I have a confession to make – I am sleeping pill addict and have been on and off since I was 16. I was first given Halcion while going through a very traumatic period in my teens after my beloved father took his life. I always knew they screwed up my head but the fear of not sleeping seemed so much worse than what they could actually do to my brain. Until now……
I was shocked to find out that some sleeping pills including over the counter may cause Alzheimer’s. What is even more shocking is that as you don’t have a proper sleep but a drug induced one, that is even more dangerous. According to researchers at the University of California Berkeley, disturbed sleep may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In a nutshell it comes down to a “stringy” toxic protein that dangles off another one in the brain. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why it’s there, but they do know that it’s dangerous. Luckily, our bodies are aware of this too, and use an enzyme to metabolize the protein until it evaporates. Those who routinely get a good night of sleep easily get rid of the protein. Those who don’t, like me, leave behind a mess the body doesn’t recognize. Sticky in nature, the protein attracts others that were also left behind, forming a dangerous sheet of gooey proteins that years down the track can cause Alzheimer’s. I know, depressing stuff but don’t worry – there is some good news here. You DON’T have to be an insomniac!
Trust me, I knew that burning lavender oil and drinking warm milk wasn’t going to cut it. Of course I also knew (and I fail to ignore on a regular basis) that consuming three G and Ts and a bottle of Pinot Noir, I would have to pay the price!
Three weeks ago I started weaning myself off Zopiclone, I actually got down to a crumb and was able to sleep ok so I knew it had really just become a habit and like all habits it takes 30 days to break. So what happened the moment I stopped even having a crumb I could not sleep so here is my week on how I managed to crack it!
Day 1. Block Blue Light
Blue Light is really important but not at night as it is what suppresses the production of melatonin. I first installed a free program called F.lux on my computer. This program automatically adjusts the color and brightness of your screen based on your timezone. When it is dark outside, the program effectively blocks all blue light from your computer and gives the screen a faint orange color. Even though I know I should cut out all work 1-2 hours prior to sleep I did this as I know I will occasionally succumb to the calling of my laptop. I also did the same on my ipad and iphone – a new update with night shift where you can select to have a warm screen setting from sun set to sun break. I also turned off all lights in our home 2 hours before bedtime and as an extra precaution read a good old fashioned paper back book by candlelight. I lit my fav Rose & Peony Candle by Matakana Botanicals which not only gave a beautiful glow the scent had me feeling very relaxed. I went to sleep peacefully which is usually where I struggle.
Day 2. Stop the Need to Pee
Great news – I got some zzzz last night but still was an erratic sleep due to fact I have to go to the bathroom every 5 minutes. I am a big water drinker and not about to give that up so how did I stop the need to pee? About 30 minutes before going to sleep, I drunk a small glass of water with a pinch of unprocessed sea salt. Apparently unprocessed salt helps the water to get into all of our cells. Our bodies try to maintain an internal balance of water and electrolytes. Too much water without enough salt, and your body may try to get rid of some H20, which may explains why I wake up so often. This worked ok and cut my getting up in the night in half . Just need to improve on my sleep quality.
Day 3. Sleep Apps
Personally my insomnia is at its worst when I have an important meeting, an early start or the major killer of all sleep – stress. A sleep app for this was the obvious choice for switching off the chatter in my head. When I started researching different apps I was astounded at how many were available so I narrowed it down to the 3 that sounded most suitable for my needs and a little different.
While you sleep, Sleep Cycle rests beside your pillow and works to gather data. The app then uses that information to wake you up when you’ll feel the least groggy. I found it interesting to see my sleep patterns and to analyse what sleep strategies worked for me best.
This ingenious app generates new sounds each time you use it, so your mind can’t get used to the same overplayed sounds. I started with the 7 day free challenge. Basically it is hypnosis. My husband came to bed and I was fast asleep with the App still playing and my candle still burning. I have never, ever been able to sleep without reading first so this was a HUGE break through.
I love this ap as it features ambient sounds of the environment to help you relax during the day and sleep great at night. My fav is waves crashing as I imagined I was at my mothers beach house at Leigh and I went into a beautiful dreamlike state. It is also great to over ride the husband snoring!
Day 4. Herbal Tea
No over the counter stuff here. I needed the hard core heavy duty herbs to really knock me out and also to help with anxiety. After some very interesting research I chose four herb & a spice that sounded like they would do the trick. Well they did and I floated off blissfully into a beautiful sleep that I have not had for years.
All of these little miracle plants are known to help sleep however here is one top fact about each herb and spice have that really grabbed my attention.
Gotu kola activates the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that acts like fertiliser for your brain encouraging new brain cell formation.
Cinnamon compounds have the ability to inhibit the buildup of a protein called tau in the brain, which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
Lemon balm suppresses brain chemical acetylcholinesterase which breaks down the brain-signaling chemical acetylcholine which is responsible for memory and thought.
Valerian root increases the amount of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA helps regulate nerve cells and calms anxiety.
It’s pretty amazing that a herbal remedy like valerian root can have the same anti-anxiety effects of prescription drugs like xanax without all the serious side effects.
Here is my recipe
1 t Dried Valerian Root
1 t Dried Lemon Balm leaves
1 t Dried Gotu Kola
1 t Cinnamon
Pop it into a teapot and steep in hot water. As Valerian has a very strong flavour I sweetened it with some honey to disguise the taste. Enjoy!
Day 5. Sex
My daughter said I could not possibly put this in my research because A; It was embarrassing and B; I had written about marijuana the previous week. She not want me to sound like a sex starved drug addict!
Well in the name of research I did discover that it increases the production of oxytocin (which helps you and your partner bond) and decreases the production of cortisol (which induces stress). These hormonal changes leave your body in a relaxed state, making it easier for you to fall asleep. Not only that, but estrogen levels also increase, which can enhance a woman’s REM cycle for a deeper sleep
Guys on the other hand produce more Prolactin which suppresses dopamine—a stimulating neurotransmitter that makes you feel awake.
Don’t forget to do the wild thing with the lights out, you’ll signal to your body’s internal clock that it’s time for bed. When that happens, the hormone melatonin ignites your sleep cycle.
When prolactin, oxytocin, and melatonin all come together, you have the trifecta for a fantastic snooze.
So did I try it and if so how did I sleep? I will keep that a secret and leave it up to your imagination!
My gorgeous mama who after so many years of suffering from insomnia and taking little blue pills now sleeps incredibly well. Her medication is at an all time low and she does not have any chemicals that induce sleep. What do I put it down to? Stress. She no longer has to worry about anything. This is a double edge sword for me as I mourn the dynamic business woman and mother that she was. What I can take out of her illness is that I have to cut back on the stress and through my week I know my biggest worry amongst my stress with work and family is I worry about not being able to sleep. Celebrating my goal that I have not only kicked sleeping pills in the butt, I am now getting a more genuine sleep thanks to the 5 steps above to help keep the buildup of protein in my brain at bay for a Beautiful Mind.