How to Solve All Your Sleep Problems Using Science

How to Solve All Your Sleep Problems Using Science

Sleep is the fuel your body needs to accomplish anything. Without it, you’ll have no energy to work, socialize, or even read this article.

But what really happens when you can’t sleep properly? Your brain chemistry goes haywire, and you go through your days like a zombie, living like a lifeless object that perfectly blends with the background in a play.

You don’t want to become a zombie, do you?

Well then, apply the following science-backed solutions to ALL your sleep problems.

Sleep is the fuel your body needs to accomplish anything. Without it, you’ll have no energy to work, socialize, or even read this article.

But what really happens when you can’t sleep properly? Your brain chemistry goes haywire, and you go through your days like a zombie, living like a lifeless object that perfectly blends with the background in a play.

You don’t want to become a zombie, do you?

Well then, apply the following science-backed solutions to ALL your sleep problems.

Shoulder Pain

In one sentence – sleep on your back with a thin pillow or on your side with your knees evenly pulled up.

If you have shoulder pain, you shouldn’t sleep on the side of your painful shoulder. And the worst thing you could do is sleep on your stomach.

Source: Physiosupplies.eu

Sleep on Your Back

A good way to avoid shoulder pain is to sleep on your back. Don’t use a thick pillow or it will cause neck pain. Choose an orthopedic pillow which has a special groove for your head.

Sleep on Your Side

If you can’t sleep on your back, sleep on your side but not on the painful shoulder. Lying on your side, pull your knees toward your chest and put a pillow between them. Use a full-body pillow if you like. Don’t lie with your head on your hand as it will be uncomfortable for your shoulder.

Why shouldn’t I sleep on my stomach?

Your spine has a natural curve, and if you sleep on your stomach, this curve flattens and puts strain on your back muscles. Sleeping on your stomach means your lower back is compressed the whole night. And your neck suffers because it is twisted to the side in this position.

How can I stop sleeping on my stomach?

Old habits die hard, so it may be hard to quit the habit. However, you can wear a pocket T-shirt to sleep in and put a tennis ball in the pocket. Every time you try to sleep on your stomach, the ball will press hard against your chest, nudging you to take the correct position. You may change your sleeping position without the tennis ball too. Do whatever works for you.

Don’t Worry, You CAN move

The right sleeping position will comfort you, not punish you. Just because you need to sleep in a certain position doesn’t mean you can’t move at all. It’s natural to move around a little bit while you sleep as it distributes the pressure on your body evenly. If you stay in one rigid position the whole night, it may cause pain in your back or shoulder.

Back Pain

In one sentence – sleep on your back using a thin pillow or on your side with both knees pulled up and a pillow in between.

The Biggest Reason: Lack of Physical Activity

“If you don’t make time for exercise, you’ll probably have to make time for illness.” – Robin Sharma

Yes, it’s finally time to get out of a lazy rut. The major cause of back pain is lack of physical activity. Most of us spend our days sitting on a chair at work, then on a sofa at home or lying in bed. The least we can do is to sit up straight in our chairs and, to take it a step further, exercise at least twice a week.

Do:

Sleep on Your Back

One of the best ways to avoid back pain is to sleep on your back. But, you may not want to use a pillow because it will put your head in an unnatural position. If you do use a pillow, use a thin or orthopedic pillow.

Sleep on Your Side

Another good position is sleeping on your side. But make sure that both your legs are straight as people tend to keep one knee bent up and out, twisting the pelvis, which isn’t good for your back. Also, choose a pillow whose thickness between your ear and the mattress lets your neck be comfortable.

Don’t:

Sleep on Your Stomach

As mentioned earlier, sleeping on your stomach is the worst position there is. It may be tempting, but there’s no way your neck and back can be comfortable when you’re sleeping on your stomach. So, never sleep on your stomach even if it requires putting a tennis ball in the front pocket of your t-shirt.

If you have to sleep on your stomach, keep a pillow under it to comfort your back.

Neck Pain

In one sentence – use a pillow for your head and two pillows for your arms.

To recover from neck pain, sleep with a thin pillow under your head and a pillow under each of your arms. The key to recovering from neck pain is to choose the right pillow. Never use a stiff or high pillow as it will cause strain in your neck.

Choose your Pillow Carefully

Use a rounded pillow that goes with the natural curve of your neck along with a flat pillow to support your head. You can also put a small neck roll in the pillowcase of a flat pillow. Or you can use an orthopedic pillow with a special groove for the head to rest in.

Feather Pillow: a feather pillow is a great option to ease neck pain as it goes well with the natural curves of your neck. The only disadvantage is that feather pillows wear out quickly and have to be replaced every year or so.

Memory Foam Pillow: memory foam pillows “remember” the shape of your neck, which is how they get their name. In other words, the memory foam takes the shape of your head and neck and remains in that shape, providing good alignment for your spine. Memory foam pillows are a bit expensive but last longer than feather pillows.

While Travelling: when you’re out and about in your car or sitting on a plane, keep a horseshoe pillow with you to support your neck. Check that the pillow is not too thick behind your neck or your head will be tilted forward in an uncomfortable position.

Can’t Fall Asleep

In one sentence – get out of bed; engage in a quiet activity like reading, painting, or taking a shower, and practice deep breathing to calm down quickly.

People find it hard to fall asleep when their minds are conjuring up dramatic scenarios of the future or replaying memories from the past. How can you stop being restless when you know that you have a long day tomorrow? No, you can’t pick up your phone!

Don’t keep suffering

Stop suffering in bed and do something else when you can’t sleep. But don’t do anything stimulating like playing a video game or work, and don’t turn on your laptop or smartphone, even if you want to stalk your ex. You can read a book, take a warm shower, or hum your favorite song while sitting on the sofa. Just change your environment.

Relaxation exercises

A great way to calm your mind is to practice relaxation techniques like box breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

  1. Box breathing – inhale for a count of five, hold for a count of five, and then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this exercise for five to fifteen minutes, and your stress will vanish. Box breathing works so well because it makes us use the full capacity of our lungs down to the diaphragm. Usually, we take shallow breaths, but deep breaths restore and rebalance our vital energies and ground our minds in the present.
  2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation – as the name suggests, in this exercise, you relax your body muscles from the feet up to your head. But how? This involves just two steps – tensing and relaxing.

First, you focus on the muscle and apply tension by squeezing it tightly, and then, you relax the muscle. This needs to be done for about five seconds for each muscle.

