What Is Good Sleep?
About an hour and a half after a person goes to sleep, they enter the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. When we talk about good quality sleep, this stage is important. This is the stage of sleep that restores the body and when dreams occur. If sleep is interrupted in this stage you can find you have trouble concentrating the next day, have a lack of energy and find yourself becoming drowsy during the day. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep either. You might even need different amounts of sleep on different nights depending on what is happening in your life at the time. At different stages in your life the amount of sleep you need can also change. For most adults seven to eight hours of sleep is optimal. To find your individual optimal amount of sleep time, note what time you go to bed, then don't set an alarm clock and see what time you naturally wake up and feel well rested and alert. Add up the hours and that will give you an idea of how much sleep you need a night.
Causes For Insomnia
Even if you think you are getting enough hours of sleep in, there are interruptions and other factors that reduce the quality of your sleep. You may not even remember in the morning all the times you woke up as some of them can be brief, but enough to interrupt your REM sleep. Sometimes the reason your sleep is interrupted or you can't fall asleep is obvious – noisy neighbors, the barking dog next door, a sick child in the home or a hungry infant. Other times though we don't always realize how often our sleep is interrupted or know why. We just know we are still dragging in the morning. Here are some causes for insomnia and factors that can influence the quality of sleep you are getting.
You may find yourself drowsy after having a few drinks and think that is a good way to unwind and help yourself get to sleep. But studies show that alcohol actually can be a cause for insomnia because it does not lead to good quality of sleep. The amount of REM sleep is reduced and you are more likely to talk and/or walk in your sleep. Alcohol may put you in a deep sleep at first, but once your blood alcohol level drops, you wake up again.
Children get more deep sleep than adults do which leaves them more rested and energetic come morning. They need this type of sleep because their bodies are still growing. Once they reach adulthood their deep sleep time is half as much. That means adults are not only getting less of the restorative type sleep, but they are awakened easier at night so their sleep is more often interrupted. Older people have the increased interruption of often having pain from conditions such as arthritis or acid reflux that interrupts sleep or take medications that can interfere with sleep.
Too Much Activity
This can apply to you or your sleeping partner. If your sleeping partner is restless or snores, stays up later than you and keeps a light on working or reading, or is making noise, your sleep can be affected. This applies to those who sleep with pets also. Pets don't have the same sleep cycles as humans and when they wake up during the night moving around your sleep can become interrupted.
Your own activity before bed could also be the culprit. What did you drink or eat before bed? What type of activity did you engage in? Exercise is good for you, but exercising up to an hour or two before bedtime can act as a stimulant. People who drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks all day or in the evening can find themselves too wound up to go to sleep. Eating spicy foods or a heavy meal can also interfere with falling asleep. Are you coming home exhausted thinking you will be able to fall asleep in no time only to find the reverse is true? Could be the activity that led you to be exhausted was too stimulating and you didn't take any time to decompress and unwind before hitting the sheets. Take a look at what you are doing and what your sleeping partner is doing to get some clues as to your causes for insomnia for you.
It could be that your causes for insomnia actually stem from an undiagnosed sleep disorder. It is reported that about 40 million Americans have sleep disorders that have not been diagnosed. These could include conditions such as sleep apnea or PKMD (Periodic Limb Movement Disorder) both of which interfere with getting good quality sleep. You could also have pain from other sources that will interfere with getting a good night's rest. Back pain, headaches, cramps or a variety of other aches and pains, even if not severe, can keep you from getting to sleep, wake you up during the night or interfere with the quality of sleep.
If you find yourself dragging and tired in the morning, needing a caffeine fix to get moving, irritable after waking up, drowsy during the day, lacking in energy, or having trouble with short term memory then you possibly are not getting enough good quality sleep. Here are a few natural remedies that can help you get to sleep and have a better quality of sleep.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
Start training your body to know when it is time to sleep and when it is time to get up. Pick the same time each day to wake up and avoid taking naps during the day. Establish a nighttime routine that cues your body to get ready for sleep. Begin dimming the lights at least an hour before bedtime, put away all work and conflict situations. Do something relaxing to unwind and clear your mind of worries from the day. Taking valerian root or drinking a cup of chamomile tea can help you relax before bedtime. Avoid any kind of stimulants such as coffee or caffeinated teas.
Regular exercise can help with sleep problems. Do not include this in your bedtime routine however as it can also act as a stimulant. Exercise should be done at least 3 hours prior to your bedtime routine. Yoga and Tai Chi are good practices that have been found to be helpful with sleep problems.
Eating a late meal or heavy snack before going to bed can activate your digestive system and keep you from being able to go to sleep. On the other hand, going to bed hungry can also prevent sleep. A light bedtime snack of complex carbohydrates or dairy foods like cereal and milk can be helpful in easing hunger and not interfere with sleep for some people.
Algae and Probiotics
Adding some probiotics and blue green algae to your nightly regimen can really help you recharge while you sleep. 1-2 capsules before bed of the form of blue green algae that is the core of the algae without the cell wall, relaxes the brain and allows you to get a good night's sleep. Taking 2-4 capsules of bifidus before getting ready for bed can help with more restful sleep so you wake rested and confident. Digestive enzymes help us digest our food, but on a metaphysical level, they can also help us digest and "work through" worries and problems that have built up throughout day. If you're facing a difficult situation or problem and need some solutions, taking 2-4 digestive enzymes before bed can help you work through the problem and possibly rise in the morning with a solution.
Has this article given you some ideas of causes for insomnia that can be affecting your sleep and keeping you from being alert and energetic during the day? We certainly hope so. Take a good look at some of your lifestyle habits and add one or all of the natural remedies suggested here and we'll bet you will get a better night's sleep and awake better able to live your life as a result.
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