THE BLOG

Got Insomnia?

04/11/2013 04:54 pm ET | Updated Jun 11, 2013

Do you suffer from insomnia or sleep deprivation? Do you know someone who does? Sleep deprivation is affecting millions of people every night and is a leading cause of health issues like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. [1]

Sleeping pills are among the most widely-prescribed medications today. [2] As Dr. Oz points out, when it comes to getting a good night's sleep, this is not good news. According to researchers, a good night's sleep includes peaks and valleys, transitions from light sleep to deep, or "REM" sleep. [3] A sleeping pill just makes you crash. Boom. That's it -- no variance from light to REM at all, which is absolutely crucial to replenishing brain cells and waking up feeling rejuvenated.

Brace yourself! The most commonly-reported sleep medication side effect, in addition to dependency, is sleep binging. Users sleep walk to their refrigerator and consume everything in it while sound asleep. And even worse, a reported "side effect" is sleep-driving while still in dream land. Sleep drivers wake up to the real life nightmare of having just crashed their cars in their sleep. When Kerry Kennedy, the ex-wife of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and daughter of the late senator Robert F. Kennedy, was arrested for drugged driving last summer after having crashed her car, she told a police officer she might have mistakenly taken an Ambien instead of her daily thyroid medication. The toxicology report confirmed the presence of a sleep medication in her blood the day of the accident. Kennedy plead not guilty to driving while ability-impaired.

The most important minutes of your day: Research shows that our minds are the most open the first and last few minutes of the day, when we are transitioning from consciousness to subconsciousness and vise versa. [4] These are invaluable times to program our minds with positive thoughts, images, affirmations and meditations. Ironically, most people start their day with blaring buzzers and tuck themselves in at night with the negative news on TV or with the stimulating glare from their electronic devices. If you don't want your subconscious mind to have you tossing and turning all night, then it is best to steer clear of the negative noise and e-energy before bedtime.

I partnered with psychoneurologist Dr. Sylva Dvorak to find research-based, safe and natural sleep solutions without the risky side effects of sleep medications. Aromatherapy is one of the many enjoyable, safe and natural ways to relax your body for a good night's sleep. Rub a few drops of essential lavender oil on your feet before going to sleep. Essential lavender oil is known for its relaxing properties. Chamomile is another calming essential oil that can be used in this way, as well. As an alternative, you can sprinkle a drop or two of the essential oil onto your pillow, or rub it into your temples before closing your eyes. Some people prefer to spray their bedrooms lightly with a lavendar mist. Most health food stores carry essential oils and testers, so you can test them for yourself and see which one feels most relaxing for you. As an added bonus, you and your bedroom will smell wonderful!

For more by Robin Palmer, click here.

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References:

1. Shankar A, Syamala S, Kalidindi S (2010) Insufficient Rest or Sleep and Its Relation to Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Obesity in a National, Multiethnic Sample. PLoS ONE 5(11): e14189. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014189

2. International Narcotics Control Board. Psychotropic Substances: Statistics for 2008; Assessments of Annual Medical and Scientific Requirements for Substances in Schedules II, III and IV of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971. New York: United Nations, 2010.

3. Ullrich Wagner and Jan Born, "Sleep Inspires Insight," Nature 427 (2004): 352-55.

4. John Kounios et al., "The Prepared Mind: Neural Activity Prior to Problem Presentation Predicts Solution by Sudden Insight," Psychological Science 17 (2006): 882-980; Mark Jung-Beeman et al., "Neural Activity Observed in People Solving Verbal Problems with Insight," Public Library of Science - Biology 2 (2004) 500-10