The muscle groups you need to work on are: foot, lower leg and foot, entire leg, hand, arm, buttocks, stomach, chest, neck and shoulders, mouth, eyes, and forehead.

Meditation

“Silence is not an absence but a presence.” – Anne D. LeClaire

If you find it hard to sleep, you need to bring meditation into your daily routine. Many people think meditation is super hard, but this isn’t true.

Although there are many forms of meditation, you can practice this simple one

  • Focus on the sensation on your nostrils as you inhale and exhale deeply.
  • You don’t need to focus like you’re studying rocket science; be gentle and just observe the sensation.
  • When your mind wanders, don’t fight the thought, just let it go and gently bring your mind back to the sensations on your nostrils.

Remember, “gentle” is the keyword here.

Meditation is not about paying attention, it is about paying “kind” attention.

A Regular Bedtime Routine

Just as it is recommended to have a morning routine, it is equally essential to have a bedtime routine. Do something to close the day – maybe read an interesting novel, write in your journal about your day, take a warm shower or meditate. A warm shower can especially help you fall asleep faster as it lowers your body temperature, signalling to your body that it’s time to sleep.

No Electronics Before Bed

Most of us keep our phones at arm’s length, not realizing that too much focus on electronics keeps us “alert” at times when we shouldn’t be. Moreover, the blue light from electronic devices sends the wrong cue to our bodies, keeping us awake when we shouldn’t be.

No Caffeine After 2 p.m.

Consuming coffee or tea even in the afternoon can make it hard for you to sleep. Cut out any caffeine intake after 2 p.m. and don’t drink more than four cups of coffee in a single day. If you have insomnia, it is best to avoid caffeine altogether.

Daylight Exposure

Make sure that each morning, you get some sunlight on your face. Exposure to sunlight is the biggest cue for your body to set your sleep rhythm. So, an ideal way to fix your sleep routine is to go out in the sun for at least thirty minutes each morning.

Exercise

Exercise is a great tool to keep your body healthy and enjoy sound sleep every night. Humans were not made to live inside four walls their entire lives. Our ancestors would walk and run long distances to hunt for food and look for shelter. So, it’s important that we exercise at least a couple of hours every week.

But don’t do any vigorous exercise before bed, such as running or lifting weights, as it can rev your mind up instead of winding it down.

Can’t Stay Asleep

In one sentence – make sure your room is dark and cool at night, and stay away from alcohol or technology before bed.

Why It’s Unhealthy

Research has proven that waking up from REM sleep leads to mood problems and is the equivalent of sleeping just four hours a night. It disturbs our cognitive capabilities such as memory retention, ability to comprehend complex information, paying attention and so on. In other words, sleep not only makes you healthy but smart too.

Cut Down On Alcohol

Alcohol is a major sleep disrupter even if it may help you fall asleep. It reduces the time spent in REM sleep, which is necessary for memory, concentration, and motor skills. Moreover, alcohol dehydrates your body, which further aggravates sleep problems.

Stay Away From Technology

Technology provides us limitless entertainment which serves us well when used in moderation but becomes toxic when used in excess. Don’t use any tech device for two hours before bed, and you’ll be able to enjoy a long, restful slumber.

Don’t Nap During the Day

Napping is not entirely bad for your sleep. But, it is best to avoid naps during the day so that you are more tired and sleep better at night. If you have to nap for some reason, don’t exceed 45 minutes, or you’ll enter REM sleep.

Sleep in a Cave

No, you don’t need to sleep in an actual cave, but make sure your room is at the right temperature, with clean bedsheets and enough space for you to enter that night slumber. Use dark curtains to block any light from entering your room. If there is any sound disturbance, use earplugs or a white noise machine to soundproof your room.

Can’t Wake Up

In one sentence – get sunlight for 20-30 minutes every morning and wake up at the same time every single day.

Get out in the sun

Regular sun exposure sets our circadian rhythm and helps us wake up at the same time every day. It also helps to let natural light come in your room in the morning. This sends your body the signal that it’s time to wake up.

Gradually Shift Your Bedtime

Many people can’t wake up because they go to sleep late, often at 4 or 5 in the morning. And some can’t change this sleep cycle even if if they want to. Don’t try to wake up at 7 a.m. if your regular waking time is 9 a.m. Gradually shift your time by 15 minutes earlier each day and go to sleep 15 minutes earlier each night.

Wake Up at the Same Time

If you have trouble waking up, set your alarm for the same time every day, seven days a week. If you wake up at different times, it disturbs your sleep cycle, making it difficult to wake up. Keep your alarm far away from you so that you don’t press the snooze button and doze off.

Snoring

In one sentence – sleep on your back using a thin pillow or on your side with both knees pulled up to the same level.

Nobody likes snoring. It makes your friends hate you instantly. And you don’t want to sleep in your bathroom or in a sleeping bag in that shady park across the street.

So, what can you do?

Sleep on your side

Sleeping on your back causes your throat tissues to sag, and your tongue moves back in your throat, narrowing the air passage. This narrow passage leads to snoring. To avoid this, sleep on your side, with your knees pulled toward your chest but at the same level. Don’t extend one knee way up above the other or you’ll put pressure on your back muscles.

Use the Right Pillow

Don’t use pillows that are too soft as they may cause your tongue to drop back in your throat. Use a medium-firm pillow or use an extra pillow to make sure your head doesn’t tilt backward.

Cut back on Alcohol

Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles and narrows the air passage inside your throat. This increases the chances of snoring. So, don’t drink before sleeping.

Open your Nasal Passages

Mucus in the nasal passage narrows it and leads to snoring. Before going to bed, clean your nose if it feels stuffy, using salt water. You may also want to take a hot shower as it opens your nasal passage and quickly puts you to sleep.

Leg Cramps

In one sentence – move around and massage your leg.

Nothing feels worse than leg cramps. You are all warm and cozy in bed, but all of a sudden, a muscle goes crazy, and you want to cut your leg off.

Leg cramps occur when muscles contract and tighten abruptly. You don’t need to worry as they are very common. But, if you experience cramps too often, there might be an underlying disease at play.

Move Around

Don’t sit. Walk around and jiggle and shake your leg. This stretches your muscles and relaxes them, easing the cramp. If you are older than 40, it is essential to stretch and strengthen your muscles with exercise as muscles become less flexible after the age of 40.

Stretch and Massage

Stretch your leg muscles and massage the cramp area with your hands. You may want to shake your leg first to stretch the muscles and then massage the cramp area. This will soften the

muscles and ease the cramp.

