If you are not getting a good night’s sleep each and every night, you are not only depriving yourself of the energy you need to make the most of each day, but you are also putting your health at risk!
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The 2010 Sleep in America poll recently released by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that upwards of 75% of Americans believe that poor sleep is associated with health problems and that approximately 20% report missing work or family functions because they were too sleepy.1
These findings are hardly a surprise since more than 70 million Americans suffer from some sort of sleep disorder, and sales of over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids are at an all-time high. Americans are losing sleep over money worries and the economy, job stress, and relationship difficulties. Falling asleep is hard, staying asleep is even harder, and the health risks increase with each sleepless minute.
Although insomnia isn’t considered a disease by itself, it can lead to numerous health problems. Lack of sleep may result in reduced energy levels, lack of motivation, slower reflexes, irritability, disorientation, dark circles under the eyes, and fatigue. Sleep is also the time that the body rejuvenates and repairs itself. Without sleep, the immune system suffers and the number of natural cells that fight viruses and cancers decline.
But there is hope ... and it doesn’t come in the form of a prescription drug. There are natural solutions to insomnia and other sleep disorders that work with your body to help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake refreshed.
Melatonin and the science of sleep
Our sleep/wake cycle is governed by circadian rhythms, with two daily peak times for sleeping, night and midday. As the sun goes down in the late afternoon, the cells in the retina of the eye send a message to a cluster of nerve cells known as our circadian clock, located in the hypothalamus deep in the center of the brain. The circadian clock then signals the pineal gland to produce the hormone melatonin.
When melatonin is released by the hypothalamus, it causes drowsiness and lowers the body temperature, and ultimately it induces sleep.
Melatonin levels peak at about 2 a.m. in normal, healthy young people and about 3 a.m. in older people. The maximum amount of melatonin released in the bloodstream of older people is only half of that of young adults.2 The delay in timing and decrease in intensity of the melatonin pulse is a natural result of the aging process, and in fact, low production of melatonin at night is associated with insomnia in patients aged 55 years or older. The good news is these patients have been identified as being more likely to respond to melatonin supplementation.3
By giving your body the natural sleep inducers it needs—melatonin, GABA, and taurine—and naturally reducing stress and anxiety with proven medicinal herbs like passion flower, magnolia, and bacopa, you will go a long way toward getting the healthful sleep you need.
In addition to melatonin, there are other natural sleep aids available. Some, like melatonin, are produced naturally in the body but production can decline with age making supplementation necessary.
Others are natural herbs and nutrients which can be used to re-establish a normal sleep rhythm. Also, a number of these nutrients pacify nervousness and alleviate stress, which can contribute to disrupted sleep rhythms.
Another natural sleep aid: GABA
GABA (Gamma Amino-Butyric Acid) is naturally produced by the body and is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the brain. Its function is to decrease neuron activity and inhibit nerve cells from over-firing. Too much brain activity can lead to restlessness and insomnia, but GABA works to inhibit the number of nerve cells that fire in the brain, reducing anxiety and allowing a restful nights sleep.45
Normally, our brain produces all the GABA we need. But our GABA levels may become depleted from poor diet, illness, or exposure to environmental toxins. GABA levels also decline with age and a deficiency can result in insomnia,6 anxiety, irritability, and depression.
GABA sleep studies
A recent double-blind, placebo controlled study at the UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, followed 18 patients with sleep disorders who were given either a placebo or a supplement containing GABA. Before they started the supplement, it took the treated group about 32 minutes to fall asleep. After taking the supplement, it only took about 19 minutes, on average. Before supplementation, the duration of their sleep was about 5 hours, and after supplementation it increased to about 6.83 hours. There was virtually no change in the placebo group.7
Based on these findings, along with personal accounts, raising GABA levels seems to have a significant impact on quality of sleep.
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.
National Sleep Foundation, 2010 Sleep in America poll
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