No REM? That’s a Problem.

The average adult needs anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep. The number of people actually meeting those standards? Frighteningly low.

Sleep deprivation – a topic that is all too familiar to a stunningly large portion of the population. 50-70 million US adults suffer from some sort of sleep disorder, resulting in any number of the debilitating side effects that come from a lack of sleep. If you’re one of them, you know just how difficult it can seem to accomplish even the simplest task when one is ridden with fatigue. “Feeling tired” is often an extreme oversimplification when it comes to insomnia, and in some cases severe exhaustion can pose a serious danger, for example when someone gets behind the wheel of a car.

Pinpointing exactly which factors are causing each individual’s insomnia can be an incredibly frustrating process, given how vague the indicators can be; there are many explanations, some being the result of any number of medical influences, with others coming from external sources.  Stress is often an easy scapegoat, but if a good night’s sleep still seems completely out of reach, embarking on a deep investigation into what is causing your late-night restlessness may be well worth the time.

REM vs. NREM Sleep.

Humans are programmed to require a certain amount of sleep each day so that the mind and body can reset. Sleep is essential in order to carry out almost every physiological process within the body – so when this cycle is disrupted, all kinds of chaos typically ensues.

In healthy adults, alternating between REM (rapid-eye-movement) and NREM (non-rapid-eye-movement) sleep patterns is completely normal. REM sleep is usually the beginning cycle, and is often associated with dreaming – NREM sleep typically occurs afterwards and has been shown to produce much less brain activity when examined through EEGs (electroencephalograms).

Any number of factors can disrupt the natural alternation between REM and NREM sleep. There are several medical conditions that have been recognized as direct contributors to sleep deprivation:

  • Endocrine malfunctions
  • Gastrointestinal problems (i.e. acid reflux)
  • Neurological conditions
  • Chronic pain  

Unfortunately, many who are affected by insomnia do not exhibit any specific conditions known to cause insomnia; when this is the case, health practitioners often look for external influences such as stress, caffeine consumption, or environmental factors that may be contributing to the problem.

Natural Solutions to Sleeping Soundly.

There are a number of holistic options out there for those who wish to ease the symptoms of chronic fatigue without a prescription; establishing a bedtime routine full of relaxation techniques can be incredibly beneficial for increasing the quality of your sleep. There are also a number of essential oils and natural alternatives that have been used for centuries to promote restfulness:

  • Lavender essential oil
  • Chamomile
  • Magnesium supplements
  • Foods high in tryptophan

When insomnia plagues someone’s life, further conditions like depression, anxiety, and stress can follow – if not already present. Experimenting with plant-based alternatives like valerian root, which has been shown to help treat multiple conditions at once, might be worth integrating into your routine. It’s important to remember that having a consult with your healthcare practitioner is an essential first step before implementing any new potential solutions to sleep deprivation.

Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is essential to a life of fulfillment. If sleepless nights plague your daily routine, natural alternatives could hold the key to finally helping you feel well rested.

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