Warm Shower or Pad

Taking a warm shower will relax all your body muscles. You can also put a heating pad on the affected muscle to relieve the pain.

To avoid leg cramps, you should stretch your muscles and exercise, but not too vigorously. If you don’t exercise often, then a vigorous workout may cause muscle cramps instead of prevent them.

Heartburn

In one sentence – keep your throat higher than your stomach while sleeping and eat lightly before bed.

Sleep With your Upper Body Elevated

When your stomach is at the level of your throat, acids from your stomach flow up through the esophagus, causing heartburn. So, you need to keep your throat elevated. In order to elevate your body, elevate the head of your bed by putting 4-6-inch blocks under its legs. Or you can sleep on a wedge shaped pillow that keeps your head higher than your stomach.

Eat Right

You shouldn’t consume foods or drinks that may trigger heartburn. These are alcohol, coffee, tea, colas, chocolate, peppermint, garlic, onion, milk, fried foods, and acidic foods such as tomato ketchup.

Eat Light

When you eat early, the acids in your stomach can empty out in time before you sleep, which reduces the chance of heartburn while sleeping. Moreover, heavy meals put pressure on your stomach, so eat light to avoid heartburns.

Relax During Dinner

Eating while stressed or eating in haste produces more acids in your stomach, leading to increased chances of heartburn. Also, relax after you eat. Do some deep breathing for a few minutes to relax, but do it before you eat.

Racing Thoughts

In one sentence – take deep breaths, write down your thoughts or engage in a quiet activity like reading or painting.

Deep Breathing

The best solution for stress, anxiety, or racing thoughts is deep breathing. You need to breathe deep down into your diaphragm and use all your lung capacity to remove the stress from your body. Inhale deeply, hold for a moment, and exhale slowly. Do this for fifteen minutes and your mind will calm down.

Write Things Down

Quite often when our minds are racing, we are trying to make sense of an unresolved issue or concern. This is similar to how your headphone wires get tangled when you leave them alone. Your neural wires get tangled due to unresolved issues, firing up at each other endlessly, producing an endless train of thoughts. By writing about the core issue, we can untangle these neural wires and bring harmony to our minds.

Engage in a Quiet Activity

When we find it hard to sleep, we tend to distract ourselves with our smartphones or computers. Why? Because technology provides quick entertainment, and we are addicted to it. The right thing to do is engage in a quiet activity like painting, reading, knitting, or taking a warm shower. The key here is to relax your mind as opposed to stimulating it with TV, Facebook, or YouTube.

Uncomfortable Environment

In one sentence – keep your room dark and cool and drink lots of water.

Did you know that your sleep cycle is tied to certain cues, such as light, food, and temperature? Your body uses these cues, also known as zeitgebers, to set your body clock.

Keep Your Room Dark

Sometimes it is not your mind that troubles you, but the outside environment. If your room gets too much sunlight early in the morning, it makes sense to use thick curtains to guard your sleep. You can get “blackout curtains” that allow you to get an additional hour or two of restful slumber in the morning.

Cool Down Your Room

Temperature is really important for your sleep because your body relies on the natural temperatures of day and night to set your body clock. It is warmer in the day and cooler at night. So, it is essential that you keep your room cool at night and warm in the morning.

Get a Cooling Pillow or Sheet Set

To keep your body cool at night, you can buy a cooling pillow that absorbs body heat and keeps you cozy all night. On the other hand, cooling bed sheets provide greater cooling capacity, although they are a bit expensive. But, since this one-time investment will keep you cool for a year or two, it is completely worth it.

Hydrate

Instead of cooling down your room, how about cooling down your body directly? Yes, drinking lots of water will keep your body cool. If you’re a male, drink at least 3 litres of water, or 13 cups, per day. If you’re a female, drink at least 9 cups, or 2.2 litres, per day.

Cannot Reset Sleep Cycle

In one sentence – get sunlight in the morning and stay awake one full day.

Monitor Your Exposure to Light

If you can take away a single piece of advice from this article, take this. Your body needs light at the right times to set your sleep cycle. So, if you want to reset your sleep cycle, take a 30-minute walk after sunrise every morning, and your sleep cycle will reset within a week. On the other hand, you also need to darken your surroundings when it’s time to sleep. This means no smartphone or computer at least two hours before bed.

Stay Awake One Full Day

If your sleep cycle is twisted and you sleep late at night, it’s best to pull off an “all-dayer”. It may take some willpower and mild stimulation (use the Internet, socialize or go out; don’t drink too much coffee) to keep awake the whole day when you have been awake since last night. But once you make it through the day, you will instantly go to sleep and wake up early the next day.

Go Camping

This may sound unusual, but camping is a great way to reset your sleep cycle. This is because when you’re out in the wild, your body synchronizes with the natural cues of sunlight and temperature, resetting your sleep rhythm to normal. However, you cannot take your smartphone, laptop, or any electrical lighting with you (except an emergency torch). Research published in Current Biology Journal shows that camping works magnificently, especially for night-owls.

Use Your Body’s In-built Food Clock

Researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered that our sleep cycle not only responds to light but also to food. The best part is that the food clock can override the main clock. According to Clifford Saper, the lead researcher at Harvard, “you should just flip into that new time zone in one day.”

To use the food clock, stop eating 12-16 hours before your desired waking time. So, if you want to wake up at 6 a.m. in the morning, start fasting at 2 p.m. or 6 p.m. the previous day. This is especially helpful when you’re travelling to another country, as you can find out when they serve breakfast and then stop eating 12-16 hours before that time.

Take Melatonin

Delayed sleep can disturb your work or school productivity; hence, it’s essential to reset your sleep cycle. Only when you’ve tried everything else and are unable to go to sleep at an appropriate time should you consider taking 0.5 to 1mg of melatonin. If this doesn’t work, seek professional help.

Feeling Groggy After Waking Up

In one sentence – exercise, stay away from technology, and don’t eat heavy meals at night.

No Technology before bed

If you are in the habit of scrolling through instagram before sleeping, you need to change your habits. Commit to not using any technology such as a smartphone, laptop, or TV two hours before bed. The bright light from such devices affects your sleep cycle and ruins the quality of your sleep. If you are bored at night, read a book, listen to soothing music, write in your journal, paint, or meditate. Engage in a quiet, low-stimulation activity.

