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Monday, December 21, 2009

Sleep and The Holiday Blues, part 2

Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is a swauel about sleep and depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.

Yesterday's post discussed sleep (or lack thereof) and what feels similar to depression. I realized you may want a sequel that gives you some sleep remedies that may help solve the problem of not being able to get to sleep!

I'll start with the obvious and well-known: no caffeine (coffee, soda, chocolate) in the evening. Same goes for strenuous exercise. Avoid that for at least an hour before bedtime.

Now for my personal recommendations.

A glass of warm milk. An old-time remedy that may work by helping you get more absorbable caclium into your blood. Adelle Davis, who I mention and quote frequently, called calcium tablets "lullaby pills" and recommended taking them at bedtime. Search online and you'll find the warm milk at bedtime is not substantiated, but the studies weren't looking at calcium, but things like tryptophan and melatonin (more on those two at the end of this post.)

Another old fashioned remedy that works on the same principle is a warm bath before bedtime. Heat makes your blood more acid, which draws more calcium into solution - not from your bones, from your blood vessel walls, where it settles when your blood is too alkaline. (And probably helps build up arterial plaque? I'll check that out and post something about it later if I find anything interesting.)

Sleepytime tea by Celestial Seasonings is my next suggestion. This blend of herbs can help you relax for bedtime. It has chamomile as well as other herbs. Chamomile has calcium, and you drink the tea warm. You're catching on now, right?

Personally, I can't get to sleep if I'm the least bit cool. I don't like to be overheated, either, but even a little cool draft on my neck or shoulder can keep me from getting to sleep. And remember, the whole point of sleep here is to have a better, happier day when you wake up. So make sure you're comfortably warm, whatever that level is for you, so you're not kept awake by cold that may also make your calcium be less useful.

Calcium is a natural pain-killer, so if pain keeps you awake, this may help you in that department as well.

Another simple remedy is complex carbohydrates. I don't remember where I read this, but the suggestion to bake a couple of large potatoes and eat a quarter of one at bedtime really helped me when I did it. (Do this before you brush your teeth, of course.) Cold, leftover potatoes from the fridge work fine. The principle at work here is carbs, not warmth/calcium.

Alcohol seems like an easy remedy, and it is, but it isn't a good one, especially if you want to avoid depression. So add alcohol to your list of things to avoid if you want to get a good night's sleep and not feel depressed the next day.

If your bladder keeps you awake, first get checked for infection, or other underlying problem, but if it is a chronic irritation or interstitial cystitis, you may find nettle extract helps you. I take a half dropperful at bedtime when I have a flareup, and it helps some. (A little baking soda in water helps too, sometimes, but keep in mind, it makes you more alkaline, and neutralizes some stomach acid which is necessary for calcium absorption!)

There's also a popular homeopathic remedy, Calms Forte, you may find helpful. If you're lactose intolerant, beware: most homeopathic tablets have lactose in them.

Aromatherapy also offers some sleep aids. Lavender is a popular aromatherapy remedy that helps relax you. So does hops. You can buy (or make) a little sachet pillow of either and let its scent help you find la la land. There are bed sprays, bath soaps, body lotions, and essential oils with lavender, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding those. Hops you may find as loose tea at a health food store.

"Studies also suggest that massage with essential oils, particularly lavender, may result in improved sleep quality, more stable mood, increased mental capacity, and reduced anxiety. In one recent study, participants who received massage with lavender felt less anxious and more positive than participants who received massage alone." - Lavender, University of Maryland Medical Center website article, provided by ADAM.

A caution about a popular sleep remedy, melatonin, is in order here. If you're prone to depression, keep in mind this hormone can make you feel depressed, or more depressed. (Same goes for the oh-so-popular prescription medication, Valium.) If you already have bouts of depression and still want to try melatonin, start with a minimal dose; if depression appears or worsens, discontinue use!

Tryptophan, which has been touted and studied as the possible reason for warm milk helping promote sleep (if milk actually even does that...the scientific jury is still out) is also not necessarily a good sleep remedy, since it alters the stages of sleep. You may get more sleep, but not the right quality. Still, it may be a good idea if you just can't sleep, especially if you haven't slept well for several days and have to get some sleep. But try the other remedies first.

OK, hopefully, with all these ideas you'll find one that works for you, to help you sleep well and have a brighter tomorrow! If you want more info, see the links below. Following those are some remedies you can purchase online.

Further Reading:

How to Take Calcium and Sleep Well at Night - article at eHow discusses calcium as well as other factors that help it work.

Foods for Sleep - at

A Warm Bath and Your Sleep
- helpful tips, including what to add to your warm bath.

Sleep Remedies at

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