions that can cause insomnia like Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome. These diagnoses often go undiagnosed for many years and a discussion initially with someone who can monitor your sleep may lead to a discussion with a medical clinician for further testing.
How Insomnia Feels
Common symptoms of insomnia include difficulty in falling or remaining asleep throughout the night, feelings of exhaustion throughout the day, an inability to focus, feelings of anxiety or of being “on edge,” intestinal distress, tension headaches, and dizziness.
Prolonged insomnia can lead to inner ear disturbances such as tinnitus, or persistent migraines. Long-term insomnia is also linked with an increased risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer, and automobile related accidents. Moreover, insomnia can be both a symptom and a sign of an underlying medical condition.
How Insomnia is Conventionally Treated
Treatment for insomnia may be sought through a psychologist, physician, counselor, or social worker. Because of insomnia’s complex nature, treatment will vary from individual to individual. Conventional treatment often suggested by physicians includes the use of prescription drugs. Some commonly prescribed drugs used to treat insomnia include Ambien (zolpidem), Lunesta (eszopicilone), Rozerem (ramelteon), Sonata (zaleplon), and Silenor (doxepin).
However, prescription pills, along with over-the-counter sleep aids, should not be taken unless a doctor is consulted and a full seven to eight hours of sleep is possible or individuals may potentially experience morning grogginess and other side effects. Many of the conventional sleeping medications may only be prescribed temporarily, as they can be habit forming.
Struggling with insomnia is extremely difficult and the frustration, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness that insomnia brings can push even the strongest personality to their breaking point. The good news for insomnia sufferers is that there is hope beyond temporary medication. There are many holistic therapies available for treating insomnia that can help improve your health and well-being.
Holistic Healing for Insomnia Sufferers
A holistic approach to treating insomnia focuses on the individual and not just the symptoms. Holistic therapies address the mind, body, and emotions. This multi-prong approach is effective for treating insomnia because insomnia’s root can often be traced back to emotional disturbances, stress, and/or depression. By treating the whole person and not just the symptoms of sleep deprivation, holistic and natural therapies provide a comprehensive approach for handling insomnia and renewing a natural sleep cycle. Some of these holistic therapies include Behavioral Therapy, Relaxation Techniques, Acupuncture and Acupressure, Yoga and Meditation, and Biofeedback.
One of the most effective behavioral therapies for insomnia is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, otherwise known as CBT-I, addresses sleep habits, scheduling patterns, and thoughts and emotions that may be keeping you from much needed restorative rest. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works through several techniques in which a CBT-I clinician will document sleep assessments, have the individual record a sleep journal to track sleep patterns and habits, and provide information on techniques like Sleep Restriction Therapy, Stimulus Control, and Sleep Hygiene. Each of these techniques are designed to help reprogram the brain and negative sleep patterns that have developed over time. One of the major benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the self-empowerment it provides, especially when it comes to relapse prevention. While CBT-I will take time and effort, rewards include gaining valuable knowledge and key practices that can help combat against recurring insomnia.
- Sleep Restriction Therapy is a controversial step of CBT-I, since it initially involves the restriction of sleep. Although it is counterintuitive, it is a significant and effective component of CBT-I. It involves controlling time in bed based upon the person’s sleep efficiency in order to restore the homeostatic drive to sleep.
- Stimulus Control aims to associate the bed with sleeping and limit its association with stimulating behavior. People with insomnia are instructed to go to bed only when they are tired, limit activities in bed to sleep and sex, get out of bed at the same time every morning, get up and move to another room when sleep-onset does not occur within ten minutes.
- Sleep Hygiene aims to control the environment and behaviors that precede sleep. Go to the Holistic Lifestyles section for more on Sleep Hygiene.
Individuals suffering from insomnia often have an impaired ability to relax. The mind races, the body is restless, the breath is irregular, and a continual series of mental and physical irritations prevents the onset of sleep. Relaxation techniques specifically designed to soothe tight muscles, increase regular respiration and clear the mind are particularly useful to stave off insomnia. Common relaxation techniques include deep abdominal breathing, meditation, and exercises that will relax each muscle group before bed and during the night.
- An effective breathing technique is the square breath. Sitting or laying down in a comfortable position, inhale for three breaths, hold the breath for a count of three and exhale to a count of three. Repeat this square for 3-5 cycles. Other breathing exercises stem from Yogic Pranayama and can be learned from a Yoga practitioner.