Wake Up at the Same Time

If you wake up at different times on different days, it disrupts your sleep cycle. Maintain a strict schedule to keep a healthy sleep cycle. Wake up at the same time, even on the weekend.

Exercise in the Morning

Don’t be lazy when you wake up. Wash your face and move your body. Do a simple exercise such as jumping jacks at home, or go out for a run around the park.

Use the Right App to Wake Up

If you wake up during REM sleep, you will feel groggy and tired. Use the “Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock” app to wake you up at the right time. It analyzes your sleep patterns using the accelerometer in your phone and wakes you up when you’ve completed the REM cycle in your sleep.

Eat light and Eat Early

If you eat a heavy dinner before sleep, your body gets busy digesting the food. This disrupts your ability to fall asleep. Eating late only adds to this problem, as your body is internally active when you go to bed and this makes it hard to fall asleep. So always eat early and eat light.

Summary

Sleep problems can disrupt your lifestyle and harm your health. The good news is that you can fix your sleep fairly quickly if you use the solutions mentioned above.

Just so you remember, here are the keys to healthy sleep:

  • Exercise: Even a couple hours of exercise every week brings huge benefits to your physical health.
  • Morning sun exposure: Your body uses light as a cue to fix your internal sleep clock. So get out in the sun every morning and dim the lights two hours before sleep.
  • No technology before bed: Blue light from your smartphone or laptop may disrupt your sleeping patterns. Also, excessive use of technology produces anxiety, so it must be avoided.
  • Less caffeine: Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, so never drink more than 4 cups of coffee per day and drink your last coffee before 2 p.m.
  • Cool environment at night: Temperature is another cue that determines your internal sleep clock. So turn on the AC at night, or use a cooling pad if you have to.
  • A bedtime ritual: Don’t distract yourself on technology before bed. Engage in a quiet activity like journaling, reading, etc. A daily ritual works like a magic switch and puts you to sleep.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Some nights are tougher than others. So practice deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to get into a calm and tranquil state mentally.

Take care of the basics and you will sleep like a baby every night!

10 Herbal Sleep Teas To Sleep Naturally (Everything You Need to Know)

15 Herbal Sleep Teas To Sleep Naturally Everything You Need to Know

Tossing and turning at night feels awful.

You can choose to stay in bed or you can choose to get up and do something. Staying in bed doesn’t work so well. If it did, you’d not be reading this.

And doing “something” until you fall asleep seems okay. But doing “anything” won’t help. You shouldn’t use your smartphone or watch TV. Because the blue light from such devices kills your sleep hormones instantly.

What you need is a bedtime ritual. Something that’ll release those neurotransmitters and make you feel drowsy in no time.

Enter sleep teas.

How can they help? Most people love coffee. If you can learn to enjoy sleep tea just like you enjoy coffee, you can solve your sleep problem once and for all.

But can you rely on herbal tea?

This article will show you

  • check
    10 easily-available herbal teas that can help you sleep
  • check
    What research says about each herbal tea
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    The benefits of each herbal tea
  • check
    Side effects and medication interactions of each herbal tea

Can herbal tea really help you sleep?

Herbal teas aren’t just a folk remedy. According to research done by a UK-based bed linen firm, people who enjoyed healthy sleep drank a cup of tea around 9 pm and had dinner one and a half hour before bed.

Can herbal tea really help you sleep?

This finding is rather shocking.  Because it doesn’t mention specifically herbal teas. It just says that people drink “tea”, which consists of the dream killer—caffeine!

Mainstream research doesn’t provide concrete evidence in proving that herbal teas can help people sleep. But many surveys and self-reported evidence indicate that such non-prescription remedies help a lot of people sleep naturally.

Thousands of people believe that herbal teas can help you sleep. So it is definitely worth trying if you haven’t already.

What Are the Side Effects?

What Are the Side Effects

Source:hcgdietdropsprotocol.com

Research published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows that herbal remedies have little to no side effects, so they can be effective in treatment of sleep problems.

But you need to really know which herb you’re drinking and its side effects. Because herbs can cause allergic reactions, headaches, heartburn and stomach pain. If you’re taking medication, you should ask a doctor whether drinking herbal tea is safe for you.

If you have a serious health condition, you should consider using the herb Rooibos for your herbal tea, after consulting with your doctor. Rooibos is known to have no side effects, nor it interacts with any drugs. Also known as Red Bush tea, it is the national drink of South Africa.

When You Should Not Drink Herbal Sleep Tea

When You Should Not Drink Herbal Sleep Tea

You should not drink herbal tea if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, expecting to be pregnant, suffer from autoimmune diseases or scheduled for surgery. If you take prescription sedatives, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, blood thinning medication, blood pressure medication, you shouldn’t drink herbal tea.

As stated earlier, if you are taking medication, consult your doctor before you choose herbal tea as your bedtime beverage. Herbal teas can interact with medication depending on the type of medicine and your health condition.

If you’re going to do any activities that require you to be alert, like driving or operating heavy machinery, don’t drink herbal sleep tea. It may make you feel drowsy and you may get in a dangerous situation.

Do Herbal Sleep Teas Taste Good?

Do Herbal Sleep Teas Taste Good?

Herbal teas may not taste pleasant. But many manufacturers produce herbal teas from a combination of two or more herbs (e.g. valerian, passion flower, chamomile). These combinations taste better than individual herbs. Some herbal teas

If you are committed to treating your sleep problems, then taste should not be your number one preference. If people can love the bitter taste of beer and other alcoholic drinks, you too can learn to love the okayish taste of herbal sleep teas.

1. Chamomile

Chamomile

Chamomile is one of the most popular herbal teas in the world. It has a calming aroma, because dried chamomile flowers are sweet daisy-like and have a fragrance just like a crisp apple. The tea has similar taste. But as many users suggest, the taste isn’t necessarily good. So you may want to add other ingredients to enhance the taste of your Chamomile tea.

What Research Says

In a research study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 34 patients suffering from insomnia were treated with Chamomile or a placebo for a month to see the effect of both. The patients not only slept better with chamomile, they also felt and functioned better during the day.

Studies show that Chamomile has anticonvulsant properties and relaxes the central nervous system. It has antioxidants that fight the excessive free radicals formed in your body. Free radicals can cause disease if they are excessive in number.

In fact, it’s so effective that ten cardiac patients dozed off just after drinking chamomile tea and slept for 90 minutes.  So if you struggle with any sleeping problems, Chamomile tea could be the best remedy for you. Drinking one cup 30 minutes before your bedtime will put you right to sleep.

