Question: Dr. Hibberd, your column is great. I wish you were my doctor! Do you know of any natural insomnia remedies besides valerian and melatonin? Neither of these work for me.
Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
Insomnia remedies are best used under the supervision of your personal physician. Most nonprescription remedies suppress your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep or are ineffective. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has an approval process for insomnia medications that requires proof of effectiveness and safety not usually provided by non-pharmacists and natural-products salespeople with little medical background.
For your own safety, consult a pharmacist and your personal physician about your options. You want a medication that will allow you to have uninterrupted REM sleep. Sleep medicines should be used for no longer than seven to 10 consecutive days.
Develop good sleep habits: Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m., don’t use weight-loss or decongestant products, be sure your bedroom is dark and free of noise, do not work or watch TV in your bedroom, do not nap during the day, don’t exercise within two hours of bedtime, avoid alcohol, and set aside sufficient time to give yourself 10 hours sleep to start. If you do awaken, and cannot return to sleep, rise for a short time then return to bed, but do not eat until breakfast time when you plan on remaining up all day. If these measures fail, ask your doctor for a sleep screening exam at home, or even a sleep lab appointment.
Keep in mind that normal sleep varies by individual, from as little as hours to as long as 12 hours. For most people, eight hours sleep is adequate. Sleeping problems can be accompanied by impaired metabolism and poor memory. Sleep is actually the time that our brain's functional activity is being refreshed and when memory banks are passed from temporary to long-term memory.
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