Take a Nap and Drop Excess Weight

So what's a sleeper (or non-sleeper) to do?

First off, if you're having trouble sleeping, check with a trusted health care practitioner to rule out any medical conditions that may be responsible for your lack of sleep, such as sleep apnea and it does affect women as well as men. You may also want to consider having your thyroid gland checked, as a glandular gland imbalance can affect your sleep cycles. The thyroid gland produces a hormone associated with metabolism and, like exercise, it burns up body tissue. When a person has too much of this hormone, their NREM non-dream sleep is increased, just like the person who exercises in the afternoon. When a person is lacking in this hormone, they often experience fatigue, and their time spent in NREM sleep is reduced. When these hormone levels are balanced, a return to the natural sleep cycles takes place.

Interestingly, when a person exercises in the afternoon, they have less REM dream-sleep, and more NREM sleep, the body's attempt to rebuild body tissue. (You may want to consider this when deciding what time of day to exercise, especially if you are trying to increase your ability to recall your dreams.)

Once you're sure there's not a medical reason why you can't get enough sleep, then you can proceed to tap into some natural remedies and ways to help you get some good shut-eye. Here's a few of my favorites:

Consider trying GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) a non-essential amino acid discovered in 1950. GABA is referred to as the "brain's natural calming agent". By inhibiting over-stimulation of the brain, GABA may help promote relaxation and ease nervous tension. Unlike some relaxants that make us feel drowsy and woozy, GABA doesn't do that. GABA simply eases anxiety. GABA is a natural stress-reducer, and some people find that GABA supplements also help with pain reduction. GABA also appears to inhibit nerve cells in the brain from firing haphazardly, which helps contribute to overall brain health.

In addition to GABA, there's Chamomile Flower Extract. The benefits of this daisy-like flower dates back to ancient Rome. Chamomile has been shown to help reduce anxiety, calm the nerves, help balance an upset tummy, and promote restful sleep. Chamomile is a natural for helping relax the mood, and help you unwind so you can get some sleep. It has a gentle sedative effect (without causing grogginess) allowing you to fall asleep sooner without waking up to any harsh side effects.

If you find that you struggle to get to sleep at night, there are some common sense approaches to increase your chances of getting some shut-eye. Here's a few to ponder:

DEVELOP A ROUTINE We are creatures of habit, and we find comfort in repetition. Just like children need a nightly routine, so do we. Set your body clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time.

SHHH! ADULT SLEEPING! Create a "quiet time" in your household. Designate an hour or so each night before going to bed as quiet time, even if you live alone, but particularly if you live with children. This will allow the energy of the house and everyone in it to settle down.

WALK OFF STRESS A short after-dinner walk in the night air can help you to fall asleep more easily. But make sure to allow at least three hours between a workout and going to bed. You can do a bit of yoga or stretching before bed to help you relax. Try stretching your feet and ankles a bit, to help avoid those pesky night cramps.

STOP THE INTAKE Try not to go to sleep with a full stomach. By allowing a few hours to digest a meal, your system can relax and focus on going to sleep, rather than digesting a late dinner. If you must have a bedtime snack, make it something light and low fat, like a piece of fruit or yogurt, or a cup of warm soy milk.

SAY NO TO CAFFEINE Caffeine can take hours to get out of your system and it can keep you awake for hours into the night. Remember that many types of cola are loaded with caffeine, as well as tea, chocolate and many pain relievers. If you are a coffee drinker, limit yourself to one or two cups, in the morning only.

NO ALCHOLOL! Avoid alcohol before bedtime, too. Even though alcohol can help you to relax initially, it is known to wake people up a few hours later with thirsty feelings of "dry mouth." Alcohol, caffeine and "sleeping pills" are known to inhibit the stage of sleep where our dreams take place. Also, certain medications prescribed to treat depression can create insomnia, so check with your doctor.

The old saying tells us to get our "'beauty sleep,' but we're learning now that sleep has more to do with our hormones and weight than we ever considered before. It's clear that good, plentiful, healthy sleep provides a profound inner balance that science is only beginning to understand plus it feels so good!

By Cindy Gray

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