Is Lemon Balm Better at Sedation Than Prescription Drugs?

Is Lemon Balm Better at Sedation Than Prescription Drugs?

Prescription sedatives are a powerful and effective option when dealing with things like anxiety or insomnia. But in a lot of ways, this can be like trying to kill a fly on the wall with a cannon when what you really need is a flyswatter. If you’re suffering from insomnia and nighttime anxiety is interfering with your sleep, you should do yourself a favor and look into natural solutions before you go for the big guns.

Lemon balm is one such natural solution that many people swear by. But how effective is it, really? After all, there are plenty of effective natural herbs and botanicals which can help you relax before bed. What’s so special about lemon balm? Well, the short answer to that question is: a lot! Today we’re going to discuss lemon balm and it’s calming, relaxing properties. And if you need a little calm and relaxation to help you get to bed, there’s a very good chance that it can help you, too.

Lemon Balm: What it Is, and How it Works

There are many different health benefits you can get from taking lemon balm in one form or another. Many people like to make it into a tea, but it is also distilled into an essential oil and can even be taken in supplement form. Lemon balm has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Some of the more common uses for lemon balm include:

  • Anxiety reduction
  • Wound healing
  • Improving sleep
  • And much more

Despite the fact that “lemon” is in the name, this plant is actually a member of the mint family. It naturally grows in southern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. However, it is a very resilient plant and has the capacity to be grown in many different climates around the world.

Lemon balm can have protective benefits for the heart, liver, thyroid, and joints. It is well known as an anti-inflammatory agent, an antioxidant, and it’s antibacterial compound, too. It can even prevent or slow the development of diabetes and herpes outbreaks. Many people swear by its ability to ease PMS symptoms and aid digestion. Of course, the most important benefit people can get from lemon balm is its capacity to improve concentration, mood, and sleep.

Lemon balm has been used as an anti-anxiety treatment for centuries. But it does more than that. Studies on elementary school children show that it reduces signs of hyperactivity while helping them concentrate better. There’s also evidence to suggest that ingesting lemon balm can boost your mood and even enhance cognitive performance. From where we are sitting, it looks as though lemon balm is the whole package – and then some.

Is Lemon Balm More Effective Than Prescription Pills?

We wish there were a definitive answer to this question – unfortunately, there isn’t. The difference between the effectiveness of lemon balm and prescription pills is largely subjective. And let’s not forget that every body is different and will process these substances in different ways. Lemon balm may have some profoundly helpful, relaxing effects on most people; others, on the other hand, may not notice any effect at all. But just because you’re worried that it might not work doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least give it a chance. After all, there is legitimate scientific evidence to suggest that it has relaxing, sleep inducing properties. So we see no reason why you should exclude it from your sleep regimen.

Is Lemon Balm a Healthy Alternative to Prescription Sleep Drugs?

As far as we can tell, yes. We’re sure you’ve seen the alarming commercials on TV advertising all of the dangerous and scary side effects of prescription sleeping pills – and these commercials are intended to promote the product! So if that’s what they’re saying in order to convince you to ask for a prescription from your doctor, what are they hiding? These side-effect warnings aren’t just words uttered on a commercial, either. There are hundreds of horror stories about people doing dangerous things like driving or walking around in their sleep and harming themselves or others because they were under the influence of a prescription sleeping pill. These pills can be downright terrifying.

Over the counter drugs aren’t much better, either. Whether it’s a prescription or a drugstore sleep aid, you won’t be getting the same quality rest that you would if your body could fall asleep on its own. These drugs alter your sleep cycle and ways that can deteriorate your brain health and even speed up the development of age-related brain disease. Even in the short term, these drugs can hamper your cognitive function, give you memory problems, and slow down your reflexes.

How to Take Lemon Balm for Sleep

There are many different ways you can supplement with lemon balm in order to help get to sleep. One of the most popular methods is to purchase some lemon balm tea, or to purchase an herbal tea mix which contains lemon balm. This isn’t a bad idea, especially if the lemon balm is just one ingredient in a calming tea that also includes things like chamomile, valerian root, or orange peel, among others.

But not everyone likes tea. Not to mention that boiling water and drinking a cup takes time. That’s why some people prefer to just take a lemon balm supplement like a capsule, a tablet, or even a tincture. Neither of these are bad methods either; but they are not without their flaws. It’s hard to know for sure whether or not the lemon balm supplement you are buying is of pure, high-quality lemon balm extract. Even if you find one, supplementing with pure lemon balm on its own may leave you missing out. It’s well-documented that lemon balm has potent synergistic benefits when mixed with other relaxation inducing herbs.