​Benefits of Chamomile tea

Benefits of Chamomile tea

Induces Sleep - Chamomile is known as a mild tranquilizer and sleep inducer. It contains a chemical called apigenin that binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain and leads to sedative effects. This is the reason chamomile essential oils are used often in cosmetics and aromatherapy.

Treats Migraines - Chamomile can help ease migraine in some cases. Chamomile can help ease anxiety, inflammation, allergies, and spasms - all factors together provide good relief in migraines.

Boosts Immunity - If you easily catch cold or flu, then it makes sense to boost your immunity with a cup or two of chamomile every day.

Reduces Stress - Chamomile has chemicals called flavonoids which help relax the mind and also sedates the body. So if you’re feeling stressed during the day, a cup of chamomile can help you feel calm and relaxed.

Nutrient information:
Chamomile tea is free of fat, caffeine, sugar, cholesterol and has a little bit of calories. According to UDSA Nutrient Database, 1 cup of chamomile has 2 calories, 0.47g of carbs, and no fat or protein. Also, it contains a lot of minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, fluoride, folate and Vitamin A.

Side Effects of Chamomile Tea

Although chamomile tea is a great remedy for sleep, it can cause side effects in some cases:

Allergic reactions: If you have allergic reactions to daisy plants including chrysanthemums, ragweed, arnica, sunflowers, mugwort, aster, marigold—chances are, you will be allergic to chamomile too. For people who are sensitive to its effects, chamomile can cause mild allergies like rashes to more severe reactions like anaphylaxis. It also causes swollen throat, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath. Some reports also show skin allergies including dermatitis and eczema.

Pregnant women, those who are breastfeeding and those who are expecting pregnancy should also avoid chamomile tea. And if you’re scheduled for surgery, don’t drink chamomile as it may cause unwanted complications.If you have asthma, be careful with the dosage or simply avoid chamomile tea, because it can aggravate asthma.

High dosage of chamomile tea can cause nausea and vomiting. So when you start drinking this herbal sleep tea, take in small quantities.

Medication Interaction of Chamomile Tea

When combined with benzodiazepines, barbiturates, antidepressants, and alcohol, chamomile tea can cause excessive drowsiness.

According to theoretical knowledge, when combined with anticoagulant (blood thinners), antiplatelet drugs and anti-inflammatory drugs, chamomile can increase the risk of bleeding.

People who take blood sugar or blood pressure medication should avoid chamomile as it can affects sugar or blood pressure levels in the body.

Chamomile can also interact with other medications such as cardiac depressants, CNS depressants, respiratory depressants, antibiotics, antifungals, antihistamines, diuretics. It also interacts with medicines for high cholesterol, ulcer, diarrhea and gastrointestinal disorders.

Before combining chamomile with any other herb, consult your doctor because it may lead to harmful side effects.

2. Valerian Root

Valerian Root

Valerian root is well-known as a remedy for insomnia. Its name comes from the Latin word Valarae, which means “to be healthy”. It is used as an ingredient in many dietary supplements. People in ancient Greece and Rome used valerian root to treat insomnia, headaches, stress, nervousness, and trembling.

According to Sebastian Pole, the cofounder of Pukka Herbs, valerian not only induces sleep, it also increases the quality of sleep. With valerian, you can get more hours of REM sleep which is crucial for restoring energy and revitalizing your entire body.

Pole explains that valerian root has certain constituents, which bind to the parts of our nervous system that stop mental activity and induce relaxation. That is where its sedative properties come from. So if you can’t stop the racing thoughts in your mind, try some valerian root.

What Research Says

According to WebMd, people use valerian for anxiety and psychological stress, but there’s no concrete research to support this. The Medical Center at University of Maryland suggests that people have been using Valerian since second-century A.D. to treat insomnia, anxiety, and nervous restlessness.

GABA: Relaxes your brain
Valerian root increases GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric acid) in the brain. Your brain naturally produces GABA, the chemical that relaxes your nervous system. Research shows that as compared to water, GABA is much more effective at increasing alpha waves and decreasing beta waves in the brain. And alpha wave activity means that you become less anxious and more relaxed.

Valerian is effective
Another research study shows that Valerian is very effective after a couple weeks of use. But in the first two weeks, it is only as effective as a placebo. Studies also show that valerian has far fewer side effects as compared to prescription sleep medications. People who take melatonin sometimes report weird dreams as a side effect. But with valerian, research says that there aren’t any documented side effects.

Valerian root can be used in five different forms: capsule, tincture, tea, fluid extract and essential oil. Although it smells very bad, it doesn’t taste as bad.

​Benefits of Valerian Root Tea

Benefits of Valerian Root Tea

Treats Insomnia and Sleep Problems - Some research studies show that valerian works helps people sleep better. Despite lack of proper research, valerian is still used as a sleep aid throughout the world. And if you’re a movie buff, you might know that the insomniac narrator in the film Fight Club, was told to chew valerian root for treating his chronic sleep problems. If it’s popular in Hollywood, it’s got to be amazing.

Treats Anxiety and Depression - Valerian root has volatile acids and oils which help people calm down and stop feeling anxious. It is used in treatment of various anxiety disorders and can also help people with depression.

Treats Hyperactivity - Valerian root tea helps people concentrate - something people with ADHD find hard to do. So if you want to crack that university exam in a short period of time, valerian will come to your rescue.

Makes You Mentally Sharp - Valerian root is used as a performance booster. It saves neurons from cell death and hence keeps your brain healthy and sharp. Because it promotes sleep and reduces anxiety, it also boosts cognitive performance. Dopamine is an essential chemical that your brain needs for mental activity. Valerian makes sure that dopaminergic cells don’t die, hence itv preserves your mental performance.

Treats Headaches and Migraines - Many a times, headaches are associated with sleeping problems. Since valerian helps you sleep naturally, it also provides relief in headaches and migraines. But know that, sometimes, valerian itself can give a mild headache as a side effect.

Side Effects of Valerian Root Tea

Never consume valerian in its plant form, because research shows that it can cause liver damage. Always use capsules, tablets, liquid extract, or readymade tea bags. The long-term side effects of valerian aren’t known due to insufficient research. But the short-term effects are worth your consideration.

Headaches:
In the short-term, valerian root has the following side effects. So be careful and consult your doctor if you experience any of these:

Headaches - Some people get headaches from valerian tea. To counter this effect, dilute your tea by adding more water when brewing it.