- Visual meditation techniques include closing the eyes, thinking of a peaceful object or scene, visualizing its detail and taking calming breaths for 3-5min. Guided meditation with audio tapes or an instructor, are also highly effective for insomnia.
- Progressive muscle relaxation techniques help an individual to relax each muscle group before sleep. To begin, tense a single muscle group (i.e. hands) for 5 seconds. After 5 seconds, release the tension in that muscle group, allow the muscles to go limp, and exhale. Hold this relaxed pose for 15 seconds and then proceed on to the next major muscle group.
Founded on the concept of removing blockages in mental, physical, and emotional life force and energy, acupuncture is the science and art of restoring the balance of natural energy to the body. Developed within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this form of therapy has proven useful in alleviating numerous conditions and disorders. Similarly, acupressure promotes physical, mental and emotional healing. As insomnia oftentimes reflects a disturbance to the body’s natural sleep cycle called the circadian rhythm, acupuncture and acupressure are highly effective forms of treatment to restore sleep.
The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture uses very thin needles inserted into specific reflex points of the body to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissues associated with a host of disorders. In regards to insomnia treatment, acupuncture triggers a sequence of messages to the brain that subsequently increase amounts of certain chemicals (like serotonin) that play a central role in sleep promotion and relaxation.The flow of energy in the body is often blocked at certain points along energetic channels called meridians. Acupuncture stimulates points along these channels to remove the blockages and allow for muscle relaxation, enhanced respiration, pain relief and the onset of sleep.
A needle-free variation of acupuncture called acupressure can also be used to treat insomnia. Acupressure targets the same reflex points on the body as acupuncture, but delivers treatment via finger pressure rather than penetrating the skin with needles. It is believed that acupuncture and acupressure work to adjust the body’s natural circadian rhythm, making it a gentle and ideal form of treatment for all ages, including the elderly. Commonly used pressure points to aid in relaxation and induce sleep can be found at the base of the neck, along the shoulder blades, between the eyebrows, and directly below both sides of the ankle bone.
Restorative Yoga & Meditation
The mind-body practices of Restorative Yoga and Meditation work hand-in-hand with holistic therapies like Biofeedback and relaxation techniques.
Yoga works to renew the body’s natural flow of energy while also conditioning the body to create fresh energy through various postures. Practicing yoga also trains the mind to focus on present moment awareness, similar to a key aspect of relaxation techniques that aid in the treatment of insomnia. Adopting a daily practice of at least 20 minutes of yoga can help restore circadian rhythm and promote relaxation and sleep acquisition.
A regular meditation practice is wonderful for self-healing and particularly useful in the treatment of insomnia and its related issues. Meditation works by stilling the thoughts in the mind through the practice of several techniques such as focusing on breathing, chanting, and practicing detachment from outside influences while sitting in a relaxed comfortable position for a period of time. The ability to enhance sensations of peace and calm within the mind is one of the forefront benefits of meditation. Reduced levels of stress and a greater flow of energy are additional meditation benefits that work at combating insomnia.
Biofeedback is a non-invasive way to monitor your body’s relaxation levels and in turn, mentally manipulate your heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological responses. Utilizing biofeedback as a holistic treatment of insomnia subscribes to the belief of “mind over matter.” In a typical biofeedback session, sensors are attached to the patient to record the presence of muscle tension, heart rate, breathing rate, and hand temperature. The visual, and sometimes audio, recording of the fluctuating physiological responses helps the patient to recognize and become familiar with their stress and subsequently practice relaxation techniques to alter their responses accordingly.
In a Biofeedback session, a patient may notice sweaty palms, increased heart rate, and faster breathing when asked to recall an unpleasant situation. In doing so, the patient will witness the rise and fall of stress levels in their systems by releasing their muscles and taking slow, deep breaths while watching the monitor. This mental recognition allows the insomnia sufferer to have greater control over their bodily stress responses, empowers the patient, and teaches them relaxation practices to employ as they seek sleep in the comfort of their own bedtime routine.
Holistic Lifestyle Changes
Holistic lifestyle changes are extremely powerful when taking action to relieve insomnia. By following sleep hygiene practices, creating and adhering to a routine daily schedule, and employing tried-and-true holistic therapies such as aromatherapy and blue light therapy, the active education of sleep is possible without the aid of medication.
Sleep hygiene, one of the main components taught under Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can be adopted independently of Behavioral Therapy to provide simple, effective methods to reduce sleep disturbances and promote sound sleep.
