Wouldn’t you love to drop your head on your pillow and wake up 7-8 uninterrupted hours later, refreshed? There are four stages of sleep, and if you’re not getting a full night’s sleep, chances are, you’re not reaching the fourth, and most restorative stage: Delta Sleep (named for the increase in delta brain waves—very important to your mental abilities).
A good night’s sleep also facilitates the organization of long-term memory. Someday, you’ll want to tell your grandchildren about your daring exploits while you were young. It’d be great if you could remember them. Sleep also integrates new information into your memory. So those Spanish Lessons for your cruise this fall? They’d go much better if you get enough sleep.
My favorite is that effective sleep provides physical regeneration—you know, repairing and renewing of tissues and nerve cells to keep us young and healthy. This is why you are told to “get plenty of rest” whenever healing from sickness (strengthens the immune system) or recovering from physical damage (sprains, wounds, etc.). Sleep also neutralizes neurotoxins (good-by brain fog) and restores normal levels of chemicals in our bodies (time to feel great again!).
Restoring a natural and healthy sleep pattern may take a little time (you didn’t get where you are overnight) and is usually accomplished by implementing a combination of solutions. Since most people reach for supplements first, I will talk about effective supplementation to help restore your natural sleep. Additional steps will be discussed in upcoming sleep posts.
Step 1: Supplements:
Sleeping Pills: Prescription or OTC? This WebMD article outlines the risks of using OTC or prescription drugs. These are not designed to restore natural sleep and can become addictive, impair memory and interfere with restorative sleep.
What about Melatonin? Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the pineal gland at the base of the brain. It is important in regulating sleep but production by the body decreases with age. C13H16N2O2, or “5-methoxy-N-acetyltryptamine widely known as Melatonin found in dietary supplements is a synthetic compound produced in a laboratory. Synthesized melatonin is recommended only for short-term use and may include minor side effects.
The Natural Alternative: Nature provides plant based solutions that are effective and safe. The main ingredient to use is Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) known for its sedative, soothing and calming properties. Valerian in fresh extract form soothes and relaxes nerves which help relieve stress, insomnia, and nervous tension. While Valerian is widely used in dry powder form found in most sleep aids, the dry powder form will only calm nerves and therefore does not aid sleep as effectively as fresh Valerian extract.