Mental Confusion - Since valerian slows down your mind, you may find it hard to think clearly or focus on the task at hand. It can also cause strange dreams.

Upset Stomach - Although it usually happens when you consume a high amount of valerian, it can cause indigestion, vomiting, nausea and constipation.

Excitement and Unease - Valerian root can sometimes cause nervous excitement and unease. But remember that these side effects are only noted in the short-term.

Daytime Drowsiness - Since valerian root is a sedative, it can make you feel drowsy during the day. Depending on your preference, you might want to consume a lower dose of valerian to counter this effect.

​Valerian Root Tea Interaction With Medication:

If you are taking any medication, it is best to consult to your doctor before you decide to use valerian root tea.

Valerian root shouldn’t be combined with medications for the following health problems:
  • Anxiety, depression, sleep problems, or any mental disorders
  • Any infection such as HIV, Tuberculosis, etc.
  • Asthma
  • High blood pressure, cholesterol, or any heart disease
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Cancer

3. Lavender

Lavender

Lavender is popular for its soothing aroma. The word ‘Lavender’ comes from the latin word ‘lavare’ which means “to wash”. It is an integral part of essential oils that help you relax and sleep. Lavender tea is made from the purple lavender flower buds which are native to the Mediterranean region.

Ancient Greeks and Romans used lavender to add a soothing touch to their baths and a beautiful fragrance to the air.

What Research Says

Scientific research shows that lavender can be powerful at inducing sleep and improving its quality in the long-term with no side effects. Its sedative qualities has helped people with insomnia and anxiety disorders sleep better.

Research at Medical University of Vienna also examined the effects of lavender on people suffering from anxiety disorders. It reported that lavender oil “had a significant beneficial influence on quality and duration of sleep and improved general mental and physical health without causing any unwanted sedative or other drug specific effects.”

Rupinder Mangat, CEO of MEVEI, an essential oils company, says that Lavender is the most studied essential oil because of its relaxifying properties. According to him, although essential oils are used for many purposes, but they are especially effective for relieving stress, stabilizing mood and improving sleep.

Targeted research was also done to study its effects on sleep. It showed that lavender has the ingredients that help beat insomnia. In one study done at University of Southampton in Britain, lavender oil was tested on 10 adults. When studying the effects of lavender vs. placebo, lavender helped them sleep 20% better.

Another study was done on 80 women in Taiwan, who were in their postnatal period. The women who smelled and drank lavender every day were less tired than those who didn’t do the same.

One more study done on midlife women with insomnia was published in a peer-reviewed journal. When the 67 women inhaled lavender twice a week for three months, they reported improvements in heart rate, sleep quality, and heart rate variation.

​Benefits of Lavender Tea

Benefits of Lavender Tea

Lavender offers a host of health benefits. It helps you relax in mind and body. And helps you fall asleep and enjoy deep sleep. But it also provides relief in cases of asthma, cold, cough, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems.

Here are some sleep-related benefits of lavender tea:

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    Improves Sleep - As proven by the research mentioned above, lavender can help people with sleep problems such as insomnia. It not only helps you fall asleep fast and longer, it makes sure you enjoy deep, restful sleep.
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    Improves Heart Health - As evident in the research study mentioned above, Lavender improves heart rate and reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other heart diseases. Lavender tea prevents coagulation or blood clotting, in blood vessels and arteries in your heart. It also lowers negative LDL cholesterol which blocks the arteries and blood vessels. Hence, lavender serves as a great tonic in improving heart health.
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    Prevents Inflammation - Lavender can treat many inflammations such as headaches, arthritis pain, skin itching and redness, and fevers.
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    Heals Anxiety - Research shows that when people with mild-to-severe anxiety took lavender oil orally for 6 to 10 weeks, they felt more relaxed and slept better. But lavender oil can’t treat anxiety by itself. Medical intervention is necessary.

​Side effects of Lavender

Oral use of lavender can cause headaches, constipation and increase hunger. When used on the skin, it can sometimes cause irritation.

Drowsiness - Taking too much lavender can make you drowsy during the day.

Allergies - If you are allergic to lavender, you may get nausea, vomiting, headache, or chills as side effects.                                

Pregnancy - For pregnant women, lavender can trigger menstruation, leading to miscarriage or other pregnancy problems.

Sun sensitivity - Lavender can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. As a result, your skin can develop rashes or redness when out in the sun.

Physical distortions - Lavender can cause breast growth in boys. It can trigger abnormal hormonal growth in boys who haven’t reached puberty yet.

Thin blood - It is a blood thinner and good for heart health. But for some people, thinning of blood could be a problem, especially if they’re taking medications with similar thinning effect.

Precautions
If you’re scheduled for surgery, stop taking lavender two weeks before surgery. It can interfere with anesthesia and slow down your nervous system too much to the point of being dangerous.

​Medication Interaction of Lavender

Any kind of sedative medications can interact with lavender. So be careful and consult your doctor before you take lavender in such cases. Sedatives such as barbiturates, benzodiazepines, CNS (nervous system) depressants interact with lavender and cause too much sluggishness.

Medications for high blood pressure can interact with lavender. Since lavender decreases blood pressure, taking it along with medications that lower blood pressure can be dangerous.

​4. Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

The scientific name of lemon balm is Melissa Officinalis and it is also called common balm or balm mint. Lemon balm is known for its ability to enhance longevity, reduce anxiety, and give vigor when consumed regularly. People have used lemon balm throughout history as a remedy for sleep problems, anxiety, and wounds. Because of its various benefits which help people with insomnia and even people with cancer, it’s been an important herb for researchers around the world. In the United States, lemon balm is used as the component of mild sleep aid.

Lemon balm essential oils have a chemical known as terpene, which is partly responsible for the herb’s soothing properties. It also contains a substance called tannis, which provides its antiviral effects. Another constituent chemical called eugenol, eases muscle spasms, numbs tissues, and kills bacteria.

Lemon balm has many uses: it has been used as an ingredient for tea, perfumes, insect repellants, toothpaste and for flavoring dishes. In 14th century, a beverage called Carmelite water used to be made from lemon balm and it is still sold in Germany today. This beverage can ease headaches and nerve pain.

What Research Says

Research shows that lemon balm can help treat insomnia. This research was done on women going through menopause, the phase where most women experience insomnia. When lemon balm was used on 100 middle-aged women in their menopause, it showed significant improvement in sleep patterns.