The best way to get the most out of your lemon balm is to make sure it is one of many natural ingredients in a potent and effective sleep aid. These supplements are far and away much safer than something dangerous like a prescription drug or an over the counter sleeping pill. They’re usually more affordable to – and some of them are even more effective than regular drugs! Best of all, unlike pharmaceutical solutions, natural sleep aids will enhance the quality of your rest as opposed to compromising it. We strongly suggest you start searching for one – and if it has lemon balm in it, don’t hesitate to try it out!

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Did You Know That Eating Before Bed Takes YEARS Off Your Life?!

Did You Know That Eating Before Bed Takes YEARS Off Your Life?!

Have you noticed the increasing number of magazines, websites, and news outlets warning you that eating right before bed is bad for your health? It has been connected to weight gain, poor sleep quality, and even a contributing factor to insomnia. Unfortunately, eating late at night is a common custom for the vast majority of people. Many others simply cannot sleep while their stomach is growling. Regardless of your reason, we can understand why it’s so difficult to avoid food right before bed.

As intractable as the problem may seem, you shouldn’t give up hope yet. There are compromises available. You can find a way to reconcile late-night munchies with your desire to get better sleep, lose weight, and get healthier. We’ll be happy to give you all the details – including the “why”, the “how”, and the “what” – all you have to do is keep reading!

Lifespan and Healthspan – Eating Before Bed Ruins Both

The wonderful thing about science is that there are new and fresh discoveries about many things – human health and wellness included – everyday. We have a much better understanding of how the human body works than we did a year, or ten years, or even a century ago. One of the things health experts are focusing on right now is something called autophagy. It’s actually a pretty complicated process, but the long and short of it is that small, moderately uncomfortable amounts of physical stress will make your body stronger and more resilient against larger, unhealthy amount of stress. During the Cold War, spies would develop an immunity to a very common undetectable poison called arsenic by exposing themselves to extremely small doses of it overtime. Autophagy is basically the same process – but the good news is that you don’t have to swallow poison in order to trigger it!

One of the most helpful things autophagy does is to recycle old and damaged cells. Your body rebuilds stronger, healthier ones with those recycled components automatically. And you don’t need a fancy prescription medication or some exotic woo-woo homeopathic remedy in order to reap the benefits. You can trigger autophagy all on your own for free. The simplest way is to put your body into a fasted state for at least 12 hours out of the day. And yes, those 12 hours do have to be consecutive.

This may sound really difficult, but it’s actually quite easy to accomplish. After all, most adults are supposed to get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night, right? Obviously, if you’re sleeping, you’re not eating. So that means you’re fasting. All you have to do to make it a full 12 hours is to stop eating within 2 to 4 hours of your head hitting the pillow. It’s that simple! And when you accomplish this task, you’ll get the benefits of younger-looking skin, more energy during the day, a sharper mind, and more.

Unfortunately, failing to do so and giving in to your late night food cravings will have the exact opposite effect. Your skin will look dull, dry, and wrinkle more easily. You will feel groggy and lethargic the next day, no matter how much sleep you get. You may even suffer from brain fog, memory problems, or have trouble concentrating. The longer this goes on, the worse these symptoms will get – so you need to take this seriously.

The Deadly Connection Between Sleep and Late Night Meals

When you eat late at night, you trigger an inflammatory response in your body. The closer you are to bedtime when you eat, and the larger your meal, the greater the inflammatory response. But the news only gets worse: this inflammatory response creates a positive feedback loop which only gets worse over time. And when we say “positive”, we don’t mean “good”. We mean that the effect becomes stronger – in a bad way – like a tiny snowball rolling down a mountain.

First, the late-night meal raises your blood sugar. This causes your pancreas to release more insulin. An hour or two into your rest, this insulin spike causes a sugar crash. And do you know what happens to your body when you have a sugar crash while you asleep? It does the same thing it does when you’re awake – it panics! In panic mode, your body starts to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol. When your cortisol levels are high, your body turns into Inflammation City, population: you.

