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Get a Good Night's Sleep: Without Resorting to Sleeping Pills

Getting a good night's sleep is one of the major contributors to our sense of well being. Chronic sleep problems make life a misery for one in five people. There are however, strategies and non-addictive remedies to help you get a good night's sleep. This is good news because it can prevent you from becoming dependent on sleeping pills.

Insomnia is considered a primary sleep disorder which may have either a psychological or physical cause. There are many forms of insomnia and fortunately most can be treated. Most of us will suffer from insomnia at some stage of our lives because of one or more of the following reasons:

What you can do to help

Vitamin and mineral supplements can help with insomnia

Stress and anxiety

Job-related stress, money worries, family and relationship problems, a life changing event such as a relationship split, bereavement or redundancy are all common reasons for lack of sleep. Anxiety affects sleep because when we are anxious our nervous system becomes excited and the brain sends messages to the adrenal glands, which in turn produces adrenaline. Adrenaline makes us more alert and awake. If you are very anxious but do eventually fall to sleep, you may wake feeling unrefreshed. This can make you think that you haven't slept at all.

Sleeping Pills: The downside

A traumatic event can play havoc with your sleep pattern and you may be prescribed sleeping pills by your doctor, in the short term, to see you through it. Sleeping pills are effective in that most people fall asleep within an hour of taking them. However, a drug induced sleep is different from normal sleep because the brain's function is depressed. This leads to a reduction of some of the usual stages of sleep. For example, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep (it is called this because of the rapid eye movement and high level of brain activity involved) normally accounts for about a quarter of our total sleep. With a pill induced sleep, the REM period (which is when you dream) can drop to as little as a tenth of your sleeping time.

Sleeping tablets also dramatically reduce the amount of deep sleep you have. In some cases to less than an hour as compared to the six hours during normal sleep. The sudden withdrawal of sleeping pills can lead to a high proportion of REM sleep, with very vivid dreams and an increase in anxiety which can make the problem worse.

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Davies, S. and A. Stewart., 1997, Nutritional Medicine. Pan.

Holden, S., Hudson, K., Tilman, J. & D. Wolf, 2003, The Ultimate Guide to Health from Nature. Asrolog Publication.

Pressman, A. and S. Buff, 2000, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. (2nd Ed.) Alpha Books.

Soothill, R. 1996, The Choice Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. A Choice Book Publication.

Sullivan, K. 2002, Vitamins and Minerals: A Practical Approach to a Health Diet and Safe Supplementation. Harper Collins.

Trattler, R. and A. Jones, 2004 Beat Insomnia. Nature and Health. March, 31-35.

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Worry is one of the causes of wakefulness but there are other factors that can contribute. Pain, discomfort (too hot, too cold, too noisy, too full), caffeine or alcohol, hunger or overtiredness, lack of fresh air and exercise are some of the things that can prevent sleep or cause us to wake early.