Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sleeping Tips for Insomnia

Insomnia problems include: you can’t get to sleep; you wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t go back to sleep; and, waking up too early, between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m., and you can’t get back to sleep.

Common causes of insomnia include poor eating habits, too much caffeine, too much alcohol, too much tobacco, nutritional deficiencies, blood glucose imbalances, physical pain, improper breathing, anxiety, stress, depression, and the lack of exercise.

To improve the quality of your sleep:
• Establish a consistent a regular daily routine and bedtime ritual, e.g. the same meal times, the same bedtime, the same pre-bed activities.
• Keep your bedroom cool and well ventilated. Maintain a relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom.
• Try an herbal drink with magnesium and calcium to help relax you. Do not eat (especially processed grain and sugar carbohydrates) less than 2 hours before going to bed. These foods raise your blood glucose and inhibit sleep. Later, when your blood glucose drops too low, you may wake up and not be able to go back to sleep.
• Reduce your caffeine intake and avoid it altogether four to six hours before bedtime. Reduce your intake of alcohol, tobacco, and other stimulants especially in the evenings.
• Eat a handful of walnuts or drink a glass of warm milk or a cup of chamomile or fennel tea to soothe your nervous system 15-20 minutes before going to bed.
• Take a hot bath 2 hours before bedtime -- it increases your core body temperature, and when it abruptly drops when you get out of the bath, it signals your body that you are ready for sleep.
• Ensure you have a quality firm bed that properly supports your body’s frame and a quality pillow to properly support your neck.
• Try to sleep in complete darkness or as close as possible. When light hits the eyes, it disrupts the circadian rhythm of the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin.
Note: The body operates on the 24-hour cycle (12 on, and 12 off), which is called “Circadian Rhythms”. When it gets dark, the body clock stimulates the pineal gland, which produces melatonin to enable sleep. Bright light or sunshine shuts off melatonin production and inhibits sleep, causing insomnia.
• Sleep on your back – it’s the best position for relaxing, and allows all your internal organs to rest properly. If you must sleep on your side, do it on your right side, not your left. Sleeping on the left side causes your lungs, stomach and liver to press against your heart. If possible, do not sleep on your stomach. It causes pressure on all your internal organs including your lungs, which results in shallow breathing. It can also cause a stiff neck and upper back problems.
• Try to avoid watching too much TV just before going to bed. TV is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep.
• Listen to calm music, or read something spiritual to help to relax. Do not read anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel.
• If possible, avoid using a loud alarm clock, which can be very stressful on the body when it is awoken suddenly. If you are getting enough sleep, an alarm clock should not be necessary.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Beating and Overcoming Depression

If I have learned anything, it's that depression has no face, color, or gender; it could happen to anyone, and it happened to me.

Since October 31, 2007, I am happy to say that I have been free from all prescription drugs, clinical depression and a battle with insomnia. I am grateful to God that I made it. And, I am grateful to so many people who helped me during my journey to a full recovery. Now I can share my story with others to let them know that they can be free to live again.

I have had a lot of losses in my life that have left me feeling hopeless and in much despair, and I felt that I was in the valley of the shadows of death after losing my family - the people who matter the most to me.

Starting on October 5, 1959, I had my first great loss with the death of my 5-year-old sister, who died of bronchial pneumonia. The losses continued in March 1986 with my father passing due to a massive heart attack. January 1996 brought the accidental death of one of my brothers, followed by the deaths of my baby brother, and another brother in 2000, just 87 days apart from each other.

Then in January 2005, my 10-year marriage ended in divorce. It was a very hard time emotionally for me, and I felt that, one by one, I was losing the people that mattered most to me.
My eating and sleeping habits changed, I lost weight and my lacking job performance led to my wages being reduced. It wasn't long until I found myself filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and I had a hard time holding it all together.

By June 2006, I found myself with seven nights of no sleep at all and I knew something was definitely wrong. Though I tried to cover it up at work, the owner knew my behavior and weight loss were not normal and told me not to mess around with this serious problem. I could no longer hide that I was battling with depression and we discussed my getting help.

My family psychiatrist placed me on a variety of drugs over the next couple of months, including an antidepressant that treats clinical depression; a sleep aid to treat the insomnia; and, a drug to treat panic disorders. I also attended general counseling with the Catholic Charities of Sharon, PA twice a month until February 2008.

Thanksgiving Day 2006 brought upon more devastating deaths, with the loss of my mother to a massive heart attack. The following year my baby sister passed in August 2007 of colon cancer.

With just one brother and one sister still living, I hit rock bottom and the sleep aids no longer worked. With God's help, and help from my ex-wife and several friends, I overcame the drugs and the depression -- by focusing on superior nutrition, a calming herbal drink, and exercise. A friend also brought me a calming herbal drink, which I used twice a day.

With all of these changes, my mind became renewed and I slowly was able to get back to normal sleeping patterns within a month.

My hope is that I will be able to help people the way I was helped when I needed it.

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