The Silent Killer: Adrenal Fatigue

A late-night cortisol spike doesn’t just cause inflammation. It can have a detrimental effect on your adrenal glands, too. These glands are the ones which produce cortisol in the first place. A small amount of cortisol, in fact, necessary for a long and healthy life. But as with most other things, if you take it to the extreme, it becomes something terrible. That terrible something for your adrenal glands is called adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal fatigue can make you feel tired all the time, give you brain fog, lead to premature aging, and it can even have a negative effect on your mental health. If you neglect your adrenal health over an extended period of time, you can develop a severe medical condition called secondary hypothyroidism. In a way, your thyroid and your adrenal glands are like conjoined twins. What is unhealthy for one will also hurt the other. If cortisol is dragging your adrenals down, it won’t be long before it takes your thyroid with it. The good news is that you can avoid all of this – but it does require you to overcome the challenge of giving up your late night meals.

How to Stop Eating Right Before Bed

We know that all of the information we’ve shown you so far can seem really scary. But don’t let that stress you out; on the contrary, let it fuel your fire and make you more proactive. You can start trying to wean yourself off of nighttime meals by eating a very small snack before bed with a good combination of protein and carbs. A glass of warm up milk and half a banana is the perfect example, but feel free to experiment with your own. Next, try adding a nighttime sleep aid to your sleep hygiene regimen. The natural herbs and botanicals in most sleep aids have have helped get people to sleep for centuries. And it can work for you, too – even on an empty stomach!

The 7 Most Surprising Reasons Why You Aren’t Sleeping

The 7 Most Surprising Reasons Why You Aren’t Sleeping

If you’re constantly having problems getting to sleep at night, it can be seriously bad for your health. Unfortunately, though, we as a society don’t place as much importance on a good night’s sleep as we should. And because we are so unfamiliar with how sleep works, this can make it Extremely difficult to figure out why we can’t get to sleep in the first place.

If you’re some sort of certified sleep expert, many of the items in this list may feel like common sense – but for the average Jane or Joe, they can seem like mind-blowing revelations. For anyone struggling to sleep at night, keep reading and see if you can check off any of the boxes on this list. If so, then we have good news: you can dramatically improve your nightly rest with just a few simple lifestyle changes.

Reason #7: Exercise…You’re Doing it Wrong

When trying to solve your sleep problems, take a closer look at your health and wellness routine. Are you exercising enough? Are you doing the right kind of exercise? After all, plenty of physical activity during playtime helps little kids literally sleep like a baby when it’s time for them to go to bed. Just because you stopped “being a kid” many years ago doesn’t mean that this doesn’t work equally well for adults.

Reason #6: The Caffeine Crutch

It’s a vicious cycle: you get a poor night’s sleep the night before, you barely manage to drag your butt out of bed the next morning, and you immediately reach for the caffeine. Then you get an afternoon crash after a big lunch and you reach for yet another cup of coffee. Later that night, you’re lying wide awake in bed with no idea what happened. Well, caffeine happened, unfortunately. Trust us when we say that we know how hard of a habit this is to break. But you should try to restrict your caffeine to the mornings only if you really want to toss and turn all night.

Reason #5: That thing you’re Not Doing Between the Sheets…

It doesn’t matter if you’re not getting enough, if the quality is subpar, or if your sex life is simply non-existent. A lack of activity between the sheets can lead to an abundance of activity when you should be sleeping. And yes, single ladies, this applies to you too. Whether it’s a passionate (but safe!) fling or weather you have to double-click your own mouse, being single is no excuse not to take your sex life into your own hands – and enjoy a better night’s sleep in the process.

Reason #4: Naps Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore

Believe it or not, taking a power nap in the afternoon can be an effective way to help you sleep better at bedtime. Usually 20 minutes is a good amount, but for some it can take up to an hour to get that effective recharge. An afternoon nap can give you a boost of energy which should help carry you through the rest of your day. With any luck, you’ll be able to time your second “crash” of the day right when it’s time to go to sleep.

Reason #3: Oh, Those Summer Niiiiiiiiights…

Speaking of sleep and amorous intimacy a minute ago, one of the reasons Summer Lovin’ is so popular during the warmest season of the year is because those hot nighttime temperatures make it more difficult to sleep. Your body has evolved over thousands of years to feel sleepy when the temperature goes down. Specifically, anything below 70 degrees fahrenheit (or 21C) works pretty well. Hopefully you can find a way to cool your bedroom at night without breaking your electric bill, though!

Reason #2: Getting Your Mind Right

Get ready for some tl;dr, because this section is going to be a little bit longer than the previous ones. That’s because this item in particular revolves around your mental health. As much as that may make some people cringe, it is definitely worth talking about. So we strongly suggest that you not skip ahead to number one just yet!

