• Blog,  Health

    Natural Sleep Aids; What You Should Know

    Sleep and wakefulness is an essential part of survival; you need to sleep after a very long day at work or when you are just at home working from home. The sleep episode is a long one which contains episodes of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and a single episode of NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement). The longest is usually the non-rapid eye movement where you cannot have a hold of what is in your environment or, in other words, you cannot keep a memory of what is going on in your environment. To sleep is to become healthy; you have to sleep to be refreshed. The consequences of not having a good sleep can range from headache to an exhausted feeling where you would just be thinking of lying down always.

    It is not unusual or, commonly,several individuals cannot climb into their bed and have a sound sleep. It has affected their living in many ways when they stay awake all night and still have to do one thing or the other during the day. The term ‘insomnia’ is the term for when you suffer such (inability to sleep). Many clinical consequences can be attached to insomnia, and one of them is high blood pressure, which is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions. If you don’t get adequate sleep often, then your blood pressure would increase. The next step most people take is meeting with medical doctors to narrate their conditions. After an actual diagnosis, physicians would prescribe sleeping pills starting from over the counter drugs, and if need be, they might have to switch to the prescription-only medicines.

    Without a doubt, sleeping pills, also referred to as hypnotics, serve their function, and they range from short-acting, intermediate to long-acting ones. It defines their timing as to when they clear off from the body system. Especially for the ones with a very short onset of action, you would always want to use them for insomnia due to their fast action. They allow you to forget what is perpetrating insomnia. It is essential to identify the cause and tackle it accordingly. You could place the culprit and try to remove it. Your sleeping environment has to be quiet, with no lightening (it has to be dark), or in cases when you like to have a light on, you can consider other types of light but not blue light. There has always been a misconception about blue light that it aids sleepiness, and to be honest, it does not.

    However, suppose all efforts have been channeled towards identifying the cause of your insomnia. In that case, you are still left with no clue that you might need to patronize medications to allow you to have an excellent night’s rest. It should be known that sleeping pills or hypnotics do not correct insomnia. By knowing this, it would be like using an analgesic without finding the trigger of the pain. There has been a lot of condemnation or, let us call it, advice against the use of sleeping pills. It has been tied to the side effect that these drugs come with and the fact that they could reduce deep sleep duration.

    There is good news, and they have been found in the world of supplements. They are also referred to as Natural sleep aids; it is a loose term covering dietary supplements, melatonin, plant extracts, and other related products. Naturally, melatonin is a hormone found in the human system, especially when the sunsets. That is when the concentration rises. Examples of Natural Aids would be briefed later on.

    Melatonin

    Naturally, it exists as a hormone in the human body. Still, due to its relevance in sleepiness, it has been developed into a sleeping aid that can be taken to correct insomnia. Whenever you take melatonin, you are supplementing what is not enough in your system. Places you can find melatonin are pharmacies and other stores that deal with supplements.

    Plants

    Some plants with individual constituents are capable of inducing sleep, and their efficacy has never been doubted. Few examples include chamomile, lime-flower, orange blossom, etc.

    Essential Oils

    Essential oils have been found to induce sleepiness; they come in a formulation that allows adherence. The form they exist is a spray, which will enable them to be sprayed. Other examples include herbal infusions

  • Blog,  Health

    If a Restful Nights’ Sleep Seems Elusive, There ARE Natural Sleep Aids that Will Assist!

    Insomnia is a real problem for many individuals.  Combatting it is not easy. 

    While some individuals only experience intermittent insomnia, for others it becomes chronic, and does interfere tremendously with their functioning and daily life.  Chronic insomnia not only creates mental health issues such as anxiety and depression but also health issues such as high blood pressure, the inability to focus due to decrease in mental acuity and can even lead to heart problems if it persists for years.  It is hard to determine what causes chronic insomnia, as there are varieties.  These include the inability to fall asleep at night, the inability to stay asleep, waking up many times throughout each night, and waking up way too early each morning.  If the problem persists a sleep specialist or psychologist should be consulted, as depression itself can cause insomnia if left undiagnosed.  In this case it would be difficult to tell if the insomnia caused the depression or if the depression caused the insomnia.  Some individuals who experience insomnia even fall into a pattern of fearing NOT falling asleep which of course then exacerbates the syndrome. 

    In some cases, a physician will prescribe sleeping pills.

    Although some can be addictive, sedatives such as valium and others such as lorazepam can be prescribed.  They are not all that addictive if taken only once each day at bedtime, as going without sleep for too long is dangerous.  Sleep deprivation that is extended creates what is called “brain fog”.  This is the inability to think clearly and can cause vehicle accidents and other types of accidents to occur.  Chronic sleep deprivation also causes less work productivity and those that suffer from it can lose their source of employment.  Falling asleep while driving and daytime fatigue are two big issues also.  Moodiness also occurs, along with loss of appetite and other chronic problems.  Sleep is important as during sleep the cells in both the brain and body rejuvenate themselves.  A lack of rejuvenation that is chronic due to sleep deprivation causes both mental and physical imbalances. 

