From Troubled to Restful Sleep: a Drug-Free Approach
By Stephen Holt, MD, MRCP (UK), FRCP (C), FACP, FACG, FACN, FACAM
Also read Sleep Naturally
As many as 100 million Americans may experience difficulty in falling and staying asleep and 65 million of them are believed to be insomniacs. In the new book “Sleep Naturally” (Wellness Publishing, Newark, NJ, 2003), Dr. Stephen Holt, M.D. presents a holistic lifestyle program to assist in the achievement of restful sleep. The author examines optimal pathways to improve simple sleep problems and offers common-sense advice to people who toss and turn in bed.
“Recent research shows that sleep deprivation causes much mental and physical disability and it costs the nation billions of dollars in loss of time from work and tragic events, such as road traffic accidents,” writes Dr. Holt in his book. “Without restful sleep, health cannot prevail.”
Further scientific studies show that reductions in the quantity or quality of sleep contribute to premature aging, disability and death. Lack of sleep may be responsible for hormonal imbalances and it may even contribute to the modern epidemic of obesity and maturity onset diabetes mellitus, Holt says. While some sleep problems are caused by serious underlying disease, most cases of insomnia are related to simple issues, such as adverse lifestyle, anxiety, stress and poor diet, he adds.
We are all aware of people nodding off during a church service or while engaged in monotonous tasks. Snoring becomes a source of embarrassment. “Why some people sleep like a baby while others wrestle in bed still remains somewhat of a mystery,” observes Holt.
There are circumstances where unwanted sleep or drowsiness can be extremely dangerous, he says further. These circumstances can happen to any individual who is driving a vehicle, operating machinery, looking after children or supervising important daily missions, Holt adds.
Sleep science has emerged with newfound importance in modern medicine, such that there are thousands of physicians who now specialize in sleep disorders. These experts on sleep direct a large number of newly developed “sleep centers” that are part of every community hospital. While such medical facilities are relevant to people with more severe types of sleep disturbances or specific sleep conditions (e.g. narcolepsy or sleep apnea), they are outside the reach of the “average insomniac.” Insomnia may be accepted by many people who lead a stressful lifestyle, but poor sleep is a serious public health problem, Holt notes.
How much sleep one needs varies from one person to another, says Holt. There are some who believe they have little need for it and get by on 4 to 5 hours, and those who feel they need 8 or more hours of sleep to fully recharge their body and mind. The duration and quality of a health person’s sleep tend to diminish with age. A newborn baby can sleep for up to 17 hours per day, whereas the elderly are often restricted to 6 hours of sleep. Holt believes what constitutes the normal duration of sleep is usually “open to interpretation” and that definitions of normal sleep must occur in “ranges, rather than absolute terms.”
Holt warns against a widespread, but unhealthy, tendency for a large proportion of the population to rely on drugs to induce sleep. “All pharmaceuticals used for sleep induction possess disadvantages or limitations, including cost, side effects and tolerance to sleeping medication rapidly develops.” He says the common nature of disordered sleep and the drawbacks of conventional treatment approaches with drugs have caused many people to seek alternatives for natural ways to healthy sleep.
Leading-edge dietary supplement technology has led to the formulation of the product Sleep Naturally™ . It is apparent that natural substances known to assist in the achievement of restful sleep are best used in safe combinations. Thus, a relatively small dose of a number of natural substances which promote sleep can work together, in concert, to produce a superior, safe, simple and effective outcome. This is the concept of synergy where ingredients have “helper” effects on each other. Sleep Naturally™ is a proprietary product that combines herbal induction of restful sleep with Valerian Root, Chamomile Flower, Passion Flower, Lemon Balm, Skullcap Whole and Ashwagandha Root, and specific vitamins and minerals (Magnesium, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid) with the power of the sleep hormone melatonin and the natural precursor effects of 5 Hydroxytryptophan. Certainly, dietary supplements that provide nutritional support for restful sleep are the preferred first-line options to drugs.
Changes in lifestyle, from adverse to positive habits, is the cornerstone of the modern sleep management and this is a key focus of Dr. Holt’s book, “Sleep Naturally.” The premature use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for sleeping must be considered unwise and even potentially dangerous.
Simple ways to restful sleep as proposed by Dr. Holt in his book “Sleep Naturally”
- Assess your sleep duration and quality. Make a sleep journal, ask your sleeping partner about your sleep habits.
- Regularity in sleeping and waking patterns is important to set the stage for regular sleep cycles. Attempts to waken and go to bed at similar times everyday are beneficial. Regimentation of sleep is a valuable activity.
- An individual who really cannot sleep should not spend long times lying in bed. On occasion, this person may be best advised to engage in activity.
- Daytime “napping” is an arch enemy of restful nocturnal sleep, especially in the elderly.
- Individuals should avoid dietary substances containing stimulants, such as caffeine and alcohol.
- Meditation and relaxation with some time to examine the events of the day is valuable in many insomniacs who cannot deal with “the worry of the day.” The time for worrying is in the morning. If necessary, people can plan “daytime worrying sessions.”
- A bed is for sleep and sex, not for work, worrying or eating.
- Pay good attention to the bedroom environment. Encourage partners to get help with their snoring. Otherwise, partners can be encouraged to sleep elsewhere, but this is not a popular advice.
- If eating is planned in the two hours preceding bedtime then food choices must be appropriate, e.g., milk and light healthy snacks.
- Regular exercise helps sleep, but late night exercising must be abandoned.