Common aspects of sleep hygiene include:
- Only using your bedroom space for sleep and sexual activity.
- Avoid reading, watching television, or eating in your bedroom
- Avoiding naps during daytime hours
- Adjusting the light and sound of your bedroom to be more conducive to sleep
- Adding 20 minutes of exercise to your daily routine
- Avoiding tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol in the evenings
- Avoiding a heavy meal before bedtime. It is best to finish dinner a few hours before sleep and to avoid foods that would cause indigestion.
- Creating a bedtime routine that induces relaxation. A hot bath, a cup of warm milk, or twenty minutes of meditation are all ideal relaxation techniques to establish as a pre-bedtime routine.
Another lifestyle modification to try includes creating and sticking to a regular routine. By establishing a set bedtime and a set wake up time, the body is able to synchronize with its natural circadian rhythm. It is vital to maintain this regular routine throughout the weekends as well as during the workweek, and be patient while the body and mind work to discover an optimal bedtime and wake time. Once a regular routine is set, it will be possible to make changes as need be by slowly adjusting the time schedule over the course of 15-minute increments.While attempting to set the bed/wake time may be initially difficult remembering to always wake up at the same time is critical. There may be nights initially that one may have little or no sleep. Eventually, one will get tired earlier so that the bedtime will come earlier.
Environmental Stimuli Inhibition
For some, insomnia follows an inability to block out noise or light from their surroundings. Eye masks, earplugs, and white noise machines all work wonders in eliminating sound and light distractions that may be keeping an individual awake. If suffering from sleep apnea and insomnia, a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) Machine may greatly ease symptoms and allow normal respiration while sleeping. The main focus of environmental stimuli inhibition is to create a quiet, peaceful, and dark bedroom atmosphere that will be conducive to a full night’s rest. For more tips on how to create a sleep promoting environment, visit Sleepfoundation.org
Aromatherapy, or the use of essential oils, has a long-standing history as aiding in sleep therapy. Essential oils such as lavender, ylang-ylang, patchouli, valerian, and naroli are all renowned for their ability to ease tension and induce relaxation. The healing properties of essential oil rapidly interact with body systems connected to emotion, nervous system, body temperature, and appetite. You can apply a few drops of the essential oil to your pillowcase, add the oils to a diffuser in your bedroom, or combine a few drops into a warm bath before bedtime.
Holistic Diet & Nutrition
In addition to making schedule changes and practicing sleep hygiene techniques, there are also several diet and nutrition modifications that can be made to promote better sleep. There are a host of wholesome foods that contain melatonin, a naturally occurring chemical that has been found to help induce sleep. Alternatively, there are also caffeinated foods and beverages that should be avoided as when seeking to improve insomnia
Eliminate Sources of Caffeine
- An important dietary change that can help combat insomnia is to eliminate sources of caffeine that prevent the body from resting peacefully. Green tea offers an alternative option to coffee. While green tea still contains some caffeine, it has L-Theanine that modulates caffeine metabolism so the tea is less stimulating to your nervous system than coffee but equally comforting. If coffee is a must, be sure that it is only consumed in the morning, or at least a full eight hours before bedtime. Other sources of caffeine to avoid after lunchtime include soft drinks, chocolate, and tea.
The addition of certain foods to your diet can help induce or sustain much needed sleep for proper daily functioning.
Tart Cherry Juice
One of the most delicious dietary additions is the consumption of tart cherry juice to induce sleep. Recent studies have shown that tart cherry juice has an effective impact on aiding insomnia sufferers to sleep. The science behind tart cherry juice’s effectiveness on sleep acquisition is related to its high levels of melatonin.According to Dr. Apovian, author of The Overnight Diet and Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston University School of Medicine, “Antioxidant-rich tart cherries are one of the world’s best sources of melatonin. Tart cherry juice concentrate, available in health food stores or online, has been shown to reduce insomnia and improve the quality and duration of sleep. Remember that it is a liquid concentrate; it must be diluted before using it.”
Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that is released into our bloodstreams at night, can be an effective sleep aid when taken orally. In addition to foods like tart cherry juice and walnuts, you can purchase over-the-counter melatonin supplements as a sleep aid. As always, be sure to consult your physician before taking any supplements to clear any potential drug interactions.
Another dietary supplement that can help to promote sleep is valerian root. It has sedative properties and promotes a sense of calm and well-being. Valerian root has been used throughout centuries to aid in relaxation and is a common ingredient in conventional holistic sleep aids. As always, consult with your physician before taking this and any other sleep supplements as some drug interactions are possible.
