Sleep: A Powerful Message for Health and Well-Being

Why some people sleep like a baby and others toss and turn in bed still remains somewhat of a mystery. About 65 million Americans do not sleep well and have difficulty initiating sleep or staying asleep. Recent research shows that sleep deprivation causes much mental and physical disability and it costs the nation billions of dollars in loss of time from work and tragic events, such as road traffic accidents. Without restful sleep, health cannot prevail. Reductions in the quantity or quality of sleep contribute to premature aging, disability and death.

Modern hypotheses suggest that lack of sleep may be responsible for hormonal imbalances and contributions to the modern epidemic of obesity and maturity onset diabetes mellitus. Sleep disturbances alter body hormones that control appetite. These circumstances may contribute to nocturnal eating disorders (fridge raiding). Modern research implies that weight control is not possible without the restoration of the biorhythm of sleep. While some sleep problems are caused by serious underlying disease, most cases of insomnia are related to simple issues, such as adverse lifestyle, anxiety, stress and poor diet.

The past decade has witnessed a major interest in the diagnosis and management of sleep problems. Sleep centers have sprung up all over the country and every community hospital has at least one physician who has embraced a special interest in the treatment of sleep disorders. Unfortunately, conventional medical practice encourages sleeping drug use, reinforced by patient demands from television advertising of pharmaceuticals.

Indeed there has been a widespread unhealthy tendency for a large proportion of the population to rely on drugs to induce sleep. All pharmaceuticals used for sleep induction possess disadvantages or limitations, including cost, side effects and tolerance to sleeping medication rapidly develops. There are onerous side effects of some sleeping tablets including bizarre behavioral changes, weight gain and addiction. So problematic are these adverse effects that class action lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of some sleeping tablets (e.g. Ambien ®, Sanofi-Aventis Inc.).

The common nature of disordered sleep and the drawbacks of conventional treatment approaches with drugs have caused many people to seek alternatives for natural ways to healthy sleep. Holistic lifestyle programs to assist in the achievement of restful sleep have gained increasing popularity. These programs involves behavioral changes and introduces the concept of the use of natural, herbal, botanical and nutrient agents in dietary supplement as potential first-line approaches to help relieve sleeping problems.

It is apparent that natural substances known to assist in the achievement of restful sleep are best used in safe combinations. Thus, a relatively small dose of a number of natural substances which promote sleep can work together, in concert, to produce a superior, safe, simple and effective outcome. This is the concept of synergy where ingredients have “helper” effects on each other. This approach may help avoid the tolerance that may invariably occur when a single natural substance or drug is used to promote sleep.

Of course, the most important thing is to use a combination of natural substances where scientific evidence supports their potential effectiveness. Dietary supplements that combine herbs and nutrients that promote restful sleep, often utilize Valerian Root, Chamomile Flower, Passion Flower, Lemon Balm, Skullcap Whole and Ashwangandha Root, and specific vitamins and minerals (Magnesium, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid) with the power of the sleep hormone melatonin and the natural precursor effects of 5 Hydroxytryptophan. In common with prescription or over the counter drugs, this variable combination of natural substances should be avoided by pregnant women and children and it should not be mixed with alcohol or used when driving or operating machinery.

It is quite surprising that many individuals will not raise the issue of sleep deprivation with their physician but they may purchase over the counter drugs for sleep promotion. While concerns exist about prescription sleeping drugs many concerns about over the counter sleeping pills which have their own series of adverse effects that may not be well or adequately reported. Certainly, lifestyle change with nutritional support for restful sleep must be considered first line option for simple sleep disorders that are having a major impact on health and well-being.

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