Insomnia Cures & Causes: Ways to Fall Asleep; Good Sleep Hygiene

Insomnia is a life altering, personality affecting deficit to our bodies that cannot go on for very long before people crash. Sleep is so important that a continuous lack of it can actually shorten one’s expected lifespan, as shown in a recent Harvard study.

Common Causes of Insomnia

Common causes of insomnia include:

  • stressful events
  • emotional stress
  • illness
  • temporary pain
  • disturbances in sleep hygiene, or environmental factors under one’s control that may contribute to disturbed sleep and insomnia
  • disruptions to circadian rhythm or the 24 hour rhythmic regulation of our body processes

Other Chronic Insomnia Causes

Any of the varied kinds of medical reasons can cause sleeplessness, and unfortunately, so can their treatments. It’s tough to say whether the benefit is worse than the side effects, sometimes. Some of the ailments that may use those medicines are as follows:

  • arthritis
  • diabetes
  • menopause
  • acid reflux
  • headaches
  • heart
  • disease
  • cancer

More Medicinal Causes of Insomnia

Depressive illnesses are often associated with sleep disturbances. These include anxiety, inability to relax, bipolar, panic and other psychiatric disorders. Treatment for these kinds of insomnia is for the underlying medical condition and therefore may not be giving relief of sleep loss in any way. Medicinal treatment may include but not be limited to:

  • antidepressants
  • antihypertensives
  • antiarrhythmics
  • antibiotics
  • antihistamines
  • antivirals
  • bronchodilators
  • central nervous system stimulants
  • corticosteroids
  • decongestants
  • diuretics
  • NSAIDs

Sleeping Problem Broken Into Categories

Treatment for insomnia is broken into two categories; medication and behavioral strategies for sleep initiation.

Behavioral Strategies include sleep restriction. That is, use the bedroom only for sleep and nothing else. The bedroom can get to be like a torture chamber if many hours are spent in it, unable to sleep. Restrict use so that the mind associates the room with sleep, not torture.

If you are in bed 25 minutes without successfully sleeping, don’t lie there and toss and turn. Instead, get up and find something calming to do, like, painting on a canvas, or reading. But don’t watch TV, as it will make you lose even more sleep. Take a warm bath, light candles for a soothing atmosphere and get super relaxed. When sleepiness is first felt, it’s time to go back to bed and try again. If sleep doesn’t happen in 25 minutes, get back up and try it again.

If the insomniac is only sleeping four of the eight hours they’re in bed, then they should force themselves to stay up until the time they’d normally fall asleep. Stay up until sleepiness comes, force staying awake until there’s four hours left to sleep, and then go to bed. Once this is done successfully for a week, then add another 30 minutes on to your sleep and go to bed half an hour earlier. Keep adding half an hour until staying in bed goes up to eight hours. This helps to condition for good, restful sleep while one is in the bed.

Try These Sleep Remedies

Try progressive relaxation techniques such as beginning with relaxing the toes, then the toes and feet, then the toes, feet and calves, then the toes, feet and calves, and knees, etc. If you don’t fall asleep by the time you reach the head, do it again. Often repetition will cause sleepiness, too. That’s why there’s that age old remedy of counting sheep. Anything can be visualized, such as a swing going back and forth, a clock pendulum, or anything rhythmic, like counting sheep.

Also there’s a breathing exercise that’s easy to do and it really works to relax, even if you have to focus on it at first. Lie on the back and inhale deeply, expanding the diaphragm muscles as much as possible. Hold the breath for a moment, and slowly release it all the way. Count to five and inhale again, using your diaphragm to get the most air possible. Visualize the air coming in and rushing throughout your body, and when you exhale, see it rush back out to make room for clean fresh air in the next lungful. Do this as long as possible, or until sleep comes.

Sleeping Disorders Can Need a Variety of Doctors for Treatment

Cognitive behavioral therapy is where a doctor helps to eliminate thoughts associated with a poor night’s sleep. Often this involves a combination of medication and counseling or behavior changes and is closely monitored.

When stressful times resolve, when pain subsides, when recovered from illness, when sleep hygiene improves, sleep will return to normal. Don’t stress out over it, just try to get through it so sleep can be the reward.

Menopause Estrogen and Cholesterol: As Women Age Cholesterol Levels and Bad LDL Rise, Good HDL Falls

Generally women have higher good HDL levels than men, especially during childbearing years when estrogen production is highest, and even after menopause. According to the FDA, estrogen appears to help younger women maintain a healthy balance between LDL and HDL cholesterol, making them six times less likely to experience a heart attack than men age 50 and younger.

After menopause, when estrogen is no longer present, a woman’s risk for heart disease is about the same as a man’s, as bad LDL levels rise, accompanied by atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries). According to the National Institute on Aging, it is probably advancing age—not menopause itself—that is the likely cause of a woman’s rising cholesterol.