There are a number of mental health issues many of us struggle with on a daily basis, even though we are too proud or too embarrassed (or both) to admit it. Chronic stress, anxiety, constant worry, depression, and loneliness are ever-growing problems in our society today. The consequences of not addressing them can manifest themselves in strange places – and one of those places is your sleep.

If you’re lucky, these mental stressors are only occasional problems for you and you won’t necessarily have to pull out the big guns in order to get them treated properly. You can keep it simple by scheduling girl time with your besties at least once a week or learning how to meditate to keep anxious thoughts out of your brain. And if you have any emotional vampires in your life, banish them as best you can (spray optional, of course).

But if it’s more serious than that, first of all, don’t beat yourself up and don’t feel ashamed. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about any non-physical concerns which may be keeping you up at night. They can recommend you to a therapist who can give you the tools you need to take back control of your thoughts and help you get the sleep you need to keep your mind right.

Reason #1: You’re Refusing Help From Mother Nature

They say it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. It’s also not very polite to refuse her help, either. People these days are quick to rush towards synthetic methods to get to sleep, like over the counter sleeping pills or prescription sleep aids (which we have already discussed to death here on this blog). But at the end of the day, the cure for your sleep problems could be as simple and easy as something which has existed in nature for thousands of years.

There are dozens of plants and Botanical extracts which have helped people get better rest for hundreds of years. Lots of natural sleep supplements out there contain these ingredients (like chamomile, lemon balm, and melatonin, just to name a few). Best of all, they don’t contain any of the synthetic chemicals which can actually do more harm than good when it comes to improving your sleep. We strongly suggest you look into trying at least one of them, along with checking off the other seven items on this list.

The 411 on WHY Chamomile Is So Good for Sleep

The 411 on WHY Chamomile Is So Good for Sleep

As it stands, you’d probably have to be living under a rock to not know that chamomile tea is the best tea to drink right before bed. It’s also an excellent calmer-downer for when you are feeling stressed out. But do you know why? In our instant gratification world these days, most people don’t care about the “why” or the “how”; they just want the “yes” or the “no”. But we think it’s important to know all of the facts, even if you’re already a fan of chamomile. Get ready to start learning some fun and exciting facts about one of the world’s most useful flowers. Also, feel free to share some of this knowledge and impress your friends at your next get-together.

Anxiety, Insomnia, and Chamomile

For the most part, chamomile drinks and supplements are used to combat symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. But once you look at the nitty gritty science of it all, it’s actually pretty fascinating. For better or worse, though, not all chamomile is created equal. The funny thing about mother nature is that different plants have different ways of changing and evolving over time. This can lead to one plants branching off into several different species which have the same ancestral roots (no pun intended). You have to be careful when shopping around if you want to make sure you’re taking the right type of chamomile. Not all species of this delicate flower will have the same effect, nor will they all be equally potent. Specifically, you want to look for the german version known as  matricaria chamomilla. Not only is it the most widely studied of all the different chamomile species, but it’s also more powerful then any of its cousins.

One of the most popular ways to get chamomile into your body is to drink it by steeping it and hot water and making tea out of it. But we understand that not everybody likes to drink chamomile tea. That’s why chamomile supplements are so popular these days. In some rare cases, though, you may be able to get it from your doctor. Germany is leading the pack right now in first world countries who offer chamomile prescriptions to their patients. It’s usually reserved for treating insomnia and anxiety, but it can also be distributed to people who have digestive problems. It is considered a level B drug, which means it’s safe for just about everyone – even pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding.

The natural compounds in chamomile can do some pretty impressive things in the body. Whether you’re dealing with the whole plant or concentrated chamomile extract, you’ll be getting lots of flavonols and flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants. They’re especially good for your central nervous system and your brain. When these biological compounds cross your blood-brain barrier, they help your brain increase the amount of free flowing GABA. GABA, in case you didn’t know, is one of those feel-good endorphins that helps you feel both happy and relaxed at the same time – it’s basically the opposite of anxiety. Since one of the leading causes of insomnia is a combination of stress and anxious thoughts, this makes chamomile particularly good and helping you relax before bed.

But Wait, There’s More!