    A physician may suggest a natural sleep aid first such as melatonin. 

    Melatonin is a natural dietary supplement of the Vitamin B family and has been used by many to achieve peaceful, quicker, more thorough, and more restful sleep.  It comes in tablets, in liquid, and the most popular of all, chewable gummies.  It is not addictive and has very few if any side effects.  Many times, the side effects are caused by additives within the melatonin supplements that are used for shelf life stability and freshness.  The gummies are easy to take right before bed and seem safe some individuals do experience itchiness, dizziness, headaches, or stomach aches.  Some side effects include mood changes such as depression, but these are when others already have a mood disorder of which they are unaware.  Depression and anxiety in particularly can be exacerbated by melatonin and is listed on the side of all bottles of this supplement. 

    A Cup of freshly brewed black tea,escaping steam,warm soft light, darker background.

    Home remedies to help you sleep better are a good alternative to both melatonin and sleeping pills.

    Insomnia is rampant and the reason why many individuals visit a physician every year.  If neither sleeping pills or melatonin appeals to an individual, there are many other ways to relax before sleep and induce longer sleep.  Lavender oil and a hot bath are one alternative.  Simply soaking in a hot bath with a few drops of lavender relaxes both the muscles and the mind. Valerian root is another superb alternative.  Another nutritional supplement, valerian root can take a few weeks before benefits are felt.  Patience is needed with this supplement.  Melatonin as mentioned remains more popular than valerian root.  Other helpful advice includes drinking warm milk before bed, and turning off the television, computer and even cell phone.  Looking at a vibrant screen only energizes one’s mind, the opposite of what is needed before bedtime.  Find time to put your feet up and enjoy a snack.  Doctors are not clear why this works but it does.  It should be a combination of a carbohydrate and protein like nuts and crackers, etc.  Above all else, do not exercise in the evenings, as this pumps adrenalin through the body.  As you can see there are many ways to combat insomnia and all are worth trying!  

  • Blog,  Health

    Melatonin is Used Increasingly as a Sleep Aid But It Can Have Side Effects!

    As a natural sleep aid, many individuals rely on Melatonin. 

    Melatonin is a water-soluble complex supplement derived from serotonin and has been touted as a sleep aid for decades now.  However, it has been known to cause certain side effects and although individuals might take it nightly, this is not recommended.  Only short-term use for assistance in treating insomnia is recommended and even this is not a proven fact. While most individuals do not experience any side effects, the most common ones are headache, dizziness, nausea, and stomach upset.  The most troubling side effects of melatonin seem to revolve around the interactions this supplement can have with other drugs, or other existing conditions.  Anyone suffering from depression can find that melatonin is not recommended as it can cause variations in mood and increase anxiety and depression.  This warning is present on all melatonin supplements bottles right on the back or the side of the bottle. 

    Melatonin is used to assist in regulating the Circadian Rhythm which is the sleep/wake body cycle.

    A major cause of Circadian Rhythm disruption is lack of a regular pattern of sleep.  The pattern of sleep is determined by the daylight that is experienced.  In simple terms, melatonin levels go down during daylight and rise during the darkness, which then leads to sleep.  In some individuals this pattern is thrown off entirely as they can work nights, or swing shifts, or have a habit of staying up too late. Melatonin is also routinely recommended for travelers that experience jet lag as the time differences do impact the body clock.  The blind in society especially experience severe disruption of sleep/wake cycles, as it is always dark for them no matter the time of day.  Many of the blind and those with erratic schedules either use sleeping pills or natural remedies like melatonin that are recommended by their physician. Without adequate light and dark periods, the body cannot produce enough hormone to adjust on its own to the time of day or night. 

    This does not mean that melatonin is without risk or side effects. 

    Melatonin can be taken orally or even as an injectable.  It comes in pill form, liquid form, and as chewable gummies.  It can even be applied to the skin in some instances for absorption that way if stomach upset occurs.  There is also an intravenous method used by hospitals.  It is sold almost everywhere without a prescription even in grocery stores and at almost all pharmacies and health food stores.  There is an all-natural or “pure” melatonin, and a synthetic, which is generally cheaper in price.   There are cases where it has been taken routinely for up to two years for mild insomnia, but most physicians would not recommend habitual use.  There was some buzz around melatonin having an impact on Covid-19, but this was and still is not proven.  While taking melatonin, it is advised that an individual not drive for at least four to five hours afterward as it does produce drowsiness.  As with any other type of natural or synthetic product effects may diminish as the body becomes used to it, and efficacy will be impaired if taken too long and too many times per week or month.

