Right now, 25 percent of all Americans are regularly taking sleeping pills, with $18 million being spent on prescription drugs and an additional over $600 million spent on over-the-counter pills. Not only do these figures emphasize the seriousness of the insomnia problem but how drug-oriented our society has become.
Is it that millions care so little about their health or is it that they are too lazy to become informed about how insomnia can be reversed and how insidious the detrimental effects of these drugs really are?
What’s bizarre is that the over-the-counter sleep aids have been studied and have been found to be no more effective than placebos.
All these drugs, be it Sominex, Nytol, Sleep-Eze, Compoz, Nite Rest, Sure Sleep, etc. contain the same inactive ingredients. And worse than this multimillion dollar scam, is the fact that while these alleged “sleep aids” do no real good, they certainly will do harm.
Years and years ago there was a recall of sleep aids that contained an antihistamine called methapyrilene. Why? Because it was found to be carcinogenic. So, what did the pimps do? They switched to a similar antihistamine, pyrilmine, to fill the gap, even before a carcinogen study had been completed. Fortunately, it was not found to be carcinogenic. But, there was never a problem with Big Pharma using people as guinea pigs until that research was completed.
What’s equally bad is that sleep studies have found that many non-prescription and almost all prescription meds drastically alter sleeping cycles by suppressing REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. This is also true for any barbiturates and benzodiazepines, which are the major sleep medication ingredients.
So, to understand why the suppression of the REM sleep is harmful, you have to understand the normal sleeping cycle.
In the early pre-sleep stage, the body temperature falls and the alpha rhythm brain waves are prominent. Stage 1 of sleep is usually accompanied by muscle spasms, followed by a slowing of the pulse and muscle relaxation. Stage 2 comes after about 5 to 10 minutes, where the brain waves become larger and the eyes roll side to side. After another 20 minutes Stage 3 is entered, where brain waves now become slow and fairly large. Muscles are relaxed and breathing is slow and even. Then Stage 4, or delta sleep, sets in and lasts about 20 minutes or so. After this time the sleeper enters the lighter REM sleep with rapid eye movements. At this point the heartbeat is irregular and the brain waves are similar to the waking state. Of the time in REM sleep, 80 percent or more is spent dreaming. REM sleep lasts 10 minutes or more and then the sleeper goes to Stage 2, than Stage 3, and finally to delta in a cycle lasting about 90 minutes. Delta sleep lasts longer in the early part of the night, with more REM sleep taking place toward morning.
This order of sleep cycles seems to be essential for health. Those deprived of REM and delta become irritable, depressed, aggressive, angry, restless and/or apathetic. When the person re-enters REM, more time is spent there, apparently making up for the lost cycles. If the REM sleep has been suppressed by sleeping pills, health begins to suffer. Once the pills are stopped, more light, restless, unpleasant sleep with plenty of nightmares.
So, this REM withdrawal sleep, which is a built-in result of taking meds to “aid” sleep, will disturb sleep and convince the uninformed “insomniac” that he/she still needs meds and starts the vicious cycle all over again.
To treat insomnia, the true cause must be recognized, addressed, and removed.
Usually, causes are easy to identify – excess caffeine; muscular tension due to emotional or mental stress and over stimulation; excess salt in the diet; overeating before going to bed; B complex vitamin deficiency, which leads to stress and comes about by the over-consumption of refined carbohydrates, which require B complex components found in the fiber and germ coating of complex carbohydrates (whole grains). The refined carbs are stripped of the B complex components.
With stress comes depletion of B complex, among other vitamins, as the body’s glandular system, particularly the adrenal glands, become over-stimulated. Calcium deficiency due to poor absorption is also a common factor in insomnia. So, taking a calcium supplement at bedtime will frequently reverse a sleep disorder.