We kind of hinted at this a second ago, but there are a whole host of other healthful benefits you can get from a regular dose of chamomile. Unlike prescription drugs, which are usually designed to target one specific affliction, you can use chamomile to treat any or all of the following:

  • Insomnia (of course)
  • Anxiety (obvi!)
  • Eczema
  • Chicken Pox
  • Psoriasis
  • Hemorrhoids  
  • Gastrointestinal Distress
  • Ulcers
  • Menstrual Cramps
  • Inflammation
  • Hay Fever
  • Muscle Spasms

So now that you know all about the wonderful benefits of chamomile – as well as how chamomile works in your body – you’re probably thinking about supplementing with it if you aren’t already. But how? Do you start drinking more chamomile tea? Do you get a concentrated supplement? Are there other ways to get more chamomile into your life? Lucky for you, we have some simple answers to all of these great questions.

Beyond Tea: Getting More Chamomile in Your Life

If you don’t live in Germany – and therefore can’t get a chamomile prescription – there are plenty of other ways for you to get some. You can barely swing a cat these days without finding a grocery store, a vitamin shop, or even a specialty tea retailer who can offer you a decent box of chamomile tea. But not everybody is selling the good stuff. The quality of the tea at your grocery store may be a little suspect, so if you’re really serious about this, stick to the places which specialize in health and wellness. They’re the most likely to have pure, potent german chamomile. That’ll help you get the most benefits.

Then again, maybe tea isn’t your thing. Whether it’s lack of time or you don’t like the taste, there are plenty of supplements you can take quickly, easily, and without the chamomile flavor which isn’t for everyone. Some chamomile supplements even go one step further and incorporate similar ingredients which help chamomile have a more powerful effect. If you happen upon such a product, be sure to look for importance sister ingredients such as:

Remember how we were talking about GABA earlier, and the effect that chamomile has on GABA levels in the brain? When you mix chamomile with any or all of the natural ingredients above, it multiplies this affect several times over. You’ll be calm, relaxed, and cool as a cucumber when you have the right type of chamomile supplement in your regimen.

Chamomile is superior too many other anxiety and sleeplessness remedies. And helps you relax naturally without the need for dangerous chemicals which could be doing more harm than good. It is easy to find and cheap to buy; you don’t need to schedule a doctor’s appointment or ask for a prescription in order to get it. Unlike some other home remedies, there is a decent amount of science to support the claims that chamomile is good for things like digestive issues, anxiety, and nighttime restlessness. Furthermore, there are many other natural botanical compounds which work well together to synergistically improve the potency of chamomile. So if you’re chomping at the bit right now to get your hands on your own chamomile supplement, or any other sleep supplement for that matter, we have a good idea of where you should start.

Can You Get Better Sleep With 5-HTP?

Can You Get Better Sleep With 5-HTP?

Previously, we’ve talked about all the reasons why sleeping pills – whether prescription or over the counter – are pretty bad for you. This can be some really depressing news for a lot of people. After all, if these medications are ruining your sleep quality and giving you negative health consequences, what else can you do? It’s not as if people who are having trouble falling asleep can just magically will themselves into slumber. They need help. And if they can’t get it from sleeping pills, where can they?

Believe it or not, there are healthier options out there if practicing good sleep hygiene, getting more exercise, drinking a cup of herbal tea at night, and eating a better diet aren’t helping you. you can take an all natural sleep supplement instead of a sleeping pill or a prescription. We’ve been doing a lot of research on these lately and they’ve got some pretty interesting things going on with them!

To be more specific, we want to talk about the ingredients. These supplements don’t contain synthetic drugs or chemicals. They don’t force you into feeling sleepy or interfere with your natural sleep cycle. The active ingredients we have seen in the most effective formulas help your body do you what it needs to do in order to fall asleep on its own. They are not a crutch, and you can’t get hooked on them. One ingredient that stands out above the rest is a little something called 5-HTP. While we were doing our research, we found out some really interesting facts about it. So if you would like to nerd out with us, please do keep reading this post.

How – Exactly – Does 5-HTP Work?

You could say that 5-HTP works in mysterious ways, and you would not be wrong. Not only does this little guy multitask like nobody’s business, but it’s extremely flexible in what it can do. Without getting too technical about it, 5-HTP is the base compound for forming important brain balancing (natural, not synthetic) chemicals called neurotransmitters. If you’ve ever heard anyone talk about endorphins, they’re actually talking about neurotransmitters. Granted, the word “endorphin” is usually reserved for neurotransmitters which make you feel good and happy; but not all of them do that. Some neurotransmitters do the exact opposite of that, but that’s a whole other ball of wax (which we will hopefully get a chance to talk about in a future post).

