Sleep is a vital ingredient needed for the body and mind to function. Regardless of the cause, interrupted or poor quality sleep can be extremely problematic. The brain needs adequate sleep to be able to perform it’s many functions correctly and many of the body’s systems are negatively affected.
Insomnia, the common problem of not being able to fall asleep, is a symptom - not an illness – and may be linked to a variety of disorders and conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress or even hypoglycemia. Insomnia is also a common side effect linked to the use of certain prescription drugs such as antidepressants and stimulants. Furthermore, a lack of sleep can exacerbate many other disorders.
Examples of sleep disorders include:
Sleep apnea (intermittent breathing during sleep due to an obstructed airway)
Nocturnal myoclonus (unusual movement during sleep)
Bad dreams and nightmares
Use of stimulant medications may create their own sleep problems. Stimulants are designed to do just that- stimulate. Stimulants then cause the brain and nervous system to work in overdrive, increasing heartbeat and heightening senses such as sight and sound. In this over-sensitive state, a person may try to fall asleep, but noises prove too distracting. This causes the brain to ‘fight’ its natural ability to become less active. The existence underlying health conditions and symptoms can sometimes trigger sleep disorders. Common conditions that can cause sleep disorders include: Depression, Pain, Mood disorders, Generalized anxiety disorder, Alcohol withdrawal
A diet that is high in caffeine, fat, or sugars may also affect sleep patterns and trigger sleep disorders. As we age then incorrect nutritional balances (eg insufficient Vitamin B12 can cause both lack of sleep and lack of energy). Reduced melatonin- the brain chemical that triggers sleep in darkness- decreases with age and with lack of precursor serotonin.
Sleeping disorders are treated in a variety of ways, depending on the disorder. Many prescription sleeping medications are habit-forming and do not encourage the re-establishment of sleep routines Certain OTC drugs, including histamines, are also often used to induce drowsiness but can have other unwanted side effects. Natural remedies, especially herbs, have been used for thousands of years to induce drowsiness and encourage peaceful sleep. Even in today’s world, many people use these natural alternatives. They do not contain stimulants and have the additional advantage of containing ingredients that actually help the brain to naturally make its transition into the peaceful phase of sleep!
Some herbs help to make you sleepy and can be taken when needed (e.gValerian) while others work in the long term to restore healthy sleep patterns .