The insomniac's dream come true
Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 19, 2013 at 3:50 p.m.
Q: I have trouble with prescribed sleeping pills. They make me do crazy things like sleep walk, eat and wake up family members in the middle of the night “just to chat.” What are natural options?
— A.A., Superior, Colo.
A: It depends on what kind of insomniac you are. About one-fifth of Americans experience insomnia every night. Women versus men, and seniors versus younger folks tend to have sleep disturbances.
I wrote an entire chapter about insomnia and natural remedies in my first book, “The 24-Hour Pharmacist.” Here's a summary:
Creepy Crawlers: You fall asleep just fine but somewhere around 3 a.m. you wake up and can't get back to sleep. You consider putting away dishes, folding laundry or vacuuming. Don't! Make enough noise at that hour and your spouse will likely duct tape you to the bed post. For creepy crawlers I recommend melatonin. It increases the number of hours that you sleep.
You may be wondering if it's okay with Ambien, Xanax and other medications. It should be fine since we make melatonin in our brains anyway; some people just run short. I've read research that suggests it might dampen your mood slightly, however, it is terrific for people who have autoimmune disorders. Ask your physician if it's right for you.
Antenna Heads: You climb into bed at a reasonable hour, but your brain becomes an antenna for every thought on the planet. Some of you go into rewind mode thinking about the day and what you should have done, should have said and needed to accomplish but didn't! When you're fully maddened and start cursing the sheep, you drift off at 2 in the morning! Antenna heads will do well with a relaxing herb about an hour before bed, such as chamomile and lavender tea. Take 2 teaspoonfuls of dried chamomile herb and ½ teaspoon dried lavender, and steep that for two to three minutes, sweeten if necessary and enjoy. These herbs will settle your brain down and calm a nervous stomach. They also are available as liquid herbal extracts.
Bed Bugger: You fall asleep fine, even staying “asleep” through the night, but you thrash or wake up a lot; maybe you have bizarre dreams. The hallmark is fitful sleep. Bed buggers do extremely well on the couch (just kidding). My husband used to be a bed bugger, and steal the sheets in one roll over, but luckily, he's fine now. Bed buggers respond to supplements that relax the central nervous system, for example, magnesium, a natural “chill pill” and muscle relaxant. Two other great choices are glycine and Chinese skullcap.
Please look in your medicine cabinet. Thyroid medicine, blood pressure drugs, cold medicine and asthma inhalers are stimulating, so take them earlier in the day. If you're craving more information and remedies for sleep, sign up for a free newsletter (at my website), and I'll send you more choices to help you fall asleep.
This column is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose you. To submit a question, visit www.DearPharmacist.com.