The two main neurotransmitters that 5-HTP can create are melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin has a direct benefit for your sleep. This is true for both the quantity of hours you rest, and the quality of the rest you get. Our bodies are supposed to naturally produce melatonin in the evening hours after the sun goes down. This lack of natural light exposure usually sends a signal to your brain that it is time for bed. Unfortunately, despite how wonderful our brightly-lit technological devices are, they are sabotaging your ability to produce melatonin. Watching tv at night, checking your social media accounts on your smartphone, or staying up playing on the computer are all bombarding you with a type of blue light which mimics the color spectrum of the sun. So your brain thinks it’s still daytime, and forgets to produce the melatonin you need for good sleep. But when you have 5-HTP circulating in your system, it’s easier for your body to produce more of this essential sleep hormone.

Then there’s the issue with serotonin. Serotonin actually has an indirect benefit on your sleep if you are getting enough of it. In case you weren’t aware, serotonin is the happy feeling neurotransmitter that people with depression sometimes lack. Obviously, if you actually suffer from severe depression or other mood disorders, it is highly unlikely that taking fistfuls of 5-HTP supplements will do you any good. But if you take a moderate amount of it either by itself or as a part of an effective natural sleep aid, it can help your body synthesize more serotonin. Its effect is just enough to make you feel happy and less anxious during the day so that any stress you experience doesn’t follow you to bed at night. And if you are less stressed out, it’ll be much easier to fall asleep.

Do You Have to Take 5-HTP Supplements? or Is There Another Way?

Technically, yes, you can help your body help itself when it comes to producing 5-HTP without supplements. But it’s a little tricky, and not as precise as supplementation. Your body can produce 5-HTP from the food you eat. But if you are following a specific diet – especially if said diet has certain restrictions – it may be difficult for you to give your body what it needs to boost your 5-HTP levels.

For starters, vegetarians and vegans struggle to get the protein they need to produce 5-HTP. When the body gets protein, it breaks it down into little compounds called amino acids. Your body then takes those amino acids and builds them back up into 5-HTP. If you can increase the amount of lean, organic protein in your diet, you can most likely increase the amount of 5-HTP your body produces. But without a blood test or some other means of measuring your 5-HTP levels, it’s almost impossible to know how much you are producing and how much certain foods will or won’t take it to the next level.

To sum up: yes, producing more 5-HTP naturally through your diet is a good option, but it is not an exact science. Supplements tend to be a little more precise.

What Are the Best 5-HTP Supplements?

Obviously, there are supplements out there which include 5-HTP, and only 5-HTP. The simplicity of it will surely appeal to a lot of people. But then again, if you want to make sure you get the best possible sleep and that you have the easiest time falling asleep, you may want to take more than just 5-HTP in the evening. That’s why we recommend finding a natural sleep aid which contains not just 5-HTP, but other helpful ingredients which promote relaxation and a gentle yet effective level of drowsiness. Your quality of sleep will be greatly improved, you’ll sleep soundly through the night without waking up, and you’ll have an easier time getting out of bed the next morning.

So what other ingredients should you look for in a natural sleep aid? We’re glad you asked! Keep checking this blog for future updates on natural sleep ingredients which will give you a quick and easy way to get some of the best sleep you’ve ever had.

It’s Time to Talk About Sleep Hygiene. Seriously.

It’s Time to Talk About Sleep Hygiene. Seriously.

The term “sleep hygiene” might be confusing for some people, especially since most of us think about hygiene as something we brush, wash, clean, or disinfect. But the Oxford Dictionary definition of hygiene is actually “conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease”. This definition perfectly describes the basic tenets of sleep hygiene. And if you don’t know what those are, or if you’re only vaguely familiar with the concept, get ready to gain some knowledge!  

Let’s Talk About the Basics of Sleep Hygiene First

As with most things in life, you have to crawl before you can walk. It’s no different with sleep hygiene. After practicing most or all of these basic steps for a few weeks, you may be ready to move on to the next level. But until then, be sure to focus on these five basic things:

Manage Light Exposure the Smart Way

Did you know that being exposed to the wrong types of light at the wrong times of day can totally throw off your circadian rhythm? It’s true! And it makes sense when you think about it. Human beings survived and evolved over thousands of years to be diurnal instead of nocturnal. This is why we feel wakeful and energized when we are exposed to the light of the sun. It’s also the reason why we feel sleepy after the sun goes down. But turning on electronic devices at night (which emit the same blue light that the sun does, BTW) can trick our brain into thinking it’s still daytime. That’s why some people feel wide awake in the middle of the night.

