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Last updated July 26, 2018, originally published June 30, 2009
By Susan M. Callahan, Health Editor and Featured Columnist

Why can't I sleep? Poor quality or restless sleep is one of
the most common complaints in America, Europe and
industrialized countries. The latest American
Sleep Study
reported that nearly 50 million of us have some form of
sleep problem. But lack of sleep can have serious health
consequences. Too little sleep increases your  risk for heart
disease. A 2008 study from the University of Chicago led by
Dr. Diane Lauderdale found that losing out on even an
hour's sleep builds up calcium in your arteries which can
lead to heart disease.

Sleep deprivation can put you at a higher risk for
developing high blood pressure, according to a 2012 study
from the University of Pisa School of Medicine in Italy. And,
depriving yourself of sleep of just one night's sleep can
also cause
cold hands and feet.

You need at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.
The University of Chicago study examined 495 men and
women  and found that
27%  of us who get less than 5
hours sleep a night have calcium plaque (blockage) in our
arteries, while only
6% of us who get 7 hours or more of
sleep have such blockage. "  


Disrupting your sleep fuels the growth of cancerous tumors.

First of all, sleep can also help if you have cancer, a new
study has found. One of the best ways to support your
health if you have cancer -- in addition to getting treatment
from your doctor of course -- is to make sure that you get
high quality, uninterrupted sleep. Good sleep promotes
your body's ability to manage stress.

Cortisol, a natural hormone, falls to its lowest levels during
sleep and rises as your body prepares to wake up.  In a
sense, cortisol helps to wake you up. The pattern of
elevated cortisol during daytime and lowered cortisol
during sleep is a part of a normal 24-hour circadian rhythm.

A 2012 study from the University of Louisville, James
Graham Brown Cancer Center discovered that, among lung
cancer patients, those who had normal circadian patterns
of cortisol secretion and sleep, and followed the normal
circadian rhythms, had the highest survival rates.

As the study concluded, there is "growing evidence that
circadian disruption accelerates tumor progression".

Another study, in 2014, from Comer Children's Hospital,
The University of Chicago, found that fragmented sleep
accelerates the growth of tumors. Fragmented
sleep often with people who have sleep apnea or people
who are light sleepers.

Sleep interrupted by ambient light disrupts the
build up of melatonin, which raises cancer risks by up to

Sleep interrupted by
sleep apnea or heavy snoring has also
been linked to stroke. So, it's clear that you need to make a
good night's sleep a priority, for the sake of your health.
(Read more about
sleep apnea causes and cures.)

Most of us think of sleep as a luxury which we can
"manage" with little or no cost to our health. Got a big
project? Cut down on sleep. Need more time to party? Cut
back more time on sleep? But we humans can't survive
without sleep. In fact, sleep deprivation is used in some
countries as torture for a good reason. We actually become
psychotic if we are deprived of sleep continuously for too
long a period.

The Quality of Your Sleep

When you think about it, our sleep has always had to
achieve a balance of two competing goals. We have to
sleep deeply enough to give our bodies a rest. But we can't
sleep too deeply that nothing will rouse up. For us cave-
dwelling humans, sleep had to be restful enough to restore
us from our days of heavy labor but not so restful that we
couldn't hear the approach of a saber-tooth tiger outside
the cave.

Many factors influence the quality of your sleep. If you are
waking up too many times at night or waking up tired, ask
yourself a few questions. How is your general diet--- are
you eating late at night? Are you drinking caffeine -- sodas,
coffee?  Are you
waking yourself up snoring without
realizing it?

Are there any natural remedies to help you get a good
night's sleep? To help you sleep, establish a pattern of
what you do just before bed. Here are 10 tried-and-true
tips to help you sleep.

Turn Off The TV. Turn off the TV a half  hour before and
don't watch TV in your bedroom. Avoid listening to the
news for awhile. Your brain can become stimulated and
dwell on the news for hours into the night.

Skip the Java. Don't drink coffee or caffeinated sodas.
Even a small amount of added caffeine can interrupt the
delicate patterns of your sleep.

Eat Tiny Carbs. Stop eating big meals at least 2-4 hours
before sleeping. A little --very little-- bit of carbs
can help you to relax into  sleep more easily.  

Eat Turkey.  If you must eat, make it a cracker and a
slice of turkey. Turkey contains tryptophan, a compound
that makes us sleepy. It's the reason we all get sleepy after
Thanksgiving dinner.