Postmenopausal hormone therapy: heart-friendly or harmful?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends against postmenopausal estrogen-progestin hormone replacement therapy (PHT) solely to prevent cardiovascular disease in women who have or have not had a heart attack or stroke. According to the Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study (HERS), a clinical trial of 2800 women with known coronary disease conducted by Dr. Deborah Grady at the University of California San Francisco, there was no reduction in the risk of heart attack or stroke among the women who took the hormones for 4 years.

Subsequently, another similar large clinical trial was conducted, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). This major 15-year research program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) addressed the most common causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women. The study confirmed that hormones do not reduce risk of coronary heart disease. Indeed, the trial was halted after investigators found the health risks of the combination hormone therapy outweighed the benefits and such therapy may even increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

Preventive cholesterol-lowering measures

  • Awareness—according to Lori Mosca, MD, PhD, director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, a majority of women over 50 have high cholesterol but are unaware of it. Even though heart disease and stroke kill almost 500,000 women a year, they are less likely than men to be treated for the condition. Although many women visit gynecologists for pap and breast exams, these are no substitute for annual wellness physicals and blood work through a family practice or internal medicine doctor. Dr. Mosca recommends women should know their HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels and ask their physicians if and how they could be improved.
  • Diet—According to the Cleveland Clinic Information Center, menopausal women should get sufficient quantities of calcium, iron, fiber, fruits and vegetables and water, and limit intakes of salty and fatty foods, especially those high in trans and saturated fats found in meat and dairy products. Read food labels, substitute low fat dairy products and limit cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams daily.
  • Supplements—The AHA recommends eating oily fish at least twice a week, and consider taking an omega-3 capsule supplement of 850–1000 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in women with heart disease, two to four grams for women with high triglycerides.
  • Lifestyle Changes—a healthy diet, along with exercise, weight control, not smoking and limiting alcohol, can collectively improve cholesterol in lower risk women as much as medication can.

Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella, and Avocado Salad

As summer starts to peep around the corner, the human body begins craving lighter fare, turning from heavier, warm dishes to those with crisp and cool compositions. This simple salad is perfect to begin preparing the body to let go of the extra winter “padding” it might have acquired. Not to mention that the monounsaturated fats from the olive oil and the avocado are wonderful for the heart and overall cardiovascular health. For those concerned with beauty, this salad’s ingredients are chock-full of nutrients that benefit your hair and skin as well. The avocado and the olive oil both are lauded as ways to eat your way to shiny hair and rosy skin, and the basil and the tomatoes provide essential anti-aging antioxidants to protect your skin.

While this dish can be made year-round, it is at its tastiest at the height of summer. Three of the main ingredients—tomatoes, basil, and avocado—are at their best from now until September. If available, try to shop locally whenever it is possible. Not only does the produce taste better, but the local economy is served and the planet better maintained. Finding avocados might be a stretch for those living outside of California or Florida, but basil and tomatoes should be fairly easy to find at a local farm or farmers’ market.

This dish works wonderfully as a light lunch or dinner, paired with a crusty hunk of rustic whole-grain bread or even just by itself. It’s fast and easy, plates beautifully, and tastes amazing. One note on the ingredients though: the higher quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil used, the better the salad. Using high quality ingredients is not only beneficial to the body, but they also taste far better as well.

Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella, and Avocado Salad

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 dry pint of grape tomatoes
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 small ball of mozzarella cheese
  • 4-5 large leaves of fresh basil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar (the older, the better)
  • Fresh-cracked pepper
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, coarsely tear the basil leaves into bite-sized pieces and combine with the grape tomatoes.
  2. Tear or cube the mozzarella into small pieces (about the same size as the tomatoes), and then toss with the basil and tomatoes.
  3. Drizzle about a tablespoon or two of the olive oil on the mixture, adding cracked pepper to taste with just the tiniest pinch of sea salt.
  4. Then add about a tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar and toss gently to mix.
  5. Cube the avocado and add last to the salad, only tossing once so they won’t lose their shape. Then plate and serve.

Animal Medicine Cards: A Doorway into the Natural World

Twenty years ago, Jamie Sams and David Carson published Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Way of the Animals, a system of animal divination. The set, with its beautifully crafted deck of cards and book, is as relevant today as when it was first created – perhaps even more so.

Carson regards the medicine cards as a gift from Native American elders whom provide advice on how to live in harmony and balance with the natural world. They feature teachings passed down through the generations: life lessons from the animal kingdom. In the deck, each animal represents an aspect of the human heart and mind.

There are 44 animal cards in the Medicine Card deck, all significant animals on Turtle Island (North America). Although each animal has many lessons to teach, Carson said he and Sams chose the most important one. Each teaching is a mirror that reflects the scenarios the diviner is creating and suggests how to use a specific animal medicine to live more harmoniously.

