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I can’t sleep!

Sleep aids can help, but so can simple changes in your behavior and environment

Another sleepless night. You toss and turn, try to turn off your worries and force yourself to relax. As you fret about how miserable and inefficient you’ll be tomorrow, you just get more tense. Sometimes, even with your mind seemingly clear and relaxed, sleep just doesn’t come.

An estimated 40 percent of adults in the United States suffer from sleep disturbances each year; more than half of those lie awake at least a few nights a week.

Why is sleep important?

A lack of sleep leads to poor concentration, irritability, anxiety, depression and low energy. Sleep maintains your circadian rhythms, the 24-hour cycle that regulates your physical and mental functions. A good night’s sleep helps the brain commit information to memory.

If we get too little sleep, our brain won’t make and store enough mood-enhancing hormones for the next day. And, chronic sleep deprivation can cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.

Sleep aids and natural remedies can help

Prescription hypnotic drugs act in areas of the brain to help promote sleep. Sonata (zaleplon), for example, is designed to help you fall asleep faster, but not for keeping you asleep. Ambien (zolpidem) and Lunesta (eszopiclone) can help you both get to sleep and stay asleep. But such drugs don’t work for everyone, they are potentially addictive and they may not be safe for long-term use.

Non-prescription, “over-the-counter” (OTC) sleep aids can help, but may be less effective than prescription drugs.

Natural insomnia remedies used to promote sleep include:
  • California poppy, in tincture.
  • Valerian (a root that may be steeped in hot water for tea)
  • Hops (especially in combination with valerian.)
  • Melatonin (an artificial or animal form of a substance produced by humans that is linked to sleep)
  • Scents of lavender, vanilla or green apple.
  • Essential oils of Ylang ylang, chamomile, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass and rose. To get the full effect, be sure to use true essential oils, which are 100% pure.

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