Insomnia is a lack of sleep, or restless or poor quality sleep. You may have difficulty in going to sleep, or you may wake up frequently and restlessly during the night. Insomnia is not a disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying cause.
Restorative sleep gives your body the chance to recuperate and regenerate. Without it your body and mind become weary and easily malfunction. Illnesses and viral or bacterial infections result, giving rise to severe illness and general malaise.
Insomnia can affect you at any age, although you become more susceptible to it as you get older.
Insomnia can be divided into two categories:
Sleep Onset Insomnia and Sleep Maintenance Insomnia.
Sleep Onset Insomnia is shown as an inability to fall asleep.
Sleep Maintenance Insomnia is shown as an inability to stay asleep, or to wake frequently.
It is possible for you to suffer both sleep onset insomnia and sleep maintenance insomnia, leading to chronic sleep deficiency.
There are varying degrees of insomnia in both duration and severity:
- Temporary insomnia lasts from one night to a few weeks. It has a known cause and is an interruption to your body clock, e.g. when you are suffering from jetlag.
- Short-term insomnia can last from two to three weeks and again has a known emotional or psychological cause, e.g. stress over a particular factor, like work.
- Intermittent insomnia is more difficult and vague. It is unpredictable in terms of the number of episodes and their duration, and can be attributable to both emotional and physical causes.
Finally, chronic insomnia can take place on most nights and may last indefinitely.
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- 49% of adults worldwide report brief periods of difficult sleep.
- 10% of adults claim they have had insomnia lasting at least two weeks.
- Over 100 million Americans are estimated to have sleep problems. 1 in 6 of these have chronic insomnia at a serious level.
- Insomnia and untreated sleep disorders cost Americans $15 billion in health care expenses annually and $50 billion in lost productivity.
- Globally, 25% of elderly people and about 15% of the general population suffer from varying degrees of insomnia.
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Causes of Insomnia
Insomnia can be caused by physical, emotional and psychological factors, with stress being a major contributor.
Other factors include:
- Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.
- Medical illness, e.g. heart disease, respiratory disease, or disorders of the digestive system that cause physical discomfort or psychological stress or anxiety, resulting in sleep disturbance.
- Heartburn, menopause, diabetes and arthritis.
- Periodic limb movement disorder – a frequent involuntary leg movement - or restless leg syndrome with a tickling or aching sensation in the muscles of the legs.
- Lifestyle factors - bad diet, or digestive upset, caffeine, alcohol, drug use, work patterns and prescription medications.
Biological factors are also a consideration as sleep may become lighter and more disjointed as you age. Your inbuilt biological sleep regulator can malfunction, encouraging you to remain awake longer, but also sleep longer, or to sleep earlier but rise early too.
Psycho physiologic ("Learned") insomnia is also more common than perhaps first thought. This is an inability to sleep through the worry of being unable to sleep!
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Conventional Insomnia Treatments
The prescribing of sleeping pills is the most common conventional insomnia treatment.
These have a sedative effect from active ingredients diphenhydramine and doxylamine. This is thought to be a result of their initial purpose, which is the antagonism of the central histamine H. They can easily be found in over-the-counter sleep aids.
- Temazepam (Restoril)
- Estazolam (ProSom)
- Flurazepam (Dalmane)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
These are members of the Valium family and have been prescribed as a sleep aid since the 70s. They work by suppressing the reticular activating system of the brain, the system that regulates brain activity, by increasing the action of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), a chemical that helps to slow the transmission of nerve signals in the brain.
- Phenobarbital (Luminal, Solfoton)
- Secobarbital (Seconal)
These insomnia treatments work by more powerfully reducing the amount of activity in the brain and central nervous system. They can be lethal drugs and easily overdosed.
Because of their danger they are much less prescribed now compared to antihistamines and benzodiazepines above, but are still used in the treatment of seizures and to induce anaesthesia.
It is known that Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates may deplete or interfere with the absorption and function of natural substances such as Biotin, Calcium, L-Carnitine, Vitamin A, B6, B9 (folic acid), B12, Vitamin D and K.