Research published in Indian Journal of Pharmacology showed that when mice were treated using lemon balm, their anxious behaviors reduced even when they were placed in a new and challenging environment.

When researchers at University of Maryland study center tested a concoction of lemon balm and valerian on a group of people with minor sleep problems, they found that 81% of people who took the concoction slept a lot better than those who took placebo. Many research studies show that when lemon balm is combined with other herbs, such as chamomile, hops, and valerian, it can help lower anxiety and improve sleep. Not many studies have conducted to test how effective is lemon balm by itself in inducing and improving sleep.

In a 2011 study published in The Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, researchers examined the effects of lemon balm extract in the treatment of people suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep problems. As a result of this experiment, 95 percent of the volunteers responded to the treatment, out of which 70 percent full improvement in anxiety, 85 percent for insomnia, and 70 percent for both. The study concluded that long-term use of lemon balm relieves stress.

Researchers at the Newcastle General Hospital also report that lemon balm can help in the treatment of Alzheimer's, a disease characterized by memory loss and impairment of other cognitive functions of the brain. But, Dr. Perry explains, only the dried leaf enhances the memory. Dried leaf is the closest way of how traditionally people used to take lemon balm.

​Benefits of Lemon Balm Tea

Benefits of Lemon Balm Tea

1. Improves Sleep: While researchers are still studying the effects of lemon balm, Germany has licensed lemon balm as a standard medicinal tea for treating sleep disorders and gastrointestinal tract disorders.

2. Relieves Stress and Anxiety: The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia states that lemon balm and its Indian cousin, M. parviflora can ease anxiety and depression. And from findings mentioned in the research section above, it is clear that lemon balm has sedative properties which can help people with mild-to-moderate anxiety. So if you can’t stop your mind’s racing thoughts, brew some lemon balm tea, or even mix it with valerian. Cyracos, a lemon balm, product also helps ease anxiety.

3. Improves cognition and mood: Yes, I know what you’re thinking. If it can help me sleep, how will it help me stay alert? Isn’t that the opposite? Let me explain. You can’t stay alert when your mind is thinking about a million things except the thing that you want to do. And lemon balm reduces this noise in your brain and improves cognitive performance.

So if you can’t sleep because you have an exam next week, don’t be anxious. Lemon can help you sleep at night and focus during the day. Yes, it is weird, but trying it won’t hurt.

4. Strengthens memory and problem-solving skills: Dr. David Kennedy, director of research at Northumbria University, examined the effect of lemon balm by giving lemon balm capsules to young people. They were required to take computer memory tests. As a result, the lemon balm helped them perform much better than a control group which took placebo. That is why research shows that lemon balm can be effective in the treatment of Alzheimer's.

5. Relieves sore muscles: Muscle pain is often the reason for sleepless for many people. It has the antispasmodic action, which eases muscle spasms and the eugenol substance it has, helps ease muscle pain.

6. Protects your heart: Blood pressure and heart rate are related to how calm and at ease you feel, which in turn, determines how well you sleep. So it’s important to take care of your heart, if you want to sleep better. For example, Iranian doctors used to treat heart palpitations using lemon balm[1]. A 2016 study showed that lemon balm lowers blood pressure and heart rate [2].

​Side Effects of Lemon Balm

When you take it orally, Lemon balm can cause vomiting, increased appetite, abdominal pain, dizziness, and wheezing.

Dependency: Research shows that even though lemon bal is effective at improving sleep, it may cause withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it. The study was done on a university graduate who started drinking lemon balm tea without combining it with another herbal sleep tea. Although the tea eased his anxiety, he felt irritable and restless when he didn’t consume the tea. He also started drinking four cups instead of the one cup earlier in the next two months. When he didn’t consume any tea for two consecutive days, he had to be admitted in the emergency department for immediate treatment.

Hypotension: If you suffer from hypotension, don’t take lemon balm because it lowers blood pressure.

Decrease alertness at high doses: A study appeared in the journal Psychometric Medicine in 2004. It showed that when 600 mg, a high dose of lemon balm was consumed to ease stress, it increased calmness but decreased alertness. The reduction in alertness is only reported at high doses.

​Medication Interaction of Lemon Balm

Lemon balm interacts with CNS depressants. With any kind of sedatives, lemon balm will cause sleepiness and drowsiness. 

​5. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, the Indian system of alternative medicine. Ashwagandha has been used for over 3000 years to increase energy, reduce stress, and improve concentration.

It is also known as Indian ginseng. It contains a chemical called withanolid, which has anti-inflammatory properties and also prevents tumor growth. In Ayurveda, ashwagandha has been known as a rasayana - a rejuvenator that keeps you mentally and physically young for life.

The sleep inducing properties of Ashwagandha can be credited to its constituent triethylene glycol. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which means it strengthens the body’s ability to deal with stress and bring physiological homeostasis. It brings physiological balance by correcting the imbalance between the immune and endocrine systems. As a result, your body becomes resilient to stress.

What Research Says

In a study published in the Alternative Medicine Review, the effectiveness of ashwagandha on concentration and memory was tested on 20 healthy men. Researchers tested the participants on reaction-time tests, discrimination tests, and card sorting tests. The positive results on these tests showed that ashwagandha can improve multiple brain functions: motor functions of the brain, memory, focus, and concentration.

Research shows that Ashwagandha acts like a GABAergic drug which means it binds to GABA receptors in the brain to reduce neural activity. This is why it is effective for easing anxiety, convulsions, stabilization of physiological functions. Since high neural activity causes insomnia and anxiety, ashwagandha’s GABAergic properties help reduce the number of neurons firing together and hence bringing a calming effect in the brain.

Research published in the journal Phytomedicine showed that Ashwagandha has anxiolytic properties that has a similar effect like the drug Lorazepam, which is used to treat anxiety disorders, sleep problems, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and active seizures. Ashwagandha also has antidepressant properties and works just like the drug imipramine, an antidepressant. This shows that it can be effective in treatment of insomnia and other related health problems like anxiety and depression.

​Benefits of Ashwagandha Tea

Benefits of Ashwagandha Tea

Reduces Stress and Anxiety: Ashwagandha can reduce cortisol, the stress hormone in your body, resulting in less stress and more relaxation. In a study of 64 people suffering from chronic stress, Ashwagandha treatment brought about 69 percent improvement in anxiety and insomnia while the placebo only achieved an 11 percent improvement.