Cover the clock. Here's the answer to the mystery of
why you wake up at the same time every night. I used to
be a clock watcher. Every night I would wake up and  the
clock face would say 3:33 AM. Got to be spooky. I thought
the universe was trying to give me a Sign. If you find
yourself waking up at the same hour each night, don't
panic. Here's what you should do

  • Cover the clock face. The bright diode digits can be
    seen through your eye lids while you're sleeping. You
    may also be opening your eyes while you're sleeping
    and your brain registering the time

  • Put the clock on the floor. That way  you are less likely
    to "see" it while you are sleeping.

Keep your room dark. Make sure hallway
lights are also off or dimmed.

Screen People Off. Don't answer e-mails, return phone
calls-- issues and concerns linger and
can disturb your sleep.

And Screen Some More. Turn off your cell phone,
computer and

Use Lavender Aromatherapy. Scent your room with
lavender. Studies show it helps you relax and stay asleep.
For example, a 2005 study led by Dr. Namni Goel of
Wesleyan University in Connecticut found that men and
women who sniffed lavender before they slept had higher
percentages of deep, slow wave sleep. Other studies by
nurses have found that hospital patients exposed to
lavender sleep more soundly through the night.

Stretch. Stretching is a natural way to relax
and to tell your body you are preparing for

Masturbate. Masturbation has been used by
humans for centuries and longer as a natural
way to relax and to induce sleep.

Take Your Mind Off Yourself. A tried and true method
of inducing sleep is to think of something or someone other
than yourself. It takes your mind off your worries.

Melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by
your brain's pineal gland throughout your life. We make
less melatonin as we age, which accounts in part fro why
many people over 50 find it increasingly harder to fall
asleep at night. Because melatonin occurs naturally in the
body and is found in some foods, it is the only hormone
that you can buy in the U.S. without a doctor's
prescription. Most studies suggest that melatonin should be
taken at night no earlier than 9:00PM and should only be
taken when the lights are out. Why? Light interferes with
melatonin's effectiveness. According to the Sleep
Foundation, dosages between 1 and 3 mg are believed to
be safe and effective.

Inside the US, melatonin is sold as a dietary supplement
and is therefore not regulated by the Food and Drug

Outside the U.S., melatonin has become somewhat
controversial. There have been insufficient large controlled
studies to prove its long-term safety as a supplement and
its usefulness as a sleep enhancement. Claims that
melatonin sold is "natural" have been disputed. Indeed,
much of the melatonin sold in the US is synthetic. Over-the-
counter sales of melatonin have been banned in Europe,
Canada and the U.K.

Passion Flower Tea. The technical name for this herb is
"passiflora incarnata L".  The National Institutes of Health
has noted that passion flower is generally considered a safe
herb, whose dried flowers have traditionally been used as
an herb for insomina. Scientists do not know exactly how
passion flower works to induce sleep, but it is believed to
have a chemical pathway similar to the drug
benzodiazapine, a sedative.  Brew passion flower as a tea,
mix with a teaspoon of honey to improve the taste and
smell, for a relaxing, natural aid to help you sleep.

Ashwagandha Tea. This herb, also known as "withania
somnifera" is an Indian tea which has been studied for
various properties, including its potential to decrease
inflammation and to boost your immunity. A 2009 study
from the Helfgott Research Institute, National College of
Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon found broad immunity-
boosting properties from the withania herb. To aid your
sleep, ashwagandha should be brewed as a tea. Add honey
to help the taste and smell.

Try Valerium. Valerium is a herb which is effective in
inducing sleep.  A 2006 study from the University of
California examined 16 existing studies on valerium
involving 1093 patients. This mega-study confirmed that
valerium does indeed help to induce sleep, without
significant side effects.

Eat Cherries. Cherries are rich in melatonin. According
to a 2001 study from the University of Texas Health Science
Center, a type of  cherry called “Montmorency”  has about
6 times as much melatonin as other types of cherries.

Bone Broth Helps You Sleep. Bone broth, made by
boiling meat bones for several hours, helps to promote
restful sleep, scientists have learned. (Read more about
bone broth's health benefits.) My favorite recipe is to boil
beef or chicken bones, with diced onions, tomatoes, celery
and carrots. Add pepper, a pinch of curry and salt
substitute to taste.

Bone Broth Helps You Sleep

Snoring Tips / Shallow Sleep- America's Hidden Problem  /
Foods That Stop Snoring/

Does Losing Sleep Cause High Blood Pressure?

More Related Links:
Sore Throat-Causes and Cures
Snoring Linked to Higher Risk of Stroke, Heart Disease

Sleep Study 2008 Results-Americans Are Chronically Sleep

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