Another nutritious, delicious way to prevent insomnia is to include foods that contain tryptophan at dinner time. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that does not naturally occur in our systems. When ingested through food sources that contain this amino acid, tryptophan works in the body to produce niacin and serotonin. Both niacin and serotonin aid in the regulation of sleep cycles. Common sources of tryptophan include cheese, chicken, turkey, fish, nuts, milk, soy, and tofu.
Products & Equipment
Numerous aromatherapy products and equipment are available to aid in the treatment of insomnia. For aromatherapy, an essential oil diffuser is a commonly used method. Diffusers come in different forms; some are candle-lit and others are electric. As the diffuser is activated and heats up, the water will steam and release the essential oil into the air. You will want to breath deeply and slowly to take in the essential oil molecules that are released through the diffuser. If you prefer a simpler approach to aromatherapy, there are many candles and oils you can incorporate into your bedroom.
Environmental Stimuli Inhibition
As mentioned earlier, there are many innovative products on the market today that work to create a more conducive sleeping environment in your bedroom. Eye masks, ear plugs and sound machines can all assist in promoting a serene sleeping environment and rest. Additionally, sound reducing machines, air purifiers, and NightWave Sleep Assistant may offer protection against environmental stimuli. The NightWave Sleep Assistant incorporates light effect with deep breathing exercises to deliver powerful sleep assistance.
Living with insomnia does not have to become a lifetime of insomnia. From aromatherapy to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to adjustments in diet, schedule, and mindset, an array of treatment options exist that can bring relief and rest. Insomnia sufferers can take heart in the knowledge that there are many actions to take today for a good night’s rest tomorrow. If insomnia persists, there are numerous resources available for treatment including therapists, holistic providers and sleep centers.
- Sleep therapists are trained medical professionals who utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the treatment of insomnia. They include psychologist and psychiatrists who are highly trained to uncover the root cause or causes behind a case of insomnia.
- There are also many holistic health providers trained in various forms of holistic therapies that treat insomnia. They include acupuncturists, Ayurvedic practitioners, massage therapists, and meditation or yoga instructors.
National Sleep Centers
Community resources and social support provide a much-needed avenue of encouragement for insomnia sufferers Sleep centers are available nationwide to conduct a host of assessments and sleep studies and enable insomnia sufferers to better understand their natural sleep rhythms and potential insomnia triggers. Led by specialists and physicians, a local sleep center will be able to provide a deeper understanding of the insomnia‘s root cause, provide a care plan, and oversee the recommended course of treatment. A list of national sleep centers can be found at Sleepfoundation.org.
Updated: March 2014
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People who have trouble getting to sleep often have difficulty relaxing. An ongoing series of mental and physical irritations prevent sleep from arriving – their mind races, their body is restless, and their breath is uneven.
Relaxation techniques specifically designed to soothe tight muscles, increase regular respiration and clear the mind are particularly useful to ward off insomnia.
Meditation is a relaxation technique that can help one find the way to dreamland. Guided visual meditation technique includes closing the eyes, thinking of a peaceful object or scene, visualizing its detail and taking calming breaths.
Bedtime Zen has created this holistic, natural guided meditation to help people fall asleep more quickly and regularly. YouTube comments include, “This is amazing! So relaxing. Didn’t think it would actually work but it sent me straight to sleep. Thank you.” The video combines background music and sounds, with a soothing voice that will gently guide you to sleep.
[themedy_media type=”youtube” url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2qD_TAcz0E”]
Children require more sleep than any adult. It is when they grow, when they decompress, and when fuel up for another day of development. However, for some children sleep isn’t just vital for proper growth and function – it’s necessary to keep chronic childhood conditions from flaring up.
Many common conditions have multiple care plans to try to combat their symptoms. With children, however, it is always best to try to find the most organic form of therapy. An average child requires anywhere from 8 to 12 hours of sleep a night to function properly. For children with chronic conditions such as migraines or Fibromyalgia, they would most likely benefit with more sleep.
Sleep produces serotonin. Serotonin is a vital neurotransmitter for the brain. When there is a significant drop in serotonin, the blood vessels in the brain and other parts of the body swell as a reaction to the lack of hormone. As a result, migraine symptoms increase dramatically. Basically, the serotonin levels stop the brain from transmitting the signal to feel pain and subsequently the blood vessels do not respond by swelling.
