Updated 11 August 2014

Get your shuteye the natural way

The only thing worse than lying awake, tossing and turning all night, is having to deal with the nuclear fallout the next day.

Exhaustion. Fuzzy mind. Emotions all over the show and a lead-filled body. Keep this up long enough and you can add physical illness and injury to the list because without adequate sleep, it’s impossible to function optimally.

Sleep experts acknowledge that insomnia is definitely on the increase in the frenetic, fast-paced world we currently live in. About 30-40% of American adults suffer from some symptoms of insomnia each year with 10-15% battling with chronic insomnia (persisting for longer than a month) according to the National Centre for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institute of Health, while the American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that 10% of people worldwide have a diagnosable sleep disorder.

Sleep is essential for health and wellbeing and with sleep deprivation being associated with a higher risk of a whole range of medical conditions including anxiety and depression, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and breast cancer, it’s hardly surprising that more and more people are turning to sleeping pills for relief, says Dr Erika Coertzen, an Integrated Health practitioner in Tzaneen.

The UK’s Daily Mail reports that around 1.5 million Britons are believed to be taking them right now with more than 10 million sleeping pill prescriptions being written up each year. “The trouble is”, she explains, “There’s increasing evidence that they have serious side effects, with a number of studies linking them to co-ordination problems and falls, impaired memory, panic attacks and early death.

Furthermore a Harvard University study recently found that over-65s who had used benzodiazepines – which include temazepam and diazepam – over the last 15 years, were 50 per cent more likely to succumb to Alzheimers,” she adds. These prescription-only drugs work by changing the way messages are transmitted to the brain which induces a calming effect. But scientists believe that at the same time they may be interfering with certain chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters, which may be causing dementia.

So instead of popping a sleeping pill to avoid being wide awake in your bed tonight, advises Dr Coertzen, start practicing good sleep hygiene.

“Keep your bedroom cool and dark; avoid daytime naps; eat lightly at night; don’t exercise late in the day; cut out caffeine after 2pm; avoid alcohol; and give your brain and body a chance to wind down in the evening by enjoying a hot bath and some quiet reading time instead of frantically trying to answer all those emails or texts. Using a homeopathic remedy such as Sedatif will also go a long way in ensuring a good night’s sleep the natural way,” she adds. “As it supports the different aspects of insomnia such as anxiety, irritability, chronic pain, digestive problems, headaches, restless legs, overactive mind and nervous tiredness, and, unlike sleeping pills, is not habit forming, won’t cause any daytime drowsiness, and, most importantly, has no side-effects.”

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