Natural Sleep SolutionsMarch 5, 2012 Written by JP [Font too small?]
According to a recent review in the journal The Lancet, disturbed sleep and insomnia affect upwards of 25% of the adult population. Not only does this impact quality of life, but it also predisposes those with sleep disorders to a much higher risk of numerous diseases including depression, diabetes and heart failure. In addition, insomnia contributes to “substantial economic and societal burden through poor productivity, absence from work, and high health-care costs”. The problem is increasingly evident. However, the solution is much more nebulous if you judge by the difficulty that many people find when searching for an effective and safe solution.
The medical literature is replete with examples of natural remedies and practices that improve sleep quality with minimal side effects. Mind-body approaches are almost always my preferred alternative to drugs when working with a client that is having difficulty sleeping. In my opinion, addressing any underlying mental or psychological contributors to sleeplessness should take precedence over simply popping a supplement or drinking an herbal tea. This is not to say that supplements and teas do not have their place in managing insomnia. In some instances they do, in fact, help to provide temporary relief or work as an adjunct to mind-body practices.
Mindfulness meditation tops my list of mind-body approaches for sleep disturbances that involve anxious feelings and nighttime restlessness. Recent studies indicate that practicing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for as little as 8 weeks lowers stress hormone levels (cortisol) and improves sleep quality significantly. Other clinically validated mind-body techniques include: a) the use of lavender oil aromatherapy prior to and during sleep; b) Tai Chi exercise practiced thrice-weekly; c) acupuncture administered to specific acupoints or meridians that are individually tailored for each patient; d) foot massage (reflexology) and/or “therapeutic massage”. In many instances, these holistic modalities also exact other “side benefits” including a decline in daytime fatigue, menopausal symptoms and pain.
If additional support is called for, several dietary supplements may be particularly useful. One avenue certainly worth pursuing is to test your Vitamin D status. A current study in the journal Acta Paediatrica reports that correcting Vitamin D deficiency can improve mood and sleep difficulties in depressed adolescents. L-theanine, an amino acid commonly found in green tea, can likewise ameliorate objective sleep quality in youngsters with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A relatively high dosage of 400 mg/day of Suntheanine was used in the aforementioned trial. Finally, a concentrated extract of Melissa officianalis L. or lemon balm was recently shown to quickly lower anxiety and related sleep disturbance in chronically stressed adults. The benefits of lemon balm manifested within 15 days when using 600 mg/day of a patented extract known as Cyracos. Both Cyracos and Suntheanine were deemed safe and well tolerated in the context of these two short term studies.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 – New Research: Identify and Treat Insomnia Early to Reduce Risk of … (link)
Study 2 – Influence of Mindfulness Practice on Cortisol and Sleep in Long-Term … (link)
Study 3 – Effect of Aromatherapy on the Quality of Sleep in Ischemic Heart … (link)
Study 4 – The Effect of Ti Chi Exercise on the Sleep Quality of the Elderly … (link)
Study 5 – Feasibility Study of Acupuncture for Reducing Sleep Disturbances … (link)
Study 6 – Effect of Therapeutic Massage on Insomnia and Climacteric … (link)
Study 7 – Effects of Foot Reflexology on Fatigue, Sleep and Pain: A Systematic … (link)
Study 8 – Depressed Adolescents in a Case-Series Were Low in Vitamin D and … (link)
Study 9 – The Effects of L-Theanine (Suntheanine) on Objective Sleep Quality … (link)
Study 10 – Pilot Trial of Melissa Officinalis L. Leaf Extract in the Treatment of … (link)
Lemon Balm Extract (Cyranos) Improves Sleep Quality
Source: Med J Nutrition Metab. 2011 December; 4(3): 211–218. (link)
Tags: Anxiety, Lavender, Massage
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Mental Health, Nutritional Supplements