ZocdocAnswersAre there any natural remedies for insomnia?

Question

Are there any natural remedies for insomnia?

Last 6 months my sleep has been terrible. Just can't seem to drift off and toss and turn all the time. Are there any natural ways to aid sleep other than with sleeping pills?

Answer

Sorry to hear that your sleep has been terrible for the past 6 months. There are definitely different "natural" ways to help promote healthy sleep habits. Sleep is something that has been greatly studied by science throughout the years. It can be broken down into two main groups: REM and NREM. REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement, accounts for only 20-25% of total sleep time in most adults. It is so named because of the eye movements that occur. A descending muscular atonia occurs (meaning that the muscles of the body can't move) during this stage of sleep, and this is the stage where most memorable dreaming occurs. Some theorize that the atonia occurs as a protective measure so that we don't act out our dreams. NREM (Non-REM) sleep is broken down further into N1, N2, and N3 sleep. A normal sleep pattern goes from N1 > N2 >N3 > N2 > REM. This pattern repeats throughout the night. N3 is referred to as "deep" sleep, and this occurs longer at the beginning of the sleep cycle, while REM gets progressively longer throughout the night. N1 sleep is usually where myoclonus or "jerks" occur while sleeping. The entire sleep cycle is controlled by your circadian clock (sleep/wakefulness cycle). This clock is controlled through temperature changes and different enzymes/neurotransmitters. Melatonin is typically released as part of this process and contributes to the cycle. I would recommend making an appointment with a sleep specialist so that they can talk to/examine you, and possibly perform a PSG (polysomnogram, "sleep" study). They will help determine exactly what the sleep problem is, and what stage. They may also try starting something (other than sleeping pills) such as melatonin. I hope that this is helpful.

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