I love late night TV. Give me Lettermen, Leno, Conan, Stewart or whoever has the best lineup, and I’m a happy man. Like many of my patients, I’ve used late night TV as a way to relax, have a laugh and unwind after a long day.
Then I noticed something that wasn’t so funny. Every afternoon around 3 P.M., I felt exhausted. I know that caffeine or a sugary snack would help me snap out of it, but I also know it’s not a healthy solution. It wasn’t long before I realized that my late night TV fix was causing my tiredness. Figuring out how to get more sleep was all it took to fix the problem, and it can do the same for you.
Stop Sleepwalking Through Your Days!
The first thing I ask my patients when they complain about being tired most of the day is what are their sleeping habits? For most adults, it is essential to sleep for seven to eight hours every night. Some people need even more. There are a variety of reasons why adequate sleep is so important:
1) It regulates mood – We all know how easy it is to snap at our spouse, kids or co-workers when we’re feeling tired. If you get plenty of sleep you’ll find it easier to keep your emotion on an even keel.
2) It may help you lose weight – While you’re sleeping the body is busy performing functions that are crucial to good health, like regulating certain hormones. Sufficient levels of the hormones leptin and ghrelin keep your appetite in check, regulate fat storage and send signals to your brain when your stomach is full.
3) It helps you stay alert all day – It’s true that people experience the 3 P.M. slump for different reasons, but getting enough sleep will stave off the dips in energy that make it difficult to focus on work or fully engage in activities you enjoy.
The Prescription Drug Dilemma!
When discussing sleep with a patient, the question of prescription sleep aids inevitably comes up. Why go through extra trouble or give up late night talk shows when swallowing a pill can do the job for you?
Drugs might provide a quick fix, but there are reasons to be cautious. Last March, the FDA issued a warning concerning sleep aids classified as “sedatives/hypnotics” (this covers most commonly prescribed sleep aids). These drugs can cause severe allergic reactions and complex nighttime behavior that goes beyond sleepwalking. Some people taking these drugs have cooked meals and made phone calls with absolutely no recollection of the activity! If you are considering a prescription sleep aid, it is important to take these possible side effects into account.
Is There Hope Without Drugs?
My research has revealed a slew of proven ways you can start sleeping better tonight–and they’re all completely natural! Here’s some easy lifestyle changes and a few great herbal suggestions to help you have a more productive and energetic day.
Try some or all of these suggestions to improve your sleep:
1) Don’t drink caffeine after 3 P.M.
2) Keep alcohol consumption down to 1 or 2 drinks with dinner, or eliminate it altogether.
3) Turn off the TV and the computer at least an hour before bed so your brain has time to wind down free of stimuli. Instead, do a calming activity like reading, meditating or taking a bath.
4) Don’t eat dinner too late, especially if you’re prone to digestive problems that keep you up at night.
5) Leave your worries outside the bedroom by making a to-do list for the next day or writing down your concerns.
6) Go to sleep and wake up at the same time, even on weekends, so your body gets used to a regular sleeping pattern.
7) Make sure your pillow and mattress are comfortable.
Try some of these very effective herbs that have been proven to help overcome sleep deprivation: Valerian root, Magnolia officinalis, Passionflower and Melatonin.
Here’s to a good night’s sleep!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.