April 20, 2014

How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep

A good night’s sleep is not always easy to come by.  The secret to feeling happy and rested is not a sleeping pill, or even a good nap. The challenge of stress, sleep apnea and hormones make “Goodnight Sweetheart” impossible. But, sleeping well is a tremendous investment in your health, outlook and productivity. The following treatments will help you schedule your energy cycle and sleep better consistently.

Sleeping pills — sedatives, hypnotics, tranquilizers

Alcohol used to be the “drug of choice” for sleep problems. However, you don’t get restful sleep from passing out!  Interestingly enough, most of the prescription “sleeping pills” work in the same area of the brain as alcohol and cause the same problem of crashing without getting a good night’s sleep.

Over-the-counter sleeping pills available today are all anti-histamines.  They block the wake up neurotransmitter called “histamine” causing people to feel sleepy.

One problem with sleeping pills of any kind is that they may knock people out, but they don’t generally provide good sleep.  Some of them are even dangerous.

One of my patients who lived alone and was taking sleeping pills wondered if someone was getting into his house at night because he was very meticulous, but began finding tools in the garage moved, food on the kitchen counter and stuff on the floor.  One day he woke up on the kitchen floor and realized that he was sleepwalking, eating and who knows what else! His medication Zolpidem caused this.  Some have even been known to get in their cars and drive while sleeping

Another issue with sleeping pills is the danger of dependence. The threat is not that you have to use them to live and survive, but rather when you stop taking sleeping pills then you have more problems sleeping.

To get a good night’s sleep:

  • Avoid sleep-assisting drugs, if possible.


One of the more common problems I see in my clients with sleep problems is the use of stimulants.

  • Amphetamines, like those for ADHD, destroy parts of the brain and can permanently interfere with sleep.
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate) is notorious for causing sleep problems.
  • Also, stimulants such as caffeine found in coffee, tea, yerba mate, and so forth, interfere with sleep patterns, even if they don’t decrease the time of sleep.

Today, I see many more sleep problems because of “energy drinks.”  These are very high in stimulants, while at the same time adding taurine, an amino acid to calm the brain so people aren’t shaky and nervous.  The effect of these energy drinks changes the brain in the same way that excessive stress does, bringing out the weakness of the individual yet disrupting sleep patterns.

To get a good night’s sleep, avoid:

  1. Coffee, tea, colas
  2. Sugar
  3. MSG
  4. “Pep” pills
  5. Energy drinks


Keep in mind that the need for sleep declines with age.  The average teenager needs ten hours of sleep per night, but it declines from there.  One elderly man told me he went to bed at 9 PM and woke up at 2 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I asked him how he felt during the day and he said, “No problem!”  He was never tired, didn’t fall asleep reading, driving, watching TV, or sitting in meetings, and didn’t take naps.  I explained that the five hours was enough for him and that he didn’t need any sleeping pills. He became irate! His rhetorical reply was, “What am I supposed to do at 2 o’clock in the morning?!!!”

If you wake up early and can’t get back to sleep, remember that if you aren’t feeling tired during the day, then that amount of sleep is enough.  If you are tired, then you will need to find out why you wake up.

To get a good night’s sleep:

  • Assess your need for sleep before deciding to treat a sleep problem


Many people like to take naps during the day, whether it be habitual, emergency, planned or power napping.  There is no problem with this, but remember, the total amount of sleep needed in a day doesn’t change.  So, if you find yourself unable to sleep at night, you might want to cut out the naps during the day.

To get a good night’s sleep:

  • Naps are included in total daily sleep time

Sleep Apnea

Steven is overweight, has diabetes and hypertension.  He comes to the office complaining of being sleepy all the time.  He says he could sleep ten hours but then still wake up tired.  The biggest problem is that he’s a truck driver and has had difficulty staying awake on the road.

The fastest growing sleep problem in the world is sleep apnea, which is when a person wakes up frequently at night because he stops breathing.  This may happen hundreds of times every night, but the person isn’t aware of it happening at all.  Usually, when they are breathing, they snore loudly.  Even though they may sleep long enough, they are always tired because they don’t get enough deep sleep.

There are several sleep apnea treatments that are useful.

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  1. Deanna Gee says:

    I have sleep apnea and find it very uncomfortable to use the CPAP machine all through the night. Your recommendation to lose weight does not work for me because I don’t have much weight to lose. I just have about 5 pounds to lose, if even that. Do you have any other natural recommendations for sleep apnea?

  2. Kevin Mandel says:

    I suffer from General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and have been taking tranquilizers for several years. I usually try and take my last dosage around 7:00pm. I am 54 and normally go to bed around 9:30pm, or so after I help my wife put the kids to bed.

    I have tried to ween with the assistance of my Doctor off of Clonazepam, but it is better that I stay on this medication. I was recently terminated from my job after 34 years, and almost went through forecloser proceedings.

    I have a 17 year old son who is a drug addict, so I do not suffer from the normal stress of life.

    Got any suggestions ?

  3. vicki saxton says:

    I have chronic neck pain from degenerating discs in my cervical spine. I get extreme muscle tension up and down the muscle that connect to my skull and where it connects to my skull it is very painful. I have limited rotation when it comes to turning my head to the side. The pain also radiates down into my shoulder and beneath my scapula.
    I was taking aleve (2) or ibprofen (800 mg) to little relief. I have received 2 cortisone injections spaced about 3 months apart and they offer instant relief. My doctor first tried oral cortisone and I’m allergic to it, ie system wide fungal infection, facial skin feels like orange peel, voice hoarse, painful pimples on my head. My question concerns the issue of how often can I receive injections and is there anything else I can do? I am 71 years old and female in otherwise good health

  4. For me, it’s a CPAP mask for sure! Here’s some more info on the advantages of them if you’re interested: http://www.cpap-supply.com/Articles.asp?ID=123

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