Read From Troubled to Restful Sleep: a Drug-Free Approach
Poor Sleep Causes Many Problems
Why some people sleep like a baby and others toss and turn in bed still remains somewhat of a mystery. About 65 million Americans do not sleep well and have difficulty falling or staying asleep. 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.
Without restful sleep, health cannot prevail. Recent 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.
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. Thus, sleep disorders cause economic, social and medical problems of gargantuan proportions.
Emergence of Sleep Centers
The past decade has witnessed a major interest in the diagnosis and management of sleep problems. Sleep centers have sprung up all over the country and every community hospital has at least one physician who has embraced a special interest in the treatment of sleep disorders. There has been 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.
Problems with Drugs Used for Sleep
Over the years many different types of drugs that depress brain function are being used to induce sleep. Over the past 15 years there has been a trend for a reduction in the use of prescription drugs for sleep, as many people have become aware of the side effects and problems that exist with several pharmaceuticals.
Among the most popular prescription drugs for sleep are pharmaceuticals that belong to the class of short-acting benzodiazepines. These drugs should not be used for more than a few days because they may promote addiction (dependence) and an individual can become tolerant to their actions, so that increasing doses of these drugs may be required to have a desired effect. Cessation of the use of these drugs is a common cause of rebound sleeplessness.
Perhaps more important are the 20 million or more people who are taking over-the-counter drugs for sleep. Popular over-the-counter (OTC) sleep remedies are often antihistamine drugs where the person taking this type of drug is actually capitalizing on the principal side effect of antihistamine medication which is drowsiness.
The use of over-the-counter antihistamines for sleep is a major public health problem, especially in the elderly; since these drugs can cause confusion, promote accidents at night, interfere with bladder function and cause unpleasant drying of mucous membrane. I believe that OTC sleeping pills may be more dangerous than we have recognized.
If assistance is required by taking a potion to sleep, then I believe that nutritional support with dietary supplements represents a simple and effective first-line option. Jumping to the premature use of drugs to promote sleep is not advised in modern medicine.
Alternatives for Restful Sleep
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. In the new book Â“Sleep NaturallyÂ” by Dr. Stephen Holt, M.D. (Wellness Publishing, Newark, NJ, 2003), a holistic lifestyle program to assist in the achievement of restful sleep is presented in detail. The Sleep Naturally program focuses on many behavioral changes required to combat insomnia and it introduces the concept of the use of natural, herbal, botanical and nutrient agents in dietary supplement as potential first-line approaches to help relieve sleeping problems.
Natural Dietary Supplements for Sleep
Leading-edge dietary supplement technology has led to the formulation of the product Sleep NaturallyÂ™ . 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 Â“helperÂ” effects on each other.
This approach of Â“synergyÂ” may help avoid the tolerance that may invariably occur when a single natural substance or drug is used to promote sleep. Of course, the most important thing is to use a combination of natural substances where scientific evidence supports their potential effectiveness.
Sleep NaturallyÂ™ 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
There are many natural ways to promote restful sleep, including lifestyle change, good nutrition, attention to the sleep environment and the use of carefully selected dietary supplements. We live in an age of a distorted belief in medical miracles or Â“quick-fixesÂ”. Clearly, there is a major incentive to seek simpler, gentler and natural alternatives to drugs to promote sleep. These notions are the basis of what I propose as the Â“Sleep Naturally PlanÂ”.
About the Author: Stephen Holt, MD is a best-selling author and practicing physician. He's the founder of Natures Benefit in Newark, New Jersey. His recent book entitled Â“Sleep NaturallyÂ” is available at major bookstores and health food stores.
By Stephen Holt, MD, MRCP (UK), FRCP (C), FACP, FACG, FACN, FACAM