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Relax, it's just sleep you're missing!

A Feel 21, Inc. Health Report

By Anthony Anderson

I don't consider myself a sleep-expert, per say. While I've logged many a postmeridian hour in the land of delta waves and REM (not to mention more-than-my-share of antemeridian hours) I haven't done official research on the subject. Of course if you want to count going back to sleep in the pursuit of continuing a dream as official, then I am official. Let's face it, with me it's a hobby, nay a lifestyle. I like sleep.

There's one problem. I don't get the amount I want as often as I want. Now it's not a matter of not having the time. I have the time. I'll make the time if I have to (or at least try), to get enough sleep. I just can't fall asleep. Granted, the large amount of caffeine I imbibe doesn't exactly induce, let alone even promote sleep. But even when I am sans caffeine, my brain just doesn't want to shut down. So I lie there contemplating stuff eventually drifting off.

Fortunate are the times when I don't awake to stare neck-craningly into the red led's of my alarm clock and discover it's the middle of the night. (What I really hate are those times when I awake with less than half an hour of time before my alarm goes off. You just finally nod off again and BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEE--SNOOZE!!! Unfortunately there's a limit to the number of times you can successfully hit the snooze button and still maintain the necessary status of employed.) It's a perpetual nightmare -- I go to bed at a reasonable time and can't fall asleep; when I eventually fall asleep, I get too little sleep. I wake up tired and am less than proficient at my job.

But on some level, the tumultuous torrent of my thoughts has been placated for I am not alone. "A recent NSF (National Sleep Foundation) 'Sleep In America' poll found that 60% of American adults experience sleep problems." (NSF)

So what can you do?

It depends. We live in a fast-paced world. (Yeah, I know the expression is cliched by now but it's still relatively effective.) More and more people are working more and resting less. It's an essential part of this big global-village of which we've become a part. Schedules are more fluctuant than ever. It's an interesting paradox. On one side many of us are finding it necessary to adopt a 24-hour plus schedule. We are out of sync with the planet but we adapt. On the other side, our bodies respond to the light and darkness and when night sets we find ourselves wanting to sleep ( a wonderful throwback of Mother Nature -- but a useful trick if you have birds).

The U.S. Navy is in total agreement with my findings (okay they did the research, I paraphrased). Here's what they had to say: Humans have a biological clock with a cycle length (tau) longer that 24 hours. People generally remain synchronized to the 24-hr day due to daily resetting by time cues, particularly the light-dark cycle.

(I think my version is much better.)

This leaves us in a wonderful state of awakedness (This word is not found in but can be found searching Google, go figure!) for which there is little escape. Let's go back to Mother Nature for a moment.

If, as the Navy has concluded, the human body is on a cycle length that exceeds the Earth's rotation then how did we get that way? Evolution? If so, it is somewhat safe to conclude that the possibility exists that other elements in Nature possess this same "tau". In this respect I think the compensation was the light-dark cycle effect.

Nature came to the rescue! As she always does. And always shall. I think my personal favorite is the tsetse fly. Okay, not exactly the best way to induce sleep but a fun name just the same. In addition to the light-dark cycle and the tsetse fly, Nature has also provided us with an array of plants that aid in the promotion of relaxation. Kava Kava, for instance has been used for centuries safely in the South Pacific for its calming effect and its ability to relax muscles. The natives are known to prepare a fermented liquor from it, producing a relaxing drink before important religious rites. There's also Valerian Root. This herb is best known to help calm nerves during the day and improve sleep quality while promoting relaxation and night time rest. Valerian Root is used world wide for its relaxing effect on the body. Studies show that regular intake of Valerian Root may aid the body's response to lack of sleep or tension. These ingredients have been shown in clinical studies to:

  • Decrease sleep onset latency, the time it takes to fall asleep
  • Improve sleep quality, with increased proportions of "deep" (slow wave and REM) sleep
  • Reduce nighttime awakenings and prolonged sleep time
  • Enhance daytime psychomotor performance and feelings of well-being.
They've been tested against the benzodiazepines and barbiturates most frequently prescribed for insomnia and anxiety and have been shown to be just as effective as:
  • Halcion (triazolam)*
  • Valium (diazepam)**
There's no escaping the need for sleep. There's a rapidly dwindling window in which we can escape the rigours of modern society. Without the proper treatment, our bodies will simply shut down. Most of us have heard the expression, "Your body is a temple meant to be worshipped." (or some such expression). Muslims hold the belief that our bodies have a right over us. ( If this is true don't we owe it to ourselves and our bodies to get the rest we need?

*Halcion is a registered mark of Pharmacia & UpJohn. **Valium is a registered mark of of Roche Products

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If you have or suspect an illness or have a health concern, always consult with your physician or health care provider. We have used our best judgment in compiling this information, however, the information presented may not have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any reference to a specific product is for your information only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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