Also, any food allergy can cause poor sleeping and insomnia as well as foods causing allergic reactions are known to increase the heart rate, among other actions, causing or aggravating a sleeping problem. Food additives, colorings, preservatives and pesticides (hello GMOs) can cause a similar allergic response. Then, of course, heavy metal poisoning is a well-documented cause of nervousness, mental confusion, irritability, emotional disturbances, and sleep issues. The organic sulfur crystals can remove all these.
Since nicotine stimulates the adrenal glands and causes the excess secretion of adrenalin, it would be really beneficial to stop smoking. The adrenalin secretion leads to an increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure causing hyperactivity at the neuromuscular level resulting in the opposite effect desired for a good night’s sleep.
Having a “night-cap” before going to bed may not always be successful or beneficial as well because many people respond to alcohol as a stimulant, which reduces the REM cycle.
We all have internal clocks or rhythms. If we live out of phase with those internal rhythms, our health will suffer. We con ourselves into believing we are “day or “night” people and think we perform better at those times we have led ourselves into believing. We even force our bodies to perform even in the middle of our biological sleep time. Yes, we can adjust our inner clocks as the need arises, but this usually takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. People who work on rotating shifts constantly put their biological rhythms into utter chaos. Look at pilots and flight attendants that have the weirdest schedules ever. Stress, fatigue, and insomnia are normal results of that lifestyle.
How do we fix this? It’s important to realize that not everyone has the same sleeping requirements. Some people get by with 4 to 6 hours of sleep, with a nap during the day, while others require 7 to 9 hours of sleep. The real criteria is the person’s general health and energy level.
If a person complains he/she can’t get to sleep until 1 or 2 in the morning, but feels normal, it is not insomnia but rather a bio-rhythmic misunderstanding. The worst thing a person can do is to lie in bed freaking out about not being able to fall asleep. Just be active until your body tells you it’s time to sleep.
Then, our daily tensions and stress are major obstacles to falling asleep. Usually, insomniacs spend most of their time complaining to others about their problem. Instead of doing this, spend time finding out how to reverse the problem.
Like every other health problem, become aware of the cause and seek to address that rather than just trying to “fix” the symptom. Usually, an improper attitude toward life and a lack of knowledge and awareness of ourselves are the causes of the problem.
When I used to engage very actively in martial arts, I would feel exhausted. Then I learned a couple of techniques that revitalized me. One was to lie down as comfortably as possible in a bed, floor or mat and relax as much as I could with my eyes closed. I would then take three or four slow deep breaths in with slow exhalations to calm my system down. I would try to get my mind away from my tiredness or what I was feeling and simply concentrate on relaxing. I would then, starting at my face and neck, contract into a horrible grimace or tightness and hold that for about 3 to 5 seconds, then let go and relax my face and neck. I would then do that with my upper arms and chest, followed by my lower arms and hands, then my abdomen, my butt, thighs, lower legs and feet and then end it by contracting my whole body all at once and relaxing it. I would do this two to three times. When finished I would end with three or four slow breaths again.
Basically, this allows you tune into your body by re-educating it to understand what the state of contraction and relaxation is all about. And especially for a person that has not developed the subtle awareness of the relaxing effects of muscular tension or is unable to release tension by a mental command.
The second technique was the “draining” exercise. It is a bit more advanced but it works wonderfully. Again, lie down as comfortably as possible and take three or four deep, breaths and keep you eyes closed. Then envision that there is a hole in the bottom of each foot. In your mind see the tension in your feet draining out through the hole. Then go upward to the lower legs, thighs, butt, abdomen, hands and lower arms, chest, upper arms, shoulders and back, neck, face and head. Should you feel tension coming back, ignore it and finish the drain completely. Then, if need be, do it again.
If you do this on a daily basis for 15 to 30 minutes, in a very short period of time you will notice a steady flow of powerful currents passing through your body at the end of each session. You will also learn and recognize that your physical tensions amassed throughout the day are easily alleviated. This exercise is also an excellent preliminary step before meditation. In meditation you will come more and more in contact with the center of yourself, revealing many things about why physical, mental, and emotional tension exists within you.
So, wake up. A good night’s sleep is right around the corner.