Saturday, February 27, 2010

How to Fall Asleep Fast and Easy

How to fall asleep fast and easy when taking the herbal supplement, Valerian. What is Valerian? Valerian is a plant that grows in Europe and Asia roughly four feet high and has trumpet-shaped flowers. Ancient Greece and Rome alchemists used Valerian for conditions such as sleeping disorders, indigestion, anxiety, headaches and for an irregular heartbeat. Today Valerian has also been used to ease stomach and menstrual cramps, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), some of the restlessness that accompanies attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and migraine symptoms. And, more rarely, it may be used to treat convulsions from a seizure disorder.

Since Valerian is not as potent as any prescription sleep aid, there have been few clinical studies to determine the herbs active components thus forming a conclusion to its effectiveness. The Valerian root is primarily used medicinally and when dried it protrudes a strong odor many find unpleasant, somewhat like aged cheese or milk.

Many people use Valerian due to the side effects of prescription medication. With prescribed medication you may feel the “hangover” effect the next day and not only could you become addicted, if discontinued, your insomnia may worsen. What side effects are there with Valerian? Side effects include; headaches, dizziness, itchiness, dry mouth and vivid dreams. Liver damage has been associated with the use of Valerian, since this is where the herb is broken down in the body. However, this rarely occurs, as it is not certain if liver damage was caused by Valerian directly or in combination with other medications. If you decide to take Valerian and notice the following conditions associated with liver damage, see your doctor immediately; tired, intense itching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in the upper right side of your abdomen or yellowing in the eyes and skin.

Valerian can be found in capsule, tea or extract and in herbal sleep aides combined with hops, catnip or kava kava. You can purchase Valerian online, at most health food stores or at your local pharmacy.

This herbal supplement is not recommended for those that are pregnant or nursing and anyone with a liver disorder. It’s not advisable to drink alcohol while using Valerian. People taking medications for insomnia or anxiety, such as benzodiazepines (Ativan or Valium), should not combine these medications with Valerian. Other drug interactions are known with antidepressants, narcotics such as codeine, and barbituates such as phenobarbitol, or with over-the-counter sleep and cold products containing diphenhydramine and doxylamine.

Valerian can also interfere with the effectiveness of medications that are broken down by the same liver enzymes, such as:

• allergy medications like Allegra (fexofenadine)

• cholesterol medication such as Mevacor (lovastatin)

• antifungal drugs such as Sporanox (itraconazole) and Nizoral (ketoconazole)

• cancer medications such as Camptosar (irinotecan), Etopophos, Vepesid (etoposide), Gleevec (STI571), Taxol (paclitaxel), Velbe (vinblastine) or Oncovin (vincristine)

Be smart about taking herbal supplements and do your homework. In the United States, Valerian is sold as a dietary supplement, and dietary supplements are regulated as foods, not drugs. Therefore, premarket evaluation and approval by the Food and Drug Administration are not required unless claims are made for specific disease prevention or treatment. If you suffer from insomnia and want to know how to fall asleep fast and easy, contact your physician as he may prescribe another form treatment or recommend a sleep specialist.
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to Fall Asleep Really Fast

The other night on a SPIKE episode “1000 Ways to Die” they showed a woman getting acupuncture. She fell asleep on the table when her cell phone rang, half asleep she tried to reach for it and fell off the table. Unfortunately, one of the needles pierced her heart and she died. I don’t mean to scare you and the point to all of this is she FELL ASLEEP and FAST!

Here are some tips on how to fall asleep really fast.

Western Medicine:

As too many of us with stressful living end up losing sleep. Poor health, overworked and family issues contribute to our emotional reasons for not getting enough sleep, but you also could have a physical reasons such as; sleep apnea, cardiac conditions, allergies, asthma, fibromyalgia, epilepsy and menopause. Other reasons could include; age, sleep patterns, medications, chronic pain, jet lag and nocturnal shift work.

A chronic sleep disorder, insomnia means that you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep long enough to feel energized during the time you are awake. Insomnia is a symptom and not a disease. Many western doctors recommend medications either over-the-counter sleep aides or prescription drugs for example; Valium®, Xanax®, Ativan®, Halcion®, Dalmane® , Restoril®, Tranxene®, Klonopin® and Librium®.

All sedative-hypnotics are central nervous system depressants. They work by increasing the activity of GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid), the principal neurotransmitter in the brain for CNS depression. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that enable the brain cells to communicate with each other. Though these drugs may be affective in the beginning of treatment, many people will find they become drug tolerant and need a greater amount of the medication in the long run. Prolonged use and greater amounts cause these patients to become addicted to the medication and will suffer withdrawal symptoms similar to alcoholics trying to dry out. Clearly use of a sedative for a short period of time would be beneficial for those that lost a loved one or flying abroad, but not for someone with a chronic sleep disorder.

Some over-the-counter medications (OTC) are non-addicting and will help the patient to become drowsy. These OTCs take longer to take affect and when combined with a pain reliever such as Anacin PM, Excedrin PM or Tylenol PM may be all someone needs if they occasionally have difficulty falling asleep. There are a fewer side effects, which can include dizziness, blurred vision and dry mouth. Some sleep OTCs are not recommended for those with angina, heart arrhythmias, glaucoma, prostate and urinary problems, pregnant or nursing. It is also stated on their label not to drive or operate heavy machinery and/or mix with other sleep aides or alcohol. With any OTC contact your doctor if taking another prescription medication to avoid drug interactions.

Traditional Chinese Medicine:

In comparison to western medicine, insomnia is treated according to the symptoms with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Most of their texts state that there are 4-6 underlying patterns that result in a sleep disorder. The patient’s complete medical history and associated symptoms are dealt with by the TCM practitioner. They will also use a pulse and tongue diagnosis to confirm their clinical findings.

Those that practice in acupuncture feel that sleep problems are emotionally based. The internal organ system is interrelated with emotion as the lung is associated with grief and sadness, the liver with anger and frustration, the kidney with fear, spleen with worry and the heart with joy. Any disturbance in one system will affect the other systems over a period of time. Disturbances include palpitations, dizziness and more commonly insomnia. Insomnia disharmony is located in the liver or heart. When anger is depressed in the liver or the patient is experiencing excessive anxiety which in turn suppresses the heart from feeling joy, this causes the person to become restless resulting in interrupted sleep.

The kidney is also associated with insomnia mainly for those that are older. As we age our kidney function decreases but in varying individual degrees depending on genetics and lifestyle. Patients that have experienced trauma, drug addictions, sexual or emotional abuse or even multiple childbirths can also contribute to kidney deficiency and result in sleepless nights. Stress and/or worry with bad eating habits can interfere with supplying the spleen with enough nutrients to support the body and its ability to supply blood to the heart. A heart-spleen deficiency results in our ability to stay asleep. TCM uses acupuncture and Chinese herbs as treatment to correct deficiencies along with a sleep routine and healthy lifestyle to help those that suffer from insomnia.

To find a licensed acupuncturist in your area either look in your phone book or online. Many spas’ offer acupuncture with homeopathic remedies to determine the causes of sleep deprivation. A visit can cost around $150.00 for a 60-80 minute session with a follow up visit between 45-60 minutes at $125.00.

Note: If you try acupuncture please leave your phone in the car…then you won’t be tempted to answer it when you are finally getting some zzz’s and fall off the table.
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