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Brain Health

To Sleep or Not to Sleep…

Sleep is important, but taking drugs to sleep can have serious side effects. Learn how to get to sleep naturally…

It’s an interesting comment on modern culture that over 43 million Americans rely on some medication or another to get to sleep. You’ve no doubt seen the advertisements for a number of these sleep aids.

Of course, taking something to get to sleep can be a real help, especially when you consider that lack of sleep can create serious problems if it goes on too long.

The problem with these drugs happen when people need them to get to sleep. Aside from the potential side-effects for many of these drugs— usually a list a mile long there is also a real danger of becoming dependent. If you can’t get to sleep without a drug, you’re dependent on it.

The question you might ask is, “Is there a better approach to address this problem?”

Fortunately, there is.

Understand at the outset that many factors are involved in sleep disorders. Simply taking a pill or addressing the problem with a ‘one size fits all’ approach has little chance of addressing the deeper causes. Among the possible underlying causes of sleep problems are:

  • Acute or chronic stress
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Imbalances in brain chemistry (neurotransmitters)
  • Wrong food choices for your unique metabolism
  • Illness
  • Menopause / Andropause
  • Lack of exercise

When you see that so many factors can affect sleep, you might wonder where you could start the process of correcting this naturally.

Because one of the most direct influences over our sleep cycles are the neurotransmitters in our brains, One excellent approach is to discover what neurochemical imbalances exist in the brain. This test gives you lots of information about possible contributing factors involved in your sleep issues.

In addition, there are some important, yet simple things you can do to help yourself sleep better. Here are a few of the most important:

  1. As much as possible, sleep in total darkness. Your body reacts to light as a stimulant that can disrupt your natural sleep/wake cycle.
  2. Avoid TV right before bed. Even if you watch innocuous comedies or educational shows, television stimulates the brain. Of course, intense dramas, news programs and ‘reality’ shows are even more of a stimulant. Some say to remove the TV from the bedroom entirely.
  3. Read something uplifting or inspirational right before sleep. Any other type of reading during this time may interfere with sleep.
  4. Get to bed as early as possible. The hours before midnight provide a deeper sleep experience than those afterward. Before electricity, it was common for people to go to sleep shortly after the sun went down. Our bodies still follow many of these natural rhythms.
  5. Exercise regularly. Even though exercise of at least 30 minutes a day will improve sleep, you will probably do better not to exercise too close to your bed time.
  6. Check for hormone or brain chemical imbalances. If your adrenals are fatigued, you are going through menopause or andropause, or your brain chemistry is out of balance, your sleep may be disrupted.

2 replies on “To Sleep or Not to Sleep…”

I love your idea to “read something uplifting or inspirational right before sleep.” Even though I don’t really have trouble falling asleep, I think this will help me feel happy and have sweet dreams. I’ve put in on my calendar for every night this year. 🙂

Thanks Karen,

I think it’s a great idea to set you mind into a good space right before sleeping. Beats the heck out of watching what passes for news or entertainment on TV.

Take care,

Dr. Bruce

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