Exercise Is More Important Than Ever

Exercise is good for you in pretty much every conceivable way. And now, there’s scientific proof that it is also good for improving your sleep. Just look at young children: they are extremely physically active most of the time, and they never have trouble sleeping. That’s no coincidence. The harder you work during the day – both physically and mentally – the easier it will be to get good, quality sleep at night.

Food Matters – Both What, and When

Well, food and drink, to be clear. Caffeinated beverages, like coffee and energy drinks, should never be consumed after noon. This is especially true if you have a slower metabolism, because the caffeine will stay in your body for the rest of the day and make you feel jittery at night. Then there’s spicy food, which can cause painful indigestion if you eat it too close to bedtime. But that rule doesn’t just apply to spicy foods; refined sugars and fatty foods will likely do the same thing. On the flip side, you won’t have these problems if your dinner contains fruits, protein, and fresh vegetables. Lastly, drink most of your water during the day and afternoon instead of the evening. We can’t tell you how common it is to have your sleep cycle messed up buy a full bladder in the middle of the night.

Forget the Man Cave – You Need to Sleep Cave!

The best way to help yourself get better sleep is to create a space which is perfect for it. How do you do that? It’s easier than you think! Start by making sure you can get your bedroom as dark as possible before you go to bed. Blackout curtains, painting the walls a dark color, buying sexy plum or dark crimson silk sheets, or even something as simple as a sleep mask can help do the trick. You’re also going to want to turn down the temperature if you can afford to, or get a really good fan to keep the air circulating and lower the temperature. Also, be sure to remove as many distractions as possible. Yes, this includes your tv, computer, and even your pets. Pets can squirm and make noise in the middle of the night, waking you and disturbing your sleep.

Skip the Drugs and Keep it Natural

We know how tempting it is to reach for an over the counter sleeping pill on your roughest nights. And if you’ve been having sleep problems for a while, you’re probably thinking about getting a prescription from your doctor. But those should be last resorts! By taking a natural herbal sleep remedy, you can skip the dangerous side effects of synthetic drugs while also improving the rest you get.

Taking Your Sleep Hygiene to the Next Level

We hope you give the techniques above a try, and that you’ll be patient while implementing them. Like we said before, it can take several days or a few weeks for your body to get used to the changes. Once it does, try challenging yourself by doing any or all of the following:

  • Meditate before bed. And no, it doesn’t have to be that weird transcendental meditation that drives some people crazy. It can be as simple as counting your breaths! Plus, we highly recommend downloading a free guided meditation app for your smartphone. It’s a great way to get started, especially if you’re new to the meditation world.
  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time every. Single. Day. We added all of that unnecessary extra punctuation to emphasize the point. Eventually – and we know this sounds hard to believe – your body will learn to wake up and get sleepy at the same time all on its own. You’ll never have to set an alarm again. Of course if school, work, or other life challenges get in the way, you’ll get a free pass on this one. But we highly suggest trying it out if you can.
  • Take meticulous notes – for science! Keep a sleep journal next to your bed, and make sure to note important things like when you get into bed, how long you think it took you to fall asleep, what time you wake up, and how many hours of sleep you got in between. If anything disturbed your sleep, write that down too. For more accurate measurements of your sleep time, you can get one of those fancy fitness watches which measure that sort of thing – just keep in mind they aren’t always 100% accurate before you go splurging on an expensive new piece of jewelry.

We’re not just preaching this advice, either. We’re practicing it, too! A few of our staffers agreed to make these tweaks to their sleep hygiene, and pretty much all of them have seen massive amounts of improvement. You can too if you give it a try.

Did Your Doctor Prescribe You the WRONG Sleep Medication?

Did Your Doctor Prescribe You the WRONG Sleep Medication?

We all want to trust our doctors to give us the medication we need in order to live a happy, healthy life. Unfortunately, these days (and thanks to the greedy influence of prescription drug companies) this doesn’t always happen. Take the subject of this article, for example: off-label prescription sleeping pills. Did you know that it’s a very common practice for doctors to prescribe you a “sleeping pill” which was not originally designed to treat sleeping problems? When something is prescribed off-label, it means that your doctor is giving it to you despite the fact that it is not designed to treat your particular set of symptoms.