Although they may provide short term insomnia relief, all of the above drugs have serious side effects and can be extremely addictive if taken for more than a couple of weeks.
Side effects include the following:
- Poor coordination
- Reduced reaction times
- Impairment of memory
- All-day drowsiness
- Skin irritation Irritation to the mucous membranes
- Stomach problems
- Vision problems
- Loss of sexual pleasure (especially women taking antihistamines)
- General malaise Possible heart muscle damage
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Natural Insomnia Treatments
Insomnia does have the potential to destroy your health. It is important to correct medical imbalances causing the problem. We now know that this is possible to do naturally!
In addition to good dietary practices, regular sleep patterns and exercise, it is necessary to correct nutrient deficiencies and to rebalance your body’s natural digestive function, and hence natural chemical structure.
There are a number of natural substances known to help achieve this without side effects:
A neurotransmitter used to regulate serotonin levels in the brain and central nervous system. It is the quickest and most effective overall treatment for insomnia, with the added benefit of improving the quality of sleep. In clinical trials by Brain Research, 5-HTP show an increase in REM sleep by more than 25%, whilst increasing deep sleep stages 3 and 4 by shortening the time spent in sleep stages 1 and 2.
An essential nutrient needed by the peripheral nervous system for the proper transmission of nerve impulses from nerve endings to target organs. It helps maintain sleep by strengthening the 'stimulus barrier’, enabling you to sleep through minor noises and disturbances.
A major constituent of Lecithin, essential for forming acetylcholine. It belongs to a category of fat-soluble substances called phospholipids. In a study on the effects of phosphorylcholine affects were seen on neuronal mechanisms relating to paradoxical sleep, possibly caused by fatty acid residues.
is a natural substance found in every cell of the body. It reduces symptoms of major depression and produces a similar sedative effect to conventional antidepressants but without the side effects. It alters the brain’s responses and improving the quality of sleep. Note: This nutrient is only effective if included in an enteric coated tablet.
D-phenylalanine (DPA) is an amino acid with antidepressant properties. It influences chemicals in the brain that relate to mood sensation and elevation. It relieves depression and the underlying cause of insomnia, producing relaxation, effective in treating sleep disturbances.
An extract known to cause sedation and sleepiness by the action of its volatile oils. In a study by the Institut fur Psychosomatik, a double-blind clinical trial shows Hops and Valerian as a good alternative to benzodiazepines for the treatment of non-psychiatric sleep disturbance.
Valerian Extract (Root)
An anxiolytic (reduces anxiety) for restlessness and sleeping disorders. It has hypotensive properties attributed to its volatile oils and other constituents, along with sedative-hypnotic effects. It works by increasing amounts of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) – an inhibitory neurotransmitter – and by it’s Valerenic acid inhibiting the enzyme that destroys GAMA. It also decreases benzodiazepine withdrawal.
The dried flower heads of either Anthemis nobilis or Matricaria chamomilla. Used as a counterirritant and carminative. It acts as a muscle relaxant and mild sedative hypnotic. It contains substances that act on the same parts of the brain and nervous system as anti-anxiety drugs. It contains the amino acid Tryptophan and appreciable amounts of calcium, together giving a soporific effect.
A mild natural sedative that’s isolated multiple flavonoids exhibit sedative effects. Studies reveal that Passion Flower extract is an important factor in the phytotherapy of tenseness, restlessness and irritability with difficulty in falling asleep.
These herbs and nutrients, along with many other individual substances are well known for their abilities to relax and aid sleep and some are readily available in shops and other retail outlets.
On their own they will provide you with a certain amount of insomnia relief and relaxation. This is extremely limited however and does not tackle your essential need to rebalance your chemical and hormonal discrepancies.
Experts know that if these ingredients could be combined to work together to enhance each other’s individual components, it may enable a product to be produced that will be potent enough to achieve results.
Xtend-Life scientists have managed to do this by combining such ingredients in an advanced and balanced insomnia relief formula. The result of this is Xtend-Life Neuro-Natural Sleep.
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