Maintaining good physical and mental health require regularly getting a sound, relaxing night’s sleep. Consequences of not enough sleep can lead to serious complications, including cardiovascular and kidney disease, breathing, difficulties, respiratory problems and obesity. Lack of sleep also has a negative impact on memory, mood and rational thinking. Over the counter sleeping aids and prescription drugs may provide temporarily relief, but can have undesirable and even dangerous side effects. Fortunately, there are some healthy, natural alternatives for getting a good night’s rest.
Melatonin is a substance produced by the pineal gland to control circadian rhythm, which is the body’s internal clock that regulates the sleeping and waking cycle. As people age, melatonin production can slow, disrupting sleep patterns and leading to insomnia. Available at health food stores, small doses of Melatonin taken as a dietary supplement can help promote sound sleep.
Tryptophan, which occurs naturally in turkey, is the substance that makes people drowsy following a big Thanksgiving Dinner. Tryptophan produces serotonin, which in turn makes melatonin, the same substance produced by the pineal gland that regulates the circadian rhythm and helps promote sleep. Tryptophan is also found in dairy products, nuts and legumes, and can be purchased as a dietary supplement at health food stores.
Chamomile has been known for centuries for its mild tranquilizing effects and sleep-inducing properties. Also known as “sleep tea”, chamomile helps relieve depression and decrease anxiety. People experiencing sleep disorders may find a cup of chamomile tea taken half an hour before bedtime can make the difference between lying awake tossing and turning for hours or getting a good night’s rest.
Valerian root is another natural substance known to promote sleep and relaxation. Found in health food stores and pharmacies, it’s an herbal sleep aid that’s been used for years to treat insomnia and anxiety. Taken before bedtime either in capsule form or brewed as a tea, valerian root promotes sound sleep by increasing the body’s gamma aminobutryic acid (GABA) level, which is a naturally occurring substance that helps relieve anxiety by relaxing the brain.
Physical exercise, according to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, can also bring relief to chronic insomnia sufferers. According to the study, as little as just 10 minutes daily spent engaged in low-intensity aerobic exercise such as walking or cycling can significantly improve relaxation and sleep quality. Exercise also helps reduce the risk of stroke, sleep apnea and various other sleep disorders.
The Right Mattress can also help improve sleep quality without resorting to potentially habit-forming medications. Replacing an old, sagging mattress with a well-constructed sleep system that gives the proper support for the sleeper’s body type, weight and preferred sleeping position often brings immediate relief from insomnia, bodily aches and pains and other sleeping problems.
As with any physical disorder, it’s always a good idea to consult with your health care provider before using sleep inducing supplements or starting an exercise routine.