January 10, 2004
Insomnia can be an extremely
frustrating and debilitating condition. Not only are you tired,
even exhausted, from a lack of sleep, but your ability to function
day-to-day is severely affected. Unfortunately, lack of sleep in
a growing problem in the United States. Nearly one-third of American
adults, about 40 million people, experience insomnia at some point
in their life. And if that’s not bad enough, insomnia affects women
two to three times more often than men.
Insomnia can have serious implications, as it may
indicate an underlying medical condition such as anemia, thyroid
disorder, asthma, arthritis, ulcers, or the effects of prolonged
stress and anxiety, to name a few. Plus, psychological factors such
as anger and a perceived lack of safety can have an adverse effect
on sleep. I suggest that you address any of the possible medical
and psychological conditions I listed above to determine if they
could be the cause of your sleep difficulties.
Just Say No to Drugs
Tempting as they may be, I strongly recommend you
avoid prescription sleeping pills. The most common brands, the benzodiazepine
sedatives, are capable of inducing a state of deep and refreshing
sleep when first started. However, I regard them as a last resort,
for temporary use only when symptoms are so severe that you do not
respond to natural therapies. Women who continue to use sleeping
pills develop a tolerance, so the dose required to achieve the desired
effect keeps increasing. As the dose increases, so does the risk
of side effects-including drowsiness, lethargy, fatigue, and “morning
There are two effective nutritional alternatives
to prescription drugs I’d like to share with you. L-theanine and
panax ginseng have been used by many women with great results.
This fat-soluble amino acid works especially well
if your insomnia is due, in part, to stress and nervous tension.
L-theanine promotes mental and physical relaxation by stimulating
the production of alpha waves, the brain waves associated with an
awake, relaxed state.
Due to its role in the production of gamma-aminobutyric
acid (GABA), L-theanine also decreases stress. This is important,
as GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that
also blocks the release of the excitatory neurotransmitters dopamine
and serotonin. In other words, GABA stops your brain from sending
messages that rile you up, and instead promotes messages of calm
For treatment of insomnia, I recommend taking 200
mg a day, in capsule form, just before bed. I am partial to the
Suntheanine brand by NutriScience (1-203-334-3535 or www.nutriscienceusa.com),
as well as “ZenMind” by Nutricology (1-800-545-9960 or
Panax ginseng, also called Asian ginseng, is an
herbal adaptogen that has been shown to normalize the disturbances
in sleep-wake patterns, especially those caused by food deprivation.
One study found that people who took 40 mg of ginseng extract every
day for 12 weeks enjoyed a significant improvement in their quality
of life, including sleep. To help you sleep, I suggest taking 200
to 600 mg of ginseng just before bed.
It may be helpful to employ mind/body techniques
when treating your insomnia. There are two devices you can purchase
that have been very useful in promoting sleep. The first is Hemi-Sync
Sound Patterns (Super Sleep), a series of cassettes or CDs from
the Monroe Institute that help you safely alter your brainwaves
with multi-layered patterns of sound frequencies promote calm, relaxing
brain wave activity, thereby promoting and enhancing sleep. For
more information, log on to www.hemi-sync.com
or call 1- 800-541-2488.
You can also try Dr. Emmet Miller’s “Easing
into Sleep.” The first part of the tape/CD helps you stop the
problem-solving mental chatter that often starts the minute your
head hits the pillow. It shows you how to let go of the day and
begin to picture a calm, peaceful tomorrow. The second part provides
you will several options for emptying your mind, body, and spirit
of tension and anxiety, thereby creating a quiet space for sleep.
For more information, you can visit Dr. Miller’s Web site at www.drmiller.com
or call 1-800 528-2737.
A Final Word About Menopause
Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night
sweats can trigger insomnia. If this is true for you, I urge you
to treat your symptoms with my natural
Excerpted from the June 2003 Issue of The
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