Why Are We So Drowsy?



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The digital clock blares 2:30 AM in bright,
red numbers and an all too familiar feeling of dread enters my mind and
body. Panic sets in and prompts the usual questions: Will I fall asleep
tonight? What if I don’t fall asleep? How am I going to accomplish
anything tomorrow if I can’t sleep tonight?
The
U.S. Department of Health describes

chronic insomnia as “a condition in
which you have trouble falling or staying asleep.” According to the
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website , one out of three
adults suffers from insomnia sometimes and one out of ten adults suffers
from chronic insomnia.

So what is keeping all of us up at night? And, perhaps more importantly, how do we break the sleepless cycle?
“We
live in a world that is accelerating. Everyone around us is going fast.
They are speeding,” explains sleep specialist Rubin Naiman, Ph.D.,
author of Healing Night: The Science and Spirit of Sleeping, Dreaming,
and Awakening. “There is nothing wrong with going fast. But you can’t
relax in a hurry,” Dr. Naiman advises. 
If
you’re like me and dream (figuratively speaking) of a life without
sleep aids or pyschopharmaceuticals, use of medication in place of a
natural sleep cycle is cause for concern. Unfortunately, so is the
alternative: sleep deprivation.
Dr.
Naiman acknowledges that prescription sleep aids may have their time and
place (after a person suffers a traumatic event such as the death of a
family member) but warns that the use of such medications should be the
exception, not the rule. He offers some holistic alternatives to
anti-anxiety medications or chemical sleeping pills:
Botanicals
– Try taking magnesium or melatonin to promote sleep. Dr. Naiman also
recommends special lights or glasses that block the
melatonin-suppressing light produced by televisions and computers.
Watch what you drink
– Limit the amount of caffeine your body absorbs during the day, as its
effects are cumulative. Also pay close attention to alcohol intake. Dr.
Naiman says alcohol suppresses melatonin and disrupts natural sleep. He
also recommends that we stay away from teas that claim to promote
sleep. Many of these teas contain Valerian which (in addition to acting
as a sleep aid), he says can act as a diuretic and may cause people to
get out of bed frequently to urinate during the night.
In
order to relax before bedtime, Dr. Naiman recommends taking steps to
establish a bedtime ritual to use every night. “Many people carry their
daytime stress into night. The (bedtime) ritual is about learning to let
go of the waking world – learning to leave your intentions at the
bedroom door.”
Make time to relax – Allot a certain amount of time every night to de-stress. Dr. Naiman suggests a minimum of thirty minutes.
Communicate with your body
“The nighttime ritual helps communicate to your body that it has moved
out of the realm of waking responsibility.” Dr Naiman recommends a warm
bath, using essential body oils like lavender or lemon balm, coupled
with some gentle yoga stretching or a simple massage.
Focus on your breathing – Slow your mind down using meditative techniques such as mindful meditation and breathing exercises.
Re-think your sleep space
– “Falling asleep requires a deep sense of psychological safety,”
advises Dr. Naiman. He suggests dimming the lights and surrounding
ourselves with things that remind us that we are safe: grandma’s quilt
or comfortable sleep attire. Dr. Naiman also recommends keeping the
bedroom temperature below 68 degrees to simulate Earth’s natural
temperature at dusk.

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By Danielle Miller
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