According to Carson, the animal lessons are best received in silence. “Silence of the quiet mind is the sacred fertility of the receiving spirit,” Carson said in an interview with the author. “If you use this divination tool in silence, you will find a wondrous new world speaking to you through the ways of your fellow creatures.”

The Intention of the Medicine Cards

“The purpose in creating this system of divination was not to cover all the teachings on animal medicine that have ever been,” Carson explained. “Our intention was to open a doorway of understanding for those who seek the oneness of all life. Animals have deep meaning for everyone.

“For example, the eagle is spiritual in every tradition. Eagle medicine is the power of the Great Spirit, the connection to the Divine. It is the ability to live in the realm of spirit and yet remain connected and balanced within the realm of earth. If you have a crick in the neck, you have Eagle disease – you walk and look at the sky when you should be paying attention to what’s around you.”

How to Learn from Animal Encounters

Of course, there are many animals not in the cards, and each one has a lesson to teach. Carson noted that anyone can learn these lessons by observing the animal’s behavior and habit patterns and asking the spirit of the animal to share its medicine.

““When an animal crosses your path, take time to find out what they have to teach you,” Carson suggested. “Take a pinch of tobacco, a drum, and go out and talk to the spirit of the animal. Ask, ‘Why are you on my land? What do you have to teach me?’ If you see a rattlesnake, for example, it’s very powerful, holy medicine. Snake represents the umbilical cord and is the symbol of the midwife. It also relates to the planet Venus. Snake is perfectly balanced energy. It is the energy of wholeness and cosmic consciousness. This medicine teaches you that you are a universal being.

Seeking Wholeness with All That Is

“When you call upon the power of an animal, you are asking to be drawn into complete harmony with the strength of that creature’s essence,” Carson added. “Gaining understanding from these brothers and sisters of the animal kingdom is a healing process, and must be approached with humility and intuitiveness. Many of these lessons are ones we need to travel the Good Red Road. These are the lessons of being human, being vulnerable and seeking wholeness with all that is.”

High HDL Cholesterol May Lower Cancer Risk

New research published by the American Association of Cancer Prevention presents intriguing findings about the link between cholesterol levels and cancer. The evidence suggests that cholesterol levels may point towards the existence of certain kinds of cancers. Researchers’ understanding of cholesterol has changed quite a bit over the years.

What Is Cholesterol?

For many years now, patients have been warned by their doctors to lower their blood cholesterol readings if the laboratory analysis indicates a total cholesterol level of 200-250 or more. Cholesterol is a soft, waxy, sticky substance produced by the body. While it is found in certain foods such as meat, eggs and dairy products, changing the diet reduces cholesterol very little; the body appears to regulate its own cholesterol levels. According to Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, M.D., P.h.D., author of the book “The Cholesterol Myth”, high cholesterol, especially high LDL cholesterol, is a symptom of inflammation.

Within the total cholesterol count are two separate counts: HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol, and LDL, the so-called “bad” cholesterol. Much of the newer research indicates that it is not so much the total number but more the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol that hints at health or problems to come.

High HDL Cholesterol Desirable to Protect Against Cancer

A pair of studies published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention and reported by the American Association for Cancer Research in October 2009 link high HDL cholesterol to possible cancer prevention. According to the study, researchers followed over 29,000 men from the Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study for 18 years. In this long-term study, researchers noted that “Higher levels of HDL cholesterol were associated with a 14 percent decreased risk.”

Cholesterol forms a portion of the cell membrane and some cholesterol is absolutely essential for overall good health. Researchers at UT Southwestern published an article in the journal Science in which they reveal that cholesterol in the cell membrane actually helps control cell division by facilitating “communication” in the cell during division. Without cholesterol, the cell can divide uncontrollably, which is what happens in cancer.

Cholesterol Level Confusion

The idea that high HDL cholesterol levels may lower cancer risk, particularly prostrate cancer, coupled with the notion that overall lower cholesterol levels may lower the risk of cancer is confusing for many people. It helps to remember that having a high HDL number doesn’t meant that the overall cholesterol reading is high. Rather, it means that the HDL cholesterol level is higher than the LDL level. The total readings still recommended for health and wellness are around 200-250, depending on which source is cited.

Key Takeaways on Cholesterol and Cancer

What should the average person take away from all this new research about the link between cancer and cholesterol?

  • The body needs some cholesterol for basic health. Too low levels may be just as bad as levels that are too high.
  • The overall cholesterol reading should be around 200-250, with the HDL reading much higher than the LDL reading.
  • Low cholesterol levels may not be healthy. This can be a sign of cancer.

The biggest takeaway from all of these studies is that the cause and effect of cholesterol and cancer is by no means established. In fact, many of the so-called “truths” about cholesterol have been shattered in recent years. Dietary cholesterol, once thought to be the primary driver of high cholesterol levels, is now thought to have only a small effect on total blood cholesterol levels. The lay person should do what he’s always done for good health: eat a balanced, whole food diet, get plenty of exercise, and ask his doctor any questions he may have.