    Many of the adverse side effects are linked to drug interactions and other pre-existing conditions. 

    The pre-existing conditions include but are not limited to depression (as discussed above), diabetes, high or low blood pressure, bleeding disorders, seizure disorders and the recipients of organ transplants.  It is not something that someone undergoing chemotherapy should consider as the effects of all medications and the effects of melatonin on a suppressed immune system (which is what chemotherapy does) are unknown entirely.   It is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women or children of any age.  Some medications interfere with the absorption of melatonin, while others increase the absorption and this leads to taking a supplement that will not be absorbed or effective at all, or at the opposite end, with too much absorption, a supplement that will be overly absorbed and flood the body with its effects.  There also are dosage requirements and varying dosages available and a good way to establish how much melatonin to take, the amount of time to take it, and the best times to take it, is by having a discussion with a physician prior to starting a melatonin regimen. 

    Dosage requirements vary according to the intensity of the insomnia and a person’s health.

    The dosage requirements are 2-3 mg to start for up to 24 weeks according to WebMD, with requirements for longer usage and explanations provided on this website that has used verifiable studies on melatonin, the side effects, and the dosages.  2-3 mg is a starting point it seems for intermittent insomnia. Individuals that suffer from more established insomnia will be advised for 12 mg and up, with some blind individuals, because of a lack of wake/sleep cycle ability, will be advised to take melatonin in the amounts of up to 20 mgs, with a duration of up to six years or more.  Of course, being blind is chronic and although this is a heavy amount of melatonin, the side effects are outweighed by the absolute inability of a blind individual to establish a Circadian Rhythm.  If all else fails there are prescription drugs on the market as well and a doctor may very well turn to these in an effort to assist a blind person in living a more normal life as they do already suffer enough.  Overall, starting a melatonin regimen should start with advice from a physician.  (Web MD Dosage).

  • Health

    Melatonin is Promoted for Many Health Benefits but What, if Any, Are the Side Effects?

    Melatonin is a hormone that is widely touted as a sleep aid, with major impact on Circadian rhythm.

    The part of the human brain that affects the sleep/wake cycle, called the Circadian rhythm, does seem to be affected by melatonin and there are individuals that do swear by this natural hormone.  Most individuals do secrete the hormone on their own, and quite enough of it to produce restful sleep.  Others, especially those with chronic insomnia may need melatonin supplements.  The production of melatonin increases as darkness increases therefore the levels are generally higher at night for most individuals.  Others that work night shifts or shifts of different times may not produce enough melatonin to sleep during the day and may benefit from a supplement.  Other individuals might simply not produce enough but deficiencies are rare.  Melatonin can come in many forms, pills, capsules, powders, and even chewable gummies. It comes in both synthetic and natural forms and the cost is generally cheaper in the synthetic forms of melatonin. 

    It is available at most retail stores, grocery stores and pharmacies and can be ordered online.

    It has become increasingly popular in gummy form and as an additive to over the counter pain medications, alleviating pain while producing a longer and quicker sleep period in these pain/sleep combinations.  Many of these are in liquid form.  It is said to be safe for children, adults, and even pregnant women, however, any kind of supplement should be discussed with a physician first if comorbidities exist or children are given the supplement.  Dosages can vary and there are allergic reactions to melatonin reported by some individuals.  Dosage should be started at the lowest dose possible and any pharmacist can suggest which dose to purchase initially.  More than one gummy can be chewed at once and most pharmacists and consumers do prefer the use of the gummies for both dose control and convenience.  Some individuals use it only intermittently, such as when traveling as it can help with jet lag.  Big Box stores such as CVS, Walmart, RiteAid, and other places usually carry this hormone supplement.  Listings online exist for it. 

    Stephen J., of New York City, who had trouble sleeping because of an ongoing divorce, stated:

    The benefits for me were tremendous. After months of tossing and turning, I chewed just one melatonin gummy before bedtime, fell asleep immediately, and slept a full nine hours straight. I swear by it now and chew one gummy each night right before going to sleep. I will keep using this product as long as I can purchase it and it is available! I limit the usage though to my stress-filled days.