Another issue with sleep deficit and chronic conditions is that it can create symptoms that are similar to other conditions. Many children are diagnosed with ADHD or ADD because of symptoms that are similar to Fibromyalgia. More specifically, Fibromyalgia has a common symptom known as brain fog. It is described as a lack of focus, inattentiveness, irritability, and overall fatigue. These are symptoms that are remarkably similar to those of ADHD and ADD. Having a sleep deficit can greatly aggravate Fibromyalgia brain fog and can be misdiagnosed as a psycho-neurological disorder. What this leads to is an inappropriate treatment plan and often times an unsuccessful treatment result. Imagine what treating a child with a Ritalin derivative would do when the accurate approach would have been to treat chronic fatigue syndrome that often presents itself with Fibromyalgia.
It may be difficult to incorporate a strong sleep pattern in some children, especially those that struggle with certain chronic disorders; however there are some natural approaches that can render success. Melatonin in small doses has shown to be very effective to help children fall asleep and sleep more soundly. Other children benefit from a strong bedtime routine that includes meditation and low stimulation. The bottom line is that all children need adequate sleep. Children that have underlying chronic conditions not only need more sleep to thrive, they need it to remain successful in their treatment plan for migraines and Fibromyalgia.
A gentle massage can do more than just relieve pain and discomfort in the body. If you have chronic difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep because of insomnia, massage can help establish a pattern of restful and rejuvenating sleep.
As we move throughout our daily lives and experience stress, we store a lot of tension in our muscles and ligaments without knowing it. Restlessness at bedtime could be a result of anxiety, overwork, overeating, indigestion, an empty stomach, smoking, or an excessive intake of caffeine or sugar. Feeling angry, upset, resentful, afraid, or unsafe can also contribute to sleeplessness. Through massage, pent-up energy due to stress is released from targeted parts of the body.
Studies have shown that massage enhances relaxation and improves sleep patterns, especially when used in tandem with essential oils. Lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia) in particular may result in improved sleep quality, reduced anxiety, a more stable mood, and increased mental capacity, reports a study conducted at University of Maryland Medical Center.
That being said, certain types of massage may be more effective for particular people. Swedish Massage, the most popular type of massage, is both relaxing and stimulating as it combines movement of joints with soft, kneading strokes to massage the topmost muscle layers. Thai Massage, on the other hand, uses yoga-like stretching and puts gentle pressure on energy lines in the body called meridians. It is similar to Shiatsu Massage, which means “finger pressure” and involves the therapist using rhythmic pressure on precise acupressure points. Shiatsu massage focuses on restoring the flow of the body’s vital energy, called chi.
In addition, Neuromuscular Therapy Massage and Deep Tissue Massage are used in cases of chronic pain and severe stiffness. They target underlying causes of discomfort in the muscular and nervous systems. Chair Massage offers a 15- to 20-minute seated massage of one’s neck, head, shoulders, back, arms, and hands.
Edan Harari of Kinetic Massage Therapy says, “A good thing about massage is that while it’s recommended that you see a professional for complete and more effective one hour sessions, you can also benefit greatly from having your partner or a loved one give you some nurturing and gentle massage before you go to sleep.”
Written by Nicole Kagan
Reviewed by Edan Harari, LMT
- Benefits of thai massage. (n.d.).
- Insomnia. (2012, January 20). Retrieved from
- Massage therapy styles and health benefits. (2012, May 10). Retrieved from
One of the biggest complaints that those with Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) mention is an inability to get a good night’s sleep. Both the quality and quantity of sleep can be affected and they can awaken in the morning feeling just as tired, if not more than when they “tried” to sleep. If pain and depression often accompany sleep problems in FMS, adding aromatherapy and music to your nighttime sleep regimen at night could be considered. It is very likely that the two together may be more beneficial than using either modality separately.
The essential oils, especially lavender oil, have been studied suggests that essential oils have many benefits including reducing pain and helping to achieve a better night’s sleep. Lavender oil also has anti-inflammatory properties. The use of the essential oils in promoting the quality of sleep has demonstrated success in research of hospitalized patients.
In one study, approximately seventy women aged 45-55 with insomnia were randomized into two groups – one that received lavender therapy and one that did not. The women in this trial who received inhalations of lavender twice per week reported a significant increase in sleep quality. Lavender aromatherapy was also found to have a positive effect on decreasing the heart rate after one month and three months of therapy. Why is this important? Because the hallmark of a good night’s sleep is that the body “slows down,” including a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.
