What to Do for the Sleep You Deserve

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Friday, July, 08 2011 04:40:00 pm   , 1056 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 126269 views

Part 3 [Part 1 , Part 2]

Except for times like my recent* bout of fibromyalgia (or whenever I inadvertently come into contact with the compounds I've been describing), I really have little trouble falling asleep---which is not to say that I always retire early and follow a rigid sleep schedule. Sleep for me now is more a matter of my desire or need for it.

Although I have some things I do to fall asleep fast or to reset my biological clock from time to time, by in large such steps are no longer a big concern for me now. About the most effective thing I do now if I'm not drifting off to my satisfaction is to take a spoonful of honey. Sounds almost silly and just too darn simple, but it does work, quite well in fact. Honey contains several forms of very simple sugars (chiefly fructose and sucrose), and sugars are soporifics (anything which causes sleep). True, sugars are important energy foods, but their soporific effect is felt by the body way before the sugars reach the cells where they are metabolized to release energy [1].

Angelic* noted that chamomile is a very popular herb in Greece and something she takes to help her fall asleep. It's a natural sleep aid I've used for years, but the taste is kind of strange. It has a scent like apples, but I swear I detect a taste or smell of old inner tube as well. I put a spoonful of honey in it (or if I don't have it, just regular granulated sugar---which is also soporific).
Something that I often take with the chamomile tea (that is, mixed into it) is a few drops of valerian root extract. I like the extract much more than the capsules because the latter upset my stomach. So I get the effect of three sleep aids all in one cup (chamomile, valerian, and sugar or honey). (I worry a bit about the sugar and so brush my teeth with a bit of baking soda, which leaves no residue that I can't tolerate, as would fluoride, which I mentioned was one of the compounds that caused me sleeplessness. Also, I don't miss using fluoride anyhow, because a lot of people are still convinced that it is carcinogenic. I'm not arguing either way, but I'd rather err on the side of caution.) When I don't have any chamomile to put the valerian root extract in, I put a few drops into half a glass of Sprite or 7-Up. It doesn't exactly "dissolve" well throughout (as it does in the tea), but I just drink it on down anyhow. Incidentally, 7-Up was reformulated in 2006 when calcium disodium edta was taken out (hooray!) [2].

Shelli* mentioned aromatherapy, and sent a website url [3] for some articles on aromatherapy and lists of scents popular for thus treating insomnia. I've never tried any of the scents mentioned therein, but I do recall trying one (probably real unusual) thing that I had heard about on t.v., and it worked: onions. (Yep, sounds silly, but I took a little piece of an onion to bed and just sniffed it every now and then and darn if I didn't dose right off.) A bit of internet research just now reveals that Pliny the Elder wrote about the value of onions in inducing sleep [4].

Another often recommended tip for falling asleep is to drink warm milk (hmm, wonder why it has to be warm?---yuk!). Drinking a bit of milk has helped me, but because I have acid reflux and am a bit lactose intolerant (must be the Cherokee in me!), I really need to be careful (and it is thus something I wouldn't recommend---ever woke up choking on stomach acid in the middle of the night?---scary). Milk has calcium which has a calming effect on the body. It also has tryptophan (as do foods such as brown rice, peanuts, turkey, and soy [5]---the last of which I am sensitive to, in spite of its having something useful for sleep) which is well known to have a calming effect (in fact, L-tryptophan tablets were a quite popular in the late '70's and early '80's before some glitch in their manufacture caused health concerns about taking them.)

Tish* commented on the hormone melatonin and its role in establishing and maintaining the circadian rhythms of the body. She pointed out that it is made in the brain by the pineal gland. There melatonin is created from the amino acid tryptophan in the synthesis of serotonin. Interestingly, serotonin deficiency is associated with several disorders including fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, and tinnitus. Serotonin plays an important role in the regulation of sleep [6]. Tish also pointed out that because melatonin is made by the pineal gland, it is made available for sale in a natural form (made from the pineal glands of animals) and a synthetic form. I share her concerns about taking the natural form due to possible viral contamination.

Lastly, speaking of circadian rhythms of the body (basically the body's "clock"), there is a condition, known as S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as winter depression), that affects some people north of 30-degrees N latitude and south of 30-degrees S latitude. It is a depression related to the limited amount of daylight and also to lower amounts of melatonin and serotonin. Sunlight produces in humans a form of Vitamin D (called solitrol) which is more effective than the form found in milk and fish. This form, solitrol, is involved antagonistically with melatonin in producing changes in mood and maintaining circadian rhythms. So, especially in winter, it is very important that we spend time (even during cold spells) outside so that our skin can produce in abundance the form of Vitamin D we need to set and maintain our "body clocks." Staying indoors frustrates that rhythm [7]. One need not be out in open sunlight, but really in winter that shouldn't be much of an issue---it's not like your going to get burned to a crisp as you would on a beach in mid-summer.


1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey


2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7-Up



4) http://onions-usa.org/all-about-onions/history-of-onions


5) http://www.cocoonnutrition.org/catalog/page_tryptophan.php

6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melatonin


7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder





*This part of this series on insomnia and sleep first appeared on February 7, 2007, as a blog entry in my Y!360 social-networking blog. Names cited herein are of contacts who had commented to part 2. [Part 1 , Part 2]


Comment from: Peter Gruwell [Visitor]
Peter GruwellIn my opinion too many people take sleep for granted. It is usually low on the priority list when there is a time crunch and something has to go. As hard as it is to believe some people are too lazy to go to bed at night. We should make sleep a higher priority because it helps us do more during the times we are awake.
08/16/11 @ 13:11
Comment from: Justus Kai [Visitor]
Justus  Kaiif you don?t get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night, any persistent feelings tiredness is most likely due to not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, rather than having too much REM. Although some people can ?get by? on less than 7 hours of sleep?or think that they can ?get by?? it?s not sustainable. The human body pays a heavy toll in the long-run, including higher risks for heart disease and diabetes and a decrease in cognitive abilities. If it?s work that?s keeping you up, strongly consider making sleep a higher priority, one way or another.
01/19/12 @ 06:25
Comment from: Lilly [Visitor]
LillyIt's hard to find educated people in this particular subject, however, you sound like you know what you're talking about! Thanks
09/18/12 @ 23:33

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