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Natural Remedies to Help You Fall Asleep…and Stay Asleep

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Consistently getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a luxury—it’s essential to your health. Insufficient sleep not only leaves you feeling tired and irritable but also weakens your immune system and puts you at risk for depression, weight gain and chronic headaches. To get the full health benefits of sleep, most adults should aim for at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.

Some people have trouble falling asleep. Others wake during the night. I often help patients determine the nature of their sleep problem—and what might help. See which sleep problem here matches your own—and try one natural solution at a time for up to two weeks. If the problem persists, try a second solution in combination with the first. (Don’t try three solutions at once.) Once you find the remedies that work for you, you can use them indefinitely. Before starting, check to make sure that your sleep problem is not caused by any prescription medication you might be taking.

Trouble Falling Asleep

If you have trouble falling asleep for any reason when you first go to bed, try…

  • Sublingual melatonin. Melatonin, the hormone produced in the pineal gland in the brain, helps to control sleep and wake cycles. Sublingual melatonin supplements (lozenges placed under the tongue) generally work better than either capsules or tablets. Start with 1.5 milligrams (mg) of sublingual melatonin, 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime. (If this doesn’t help within three nights, try 3 mg.) Do not take melatonin if you are pregnant, breast-feeding or taking oral contraceptives.

If you have trouble falling asleep because of anxiety, depression or stress, try…

  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). The body uses this amino acid to manufacture the “good mood” neurotransmitter serotonin. Taking a 5-HTP supplement increases the body’s serotonin production, promoting a sense of well-being and better resistance to stress. Start with 100 mg one hour before bedtime. (If symptoms don’t improve within three nights, try 200 mg.) Don’t take 5-HTP if you are pregnant, breast-feeding or taking an antidepressant or antianxiety medication.

EXTRA: For 28 more articles with a wide variety of information on helping you sleep, go to Bottom Line’s Guide to Better Sleep…No Sleeping Pills Needed.

If 5-HTP doesn’t help and you need a more aggressive approach to combating anxiety and depression, add…

  • SedaLin. This formula, manufactured by Xymogen, can help relax the nervous system. (You can have your health-care provider order it at 800-647-6100, www.Xymogen.com). It contains Magnolia officinalis extract, from the bark of a type of magnolia tree, to relieve anxiety… and Ziziphus spinosa extract from the plant of the same name to treat irritability and insomnia. Take one capsule at bedtime for a minimum of two weeks to allow your stress hormone levels to adjust. (SedaLin also can be used on its own to relieve anxiety and nervousness during waking hours. Since its main role is to calm the nervous system, it won’t make you drowsy.) It is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

If you are mineral deficient, try…

  • Calcium and/or magnesium. These supplements can help people who are deficient in these minerals (especially seniors) fall asleep by relaxing the nervous system. Take 500 mg of calcium with 250 mg of magnesium one hour before bedtime. Some people are helped by taking either the calcium or the magnesium alone. Find what works best for you.

If you are menopausal, try…

  • Natural progesterone. This bioidentical hormone (not to be confused with the pharmaceutical progestin) has a natural sedating effect for women with sleep problems related to low progesterone.

Best: Have your hormone levels tested. If progesterone is low, apply a total of one-quarter to one-half teaspoon of progesterone cream to the inner forearm and wrist or the inner thighs 30 minutes before bedtime. One over-the-counter brand to try: Emerita Pro-Gest (800-888-6041, www.Emerita.com). For a stronger effect, take a progesterone capsule (100 mg to 150 mg), available by prescription.

Waking in the Night

If you have trouble getting back to sleep…

  • Eat a light snack before bedtime. Some people wake up in the night because their blood sugar dips, triggering the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline
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Source: Mark A. Stengler, NMD, is a naturopathic medical doctor and leading authority on the practice of alternative and integrated medicine. Dr. Stengler is author of the Health Revelations newsletter, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies (Bottom Line Books), founder and medical director of the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine in Encinitas, California, and adjunct associate clinical professor at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. http://MarkStengler.com
Date: December 1, 2009 Publication: Bottom Line Natural Healing
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