Every night, millions of Americans reach for prescription and over-the-counter sleep medication to help them rest. For some, these medications provide relief after years of insomnia while others rely on it to simply maximize their time in the sack. In the not-so-distant past, sleep aids were nothing more than "sedative hypnotics", a class of medication that not only increased drowsiness but also carried with them the likelihood of dependency, addiction, memory problems, and inattentiveness. More modern sleep medications bind to the chemical receptors in the brain the way traditional sleeping pills did, but are slightly less likely to become habit forming. Still, continued use of prescription medications over the years may create a physical dependence and decrease the likelihood of a person falling asleep on their own. The question then becomes, outside of medication, what can you do to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer at night?
Get Your Steps In
Exercise has a powerful effect not only on the waistline but also on sleep. Not only does it limit the effects of stress hormones on the body by introducing feel-good chemicals into the brain, it gently raises the body's core temperature. In the effort it takes to lower the body's temperature, many people find they experience a sedative effect. Even when performed hours before bedtime, getting adequate exercise can dramatically affect one's ability to both fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
Practice Mindful Meditation
For many people who suffer from insomnia, bedtime is a stressful event in itself. Whether it is the mental countdown to dawn or other stressful events in their lives that are keeping them awake at night, often the process of trying to sleep itself is as stressful as not getting adequate sleep. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation, or the process of becoming aware of your physical body and surroundings in a comfortable position, can help a person both fall asleep and stay asleep. Several apps are available that provide guided mindfulness exercises that allow the brain to "wind down".
Chiropractic Can Help
Most people associate chiropractic with pain. Headaches? Neck and back problems? Neuropathy? Go see the chiropractor. Yet few people understand the connection between spine health and long-term sleep problems. Since the brain and spine are key in the body's central nervous system, their ability to communicate both with each other and with the rest of the body is essential to the body's overall function. Problems with subluxations, or misalignments in the spine, can cause a myriad of symptoms from pain and nerve trouble in the back, neck, and limbs, to sleep disturbances, digestive issues and concentration problems. When the spine is placed in proper alignment and the nerves allowed to communicate without interference, the body can function the way it was meant to. Together with other services offered in quality chiropractic offices such as neurofeedback and acupuncture, chiropractic care can help you sleep better without the side effects or risk of dependency of medication.
Whether you are looking for ways to avoid prescription sleep aids or want to become less dependent on them, there are alternatives that help you sleep better and carry added health benefits as well.