    It is still not recommended for everyone.  The medical warnings against using melatonin include:

    Diabetes, depression, bleeding disorders such as hemophilia, taking blood thinners, blood pressure issues, seizure disorders, autoimmune conditions, the use of alcohol or other sedatives or tranquilizers, or those who are using medications to help maintain an organ transplant.  Commercials abound everywhere touting melatonin, but of course, it cannot be taken that lightly.  While it is generally used to induce sleep in some individuals it does quite the opposite, with excitability and overactivity being presented.  Those suffering from depression also can see serious side effects, especially if the depression is not apparent and not diagnosed.  Because it is not classified as a drug, it can be combined with other vitamins or nutrients and sold over the counter.  There is quite a diversity in types of combinations, but Vitamin C and melatonin are popular.  Consumers can pick their choice of combinations.  Sales of melatonin are quite large because of its seeming ability to conquer insomnia.

    There is a variety of flavors available too that will appeal to toddlers and children.

    Studies do not contain a lot of information about the use in babies and melatonin for children is not recommended before a doctor is consulted.  While side effects are rare, caution, especially in children, is proposed by the medical establishment.  There are many pharmaceutical companies out there now pushing melatonin for children in the shape of bears and other types of creatures to sell this product.  However, most children do not need assistance in sleeping or the adjustment of Circadian rhythms.  The adversity most physicians have towards giving children melatonin is that it goes beyond changing the sleep/wake cycle.  It can have effects on some patterns of growth in children as well as sexual maturity.  It stays in the body sometimes longer than expected and can also leave a child groggy when awake.  Although many parents will use this hormone based on effectiveness touted online and on television commercials by companies, the Mayo Clinic does not recommend it for children or teenagers.  Add to the fact that additives are used in the production as binders and fillers, the Mayo Clinic study really suggests withholding the use of melatonin in any form for any age child. 

    Some adults find side effects bothersome too, and those with depression or anxiety should not use it.

    While it is recommended many times for seniors, since age decreases melatonin production, aging itself can lead to depression or anxiety.  While most individuals with depression are helped with melatonin, it can increase depression in others.  Those with anxiety should definitely think twice about using it, as it has been shown to increase anxiety.   It is not addictive in the true sense of the word, as there are no physical withdrawal symptoms.  However, when taken all the time, it can induce psychological dependence when an individual starts believing they will not sleep without it.  While not physically addictive as some prescription sedatives, there is a psychological dependence that can be developed.  Medical professionals still advise that melatonin should not be used every night, but only for intermittent periods, like stressful days, jet lag, and shift differentials during one’s employment. 

    Klara R., who is a police officer in Philadelphia, PA, suffered from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and had trouble sleeping. She took melatonin one time and states, “I not only did not sleep it took me longer to fall asleep. I experienced lethargy but no sleep and my mind raced. I was anxious the whole next day and during the night I experienced severe nightmares that seemed so real each time I briefly slept. I would never use melatonin again and recommend that others think long and hard before using it if they have a pre-existing condition or any type of mental or emotional problem. It did not help me but made my PTSD and sleep disorder worse!

    New uses for melatonin are being discovered because of its antioxidant properties.  

    Antioxidants prevent damage from free radicals.  Free radicals cause many serious health issues. Cancer, heart disease, and other autoimmune disorders can be caused or exacerbated by too many free radicals that are invading the body.  Free radicals are released by oxygen and while oxygenation of course is a good thing, it is a double-edged sword as it does release the free radicals.  Free radicals are a contributor to the aging process and disease progression and can be a factor in as many as over fifty diseases.  Control of free radicals has been linked to the use of melatonin but much research in this area is still needed and there are no conclusive studies yet.  Taking melatonin in the hopes of reducing free radicals is on the upsurge in consumer usage, however, based on the studies, doctors really do not recommend it unless there is an ongoing battle with a disease such as cancer which cannot be controlled.  Then the benefits outweigh the risks, and it can be recommended.

    It is up to individuals to assess how much benefit and risk from melatonin usage is tolerable.

    Melatonin will always remain popular regardless, and it has been in use for over a decade.  The most popular form seems to be the gummies as they are quick and easy to take, and not overly costly.  They do have an expiration date however and can become hard and dry, and lose effectiveness if not used within a certain amount of time.  As with all supplements and medications following usage instructions, avoiding overuse, and ensuring a fresh supply exists will lead to a better experience with melatonin.  The gummies for the most part can have a shorter shelf life, just like other gummy supplements, so this must be taken into consideration when choosing what brand and how much to purchase.  Usages vary but stale supplements of any type should be avoided. 

    When in doubt about any supplements, as mentioned before, consult a physician for advice.

    There is a rather disturbing trend in the world today that exists where many individuals believe herbal and natural supplements will always be safe for anyone and the more that is taken, the better the results.  This is not so, and caution should always rule! While useful in moderation for many individuals, melatonin is not a cure all for sleep or other problems, and any time an individual ingests anything, they need to be aware of all possible side effects and potential hazards.  Choose well and choose wisely whenever anything is introduced into your body.