To be fair, some off-label prescriptions can actually be beneficial. However, when it comes to sleeping pills, this is rarely the case. The off-label prescriptions doctors issue for people who have trouble sleeping can have some dangerous consequences. If you’re taking any of the off-label sleeping pills below, you may want to think twice before going to the pharmacy and refilling your script. There are alternatives that you can – and should – try before you start relying upon one of these off label sleep medications.

Troublesome Pills

Before your doctor’s pen hits the prescription pad, ask him for the specific name of the medication he wants to prescribe to you. If he names of any of the medications you see on this list, you may want to kindly advise him or her not to waste the paper. Many of the medications below were originally invented to treat much more serious conditions than the occasional sleepless night. And as we’ve said, it may be a good idea to try some more natural alternative sleep cures first.

Trazodone

Trazodone is an older yet very popular antidepressant. Of course, trazodone is its generic name; the brand name maybe different depending on what country you live in or what pharmacy you go to. It is generally used for people who have major depressive disorder, anxiety problems, or substance abuse issues (especially those related to alcohol). The pill first came on the market back in the 1980’s, and most people – even those without health insurance – can get a one month supply of the medication for less than $5.

So why is an antidepressant, anti-anxiety, anti substance abuse medication being prescribed for people who only have trouble sleeping at night? Well, it all has to do with the efforts prescription drug companies make to squeeze as much profit out of a particular drug as possible. When a pharmaceutical corporation develops a medication which is relatively safe for its intended purpose, they quietly suggest to the doctors in their pockets to randomly prescribe it to patients for “investigational use”. Through these random experiments (which most patients aren’t informed of or give consent to, by the way), the company collects data and figures out whether or not that medication can be used to treat other conditions. Oh, and did we mention that this is all somehow completely legal?

Despite trazodone’s effectiveness, you have a right to know about the side effects you could experience while taking this medication. Those include:

  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Priapism
  • Hepatotoxicity
  • Worsening depression, thoughts of suicide, or depressive symptoms which didn’t exist before
  • Orthostatic hypotension  
  • Next day grogginess

Amitriptyline

Given the medication we just talked about, you may not be surprised to learn that amitriptyline is also an antidepressant. In addition to treating major depressive disorder and chronic anxiety, it is also fairly successful for people with bipolar disorder. It also has shown some efficacy when it comes to treating people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Rounding out the list of “on-label” uses for amitriptyline are fibromyalgia, posturepedic neuralgia, and other various forms of neuropathic pain.

But those are just the disorders this drug was designed to treat. The investigational uses of this drug include eating disorders, bedwetting, chronic cough, and migraines, just to name a few. In a way, amitriptyline has a bit of a catch-22 problem; it’s actually much more effective at treating its on-label disorders than most frontline antidepressants, including popular pills such as Prozac or Wellbutrin. However, it tends to produce a higher level of toxicity than it’s less effective brethren. It also has more frequent instances of Intolerable side effects, which include:

  • Nightmares
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia (which makes this a very strange medication to prescribe off-label for sleep problems)
  • Weight gain
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Low libido
  • Anxiety
  • Impotence  
  • Dizziness upon standing (orthostatic hypotension)

Mirtazapine

Mirtazapine, also known as a Remeron, is one of the most mysterious of all antidepressants. It is neither an SSRI, SNRI, or a tricyclic antidepressant. As a matter of fact, most people have no idea what the mechanism of action of this pill is. Aside from depression, Mirtazapine is prescribed for panic disorders and anxiety. So in a way, it’s understandable that the apparent calming effect of this medication would lead some doctors to believe it is safe to prescribe for sleeping problems. However, this medication is not without its own set of side effects, which include:

  • Higher cholesterol
  • Higher triglycerides
  • Swelling of the extremities
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Unwanted weight gain
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation

Before You Take an Off-label Sleep Aid, Try This

Before you take a prescription off label sleep medication – or any prescription sleep medication, for that matter – give yourself the option to try a natural sleep remedy instead. Assuming your doctor gives you the okay to do so, there are plenty of herbal supplements you can take which are specifically designed to help with sleep problems. Many of them contain healthy, helpful botanicals like Valerian root, chamomile, hops extract, and more. The most effective ones will also contain melatonin, the sleep hormone. Unlike off-label sleep medications, these have been used for years with little to no side effects and with a proven track record of effectiveness. We hope you give them a shot before you resign yourself to taking a risky off-label sleeping pill. With any luck, you’ll be getting the rest you deserve in no time.