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Trouble sleeping? More than 1.6 million Americans use complementary and alternative methods to treat insomnia.

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Judging by the TV ads running these days, Americans must be having an all-fired difficult time getting to sleep at night.

Why, I wonder.

On TV, we see folks tossing and turning. Restless. Can hardly wait to get their hands on that little bottle that will offer sweet relief and pleasant dreams. At least that's what it looks like until you get to the fine print.

Well, from the look of things, people are starting to pay more attention to the fine print these days.

In a recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, over 17% of adults reported that they'd had trouble sleeping in the previous year.[1] That's almost 1 out of every 5 people you know! (Maybe even you.)

Of that group, some 4.5 percent said they had used some form of complementary or alternative medicine to address their sleeping problems. And that's 1.6 million Americans.

While it's a small percentage of our country's population, make no mistake. It's still a lot of people. In fact, if you combine the entire population of the state where I live, North Dakota, with it's immediate neighbor to the west, Montana, you still wouldn't quite reach the 1.6 million marker.

So what did they do? Well, nearly 65 percent tried herbal therapies. 39 percent tried relaxation techniques. And most of the people who used these methods found them helpful.

So those are the bare facts.

Stress affects your sleep

But let's take things a step further. According to the National Sleep Foundation, stress is considered by most sleep experts to be the #1 cause of short-term sleeping difficulties.[2] School or job pressures, family relationship problems, and serious illness or death in the family rank high on the list.

Are those the same people we talked about in the first section?

Perhaps.

But other studies indicate that we may have an even bigger challenge on our hands.

According to the 2005 Sleep in America Poll,[3]

  • only half of us report that we get a good night's sleep nearly every night
  • sleep-related issues are the most common reason people are late for work
  • and more than 7 million people reported they have had an accident or near accident because of driving when they were too drowsy.

Now here's what I really want to know. What's the actual reason behind our lack of sleep?

  • restless mind / thoughts won't shut off
  • too busy to set aside time for sleep
  • partner with disturbed sleep (snoring, restless legs, etc.)
  • personal health condition or sleep disorder (pain, restless legs, etc.)
  • simple insomnia (can't sleep; no particular reason)

Your best options for more restful shut-eye

Now look back to our favorite remedies. The Sleep in America poll says that most adults don't use sleep aids, but 11% use alcohol, beer, or wine to help them sleep. And we know from the first study cited that a fair number of us use herbal preparations.

While these remedies may "knock us out" for a short-term fix, it's got to be pretty obvious that they don't resolve any of the reasons we lose sleep in the first place. From what I hear, they often don't provide an especially restful or satisfying sleep — and a lot of people tend to wake up from them feeling groggy.

So what's a sleepy person to do, anyway?

The National Sleep Foundation makes two good suggestions:

  1. Learn to recognize the symptoms of sleep problems and get them treated.
  2. Pay attention to the quantity and quality of your sleep. Be sure to get the amount of sleep you need to function at your best the next day.[4]

Good suggestions, right? But — ok, here's the big one. How?

  1. Resolve the stress or health condition at its source
  2. Regain control over our time

It's doable. So how about taking it on? Or maybe you'd like to sleep on it!

[1] http://www.nccam.nih.gov/news/2006/091806.htm
[2] http://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleeplibrary/index.php?secid=&id=53
[3] http://www.sleepfoundation.org/hottopics/index.php?secide=15&id=115
[4] http://www.sleepfoundation.org/hottopics/index.php?secide=15&id=115


Elizabeth Eckert can help you explore how simple everyday choices create health - or undermine even the best of intentions. With a background that ranges from energy medicine to structural bodywork to developmental psychology, this "Stick-To-It Coach" has the experience to support you in creating the healthiest possible expression of — you!

She is the author of Stress In The Background: How to Thrive in a High-Stress World — resolve the stress that keeps you up at night and sleep like a baby!


 

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