Only in the last 50 years have we begun to understand sleep and what it means to our bodies. Up until then it was thought that the brain and the body simply shut down for the night and that sleep had no relationship to our daily lives!
It is thought that sleeping at night has developed from our ancestor’s survival instincts. The idea that their faculties were limited in the dark and therefore searching for food and defending themselves against predators was dangerous, they evolved into diurnal creatures, sleeping at night. Without adequate sleep (the right kind of sleep) the immune system can become weakened and our memories and emotional state becomes impaired.
Sleep is necessary for the brain to encode and store information. It is known that the brain is activated during REM sleep and that this stage of sleep is necessary for learning and controlling memory. Likewise many brain functions actually slow dramatically during sleep in order for them to replenish and perform better when awake such as decision making and emotions.
Insomnia is characteristically known as a sleep disorder whereby one either has trouble falling asleep or wakes during the night for unknown reasons and is unable to go back to sleep. Most people suffer with insomnia or ask their doctors for help. Most doctors are quick to prescribe medication without really taking the time to understand the causes of the sleep problem. They are simply not trained to look deeper into the root causes and since there are plenty of prescription sleep medications, anti-depressants and OTC products to recommend it may not seem like a priority. The facts are clear that drugs help in the short term but as a long term cure fail dismally. They are addicting and heavy usage has actually been shown to increase mortality!
Understanding your sleep issues is the most important first step. After that there are many ways to improve one’s sleep hygiene with natural methods which will greatly improve the quality of sleep. Most importantly, drugs should be avoided except for very short term use.
When I was about the age of 45 I began to have occasional insomnia which became worse with time. I finally spoke to the doctor who explained it was normal and very common in fact for pre-menopausal women to develop insomnia. Naturally I was prescribed Ambien which I accepted as a miracle drug since it worked very well for me in short spurts. I never took it nightly as I understood that it was “mildly addicting”.
Since that time I have been amazed to learn that a large number of my friends from their mid-forties to 70’s have trouble sleeping! It is really sad and worrisome that many woman never think to ask the doctor about it and when they do they are given prescription drugs rather than solving the core of the problem. The numbers are astonishing and it is important that it be dealt with as a woman’s health and wellness issue. One must wonder if this has always been a problem or is it the stress of living today that is causing it?
There are methods available for improving ones sleep without drugs. It is important to understand the sleep process and the dynamics of sleep before you can cure your insomnia or sleep disorder. You can then begin to implement techniques which will improve the quality of your sleep. It is truly remarkable how quickly your sleep will improve by making changes to your lifestyle and the way you think about sleep. I have personally been practicing some new techniques and am amazed at the energy I have during the day and the clarity of my thinking. I wake up with vigor in the morning after 6 – 6 1/2 hours sleep!
It is worth researching this important issue if prescribed sleep aids. They are acceptable for a very short period of time to help people get back on track but it is wise and well worth the time to look into natural methods which can teach how to improve your sleep by modifying your sleep habits.