In another study whose focus was examining the effect of music on pain in those with fibromyalgia, it was found that those who listened to music once a day for four weeks in total reported a significant decrease in pain and depression when compared to those who did not.
While each therapy separately demonstrated a positive benefit, another study showed that the combination of music therapy and aromatherapy in addition to touch therapy, was beneficial in helping patients get a good night’s sleep.
What can we draw from this information? Well, if you have fibromyalgia, understand that you will likely need a multifaceted approach to help you achieve a good night’s sleep. This combination approach is likely to be more successful than an individual therapy alone. It may include listening to soothing music before and while you are sleeping, permeating your room with the relaxing aroma of lavender oil, feeling the endearing touch a loved one. This is saying that the treatment of fibromyalgia involves the use of all of our senses. We need to pay attention to all of them in order to promote successful healing.
- Chien LW, Cheng SL et al. “The effect of lavender aromatherapy on autonomic nervous system in midlife women with insomnia.” Evidence Based Complementary And Alternative Medicine. 2012;2012:740813.
- Demirbag B, Erci B. “The effects of sleep and touch therapy on symptoms of fibromyalgia and depression.” Iranian Journal of Public Health. 2012;41(11):44-53.
- Huang MY, Liao MH et al. “Effect of lavender essential oil on LPS-stimulated inflammation.” 2012;40(4):845-59
- Onieva-Zafra MD, Castro-Sanchez AM et al. “Effect of music as nursing intervention for people diagnosed with fibromyalgia.” Pain Management Nursing. 2013 Jun;14(2):e39-46.
Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/mydecorative/9041888546
We all know sleep is important—and that many of us don’t get enough.
“Sleep is critical in healing, growth and memory consolidation as well as a number of important hormonal processes,” says Steven Y. Park, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and author of Sleep Interrupted: A Physician Reveals the #1 Reason Why So Many of Us Are Sick and Tired. “Studies show that getting too little sleep (as well as too much sleep) is associated with significantly higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, depression, cancer and death.”
Yet for all the airtime devoted to healthy sleep habits (or lack thereof) there are some surprising facts many people don’t know. For example:
- Lack of sleep promotes weight gain. Sleep helps regulate appetite hormones so not getting enough shuteye encourages cravings of sugary, fatty, starchy and/or salty foods. None of which are good when watching the waistline.
- The amount of sleep we need can vary greatly between individuals. “This is a function of their specific brain’s needs,” says Dennis Rosen, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, associate medical director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital Boston and blogger at Psychology Today’s Sleeping Angels . “Some adults do fine on six hours; others cannot function with fewer than eight-and-a-half. The former are not ‘supermen’ and the latter aren’t lazy—it’s just natural variability.”
- Obstructive sleep apnea can cause more than just a bad night’s sleep. If untreated it increases the risk of heart attack or stroke by two to three times. And odds of getting into a car accident? Try a FIFTEEN times greater likelihood.
- Obstructive sleep apnea is not always obvious or easy to diagnose. While it often affects people who are older and/or overweight, it can also strike individuals who are young, thin and don’t even snore. In fact, 24 percent of men and 9 percent of women have it (and 64 percent of people over age 65)—yet 80 percent are not diagnosed.
- Many people think they wake up at night because they need to go to the bathroom. However, more likely it’s a breathing obstruction that caused the waking. “Going to the bathroom two or more times at night increases your risk of dying by 50 percent,” says Dr. Park.
- Shiftwork is also dangerous due to its affect on sleep. In fact, it’s considered a carcinogen along with ultraviolet radiation and diesel fumes.
So how can we know if we’re getting enough quality sleep? Listen to our bodies. For people who don’t feel sleepy during the day and don’t have significant medical, behavioral or psychiatric problems all systems are likely go.
To truly put it to the test, Dr. Rosen suggests the following. “To really answer if you’re getting enough sleep you need to keep careful track of how much you sleep when on vacation, for example, untrammeled by other needs.”
Finally, keep in mind that while obstructive sleep apnea can be serious and should be evaluated by a doctor if suspected, there are things we can do on our own to improve our sleep as well. Keep to a regular sleep schedule (no, that doesn’t mean sleeping until noon on weekends), avoid screen time an hour or two before bed and realize the importance of a good night sleep. “Think of sleep as your most important appointment of the day,” says Dr. Park. “Don’t be late and don’t stand yourself up.”
By Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at www.kristenestewart.com.