Treats Depression: Ashwagandha has been used since ancient times to treat any illnesses of the mind or the nervous system. Studies show that it can reduce the symptoms of depression by 79 percent in people who have severe depression.

Prevents Heart Disease: Ashwagandha reduces the cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body. In a two-month long study done on people suffering from chronic stress, ashwagandha treatment decreased LDL cholesterol by 17 percent and triglyceride by 11 percent. So it can be really effective for your heart health.

Improves Brain Function: Research shows that ashwagandha has antioxidant properties which combat the harmful effects of free radicals on nerve cells. In a study done on healthy men, half a gram of ashwagandha was administered daily. Researchers observed significant improvements in their reaction time and mental performance in given tasks.

Builds Immunity and Fights Inflammation: Research published in Phytotherapy Research showed that ashwagandha enhances the natural killer cell activity, which strengthens the innate immune response to fight infections. This study was done on healthy adults with a history of recurrent coughs and colds.

Ashwagandha also decreases C-reactive protein, which is related to a risk of heart disease. In a study , quarter of a gram of ashwagandha was administered. The results showed a 36 percent reduction in C-reactive protein, hence an improved ability to fight inflammation.

​Side Effects of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurveda. There are no major long-term studies done to examine its side effects. But anecdotal evidence shows that it may cause some side effects in some cases. But, low to medium dose of ashwagandha (upto 1 gm) is considered generally safe.

May Cause Allergy: Although there’s not much research done on this, but personal stories of people reveal that ashwagandha may cause allergies. It may cause itching, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and sore throat. But keep in mind that these symptoms are experienced by only in some cases, so you may want to see for yourself whether you’re allergic to it. You can even consult your doctor regarding it.

May Cause Drowsiness: Ashwagandha may cause drowsiness because of its constituent chemicals that promote relaxation. Since it is sleep inducing and promotes relaxation, taking it in conjunction with other sedatives can cause drowsiness during the day and may affect your ability to focus.

Random sources on the web report other side effects including stomach upset, bleeding, dry mouth, diarrhoea, nausea, and chest pain.

However, if you’re not taking a high dose, consuming ashwagandha tea for sleep is rather safe. Because the side effects mentioned in these random sources aren’t backed up by research.

​Medication Interactions of Ashwagandha

Blood Sugar Medication: Ashwagandha lowers blood sugar level which can be helpful for diabetic people. But if you’re already taking a medication that lowers blood sugar, taking ashwagandha can backfire and may lower your blood sugar too much.

Thyroid Medication: Ashwagandha increases thyroid hormone concentration in the body. So if you’re taking a medication to treat hyperthyroidism, it may be harmful to take ashwagandha as it may increase your thyroid symptoms.

Autoimmune Medication: Ashwagandha strengthens the immune system. But for people suffering from autoimmune diseases, it can be potentially harmful. Because in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus, medications try to lower your natural immune response. And since ashwagandha increases this response, it can be potentially harmful.

​6. Passion Flower

Passion Flower

Passion flower is the umbrella name for the 400 species of the plant genus Passiflora. Although its native origins are the warmer areas of north and south america, it is now grown all over the world. It has been used throughout history by native americans, european settlers, and african americans. They used it as a sedative and relaxant as it is effective at soothing the nervous system. By 18th century, passion flower became a popular remedy for epilepsy and insomnia.

Passion flower is antispasmodic: relieves spasms of involuntary muscles, hypnotic: psychoactive drug that induces sleep, anodyne: pain relieving, anticonvulsant: reduces convulsions, sedative: calming and sleep-inducing, and anxiolytic: reduces anxiety.

Passion flower’s therapeutic properties come from its constituent phytochemicals. Phytochemicals such as apigenin, orientin, swertiamarin, quercetin, kaempferol, vitexin, and chrysin promote neuroprotective activity. In other words, these chemicals restore mental balance and produce calming effects.

What Research Says

Passion flower is known for its sedative and soothing effects. But few studies are done to support its properties.

In the book, Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence Based Guide, the authors mention that passion flower may boost the production of GABA in the brain. If you remember from earlier sections, GABA is naturally produced in the brain and lowers the neural activity, leading to relaxation. But since there are a large variety of passion flower species, these findings are not concrete.

For a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, the effects of placebo versus passion flower tea were tested on 41 adults in one week long trial. From self-reported evidence and scientific anxiety parameters, sleep quality was “significantly better” with the use of passion flower as compared to that with placebo. The study was done with the plant species Passiflora incarnata.

In another study, published in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, passion flower and a control anti-anxiety drug were separately tested on 60 patients 90 minutes before surgery. Results showed that patients who took passion flower felt less anxious and didn’t experience any sedative effects, nor any changes in psychomotor functions.

In The Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, a study was published on the anxiety reducing effects of passion flower. Passion flower was tested on 36 patients with generalized anxiety disorder over the period of a month. The results showed that passion flower was effective at reducing anxiety levels and making them calm and relaxed.

Benefits of Passion Flower

Benefits of Passion Flower

1. Puts You in a Relaxed Mood: Passion flower has proven calming and sedative effects. If you experience mood swings or run on a rollercoaster of emotions all day, it can help you sleep. Mood disorders are common among people with insomnia or other sleep problems. A cup of passion flower tea before bed can put you into a deep peaceful slumber, and that too without any side effects you get with prescription medications.

2. Improves Sleep: Both self-reported and scientific evidence suggests that passion flower can help you sleep at night. It’s constituent chemicals stop excessive neural activity - that terrible state of racing thoughts - and helps you feel calm.

3. Eases Muscle Spasms: For people who experience involuntary muscle spasms, passion flower can be a powerful remedy. Not only it helps ease muscle spasms, it also soothes the sadness that generally follows involuntary muscle spasms. It delays the onset and duration of muscle contractions.

4. Eases Withdrawal Symptoms: Whether you are trying to quit alcohol, nicotine, or coffee, passion flower can help you deal with withdrawal symptoms. A study published in Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics showed that passion flower can ease physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal.

5. Helps with Stress, Anxiety and Depression: If you suffer from chronic stress, your body produces excessive amounts of stress hormones. Passion flower corrects this physiological imbalance in the body and alleviates symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. The phytochemicals in passion flower can make you feel positive and energized throughout the day.

6. Blood Pressure/Heart Health: Passion flower lowers blood pressure and improves heart health. Since insomnia is often linked with high blood pressure, passion flower can work as an all round remedy, treating multiple symptoms of insomnia at once.

​Side Effects of Passion Flower

A research study published in Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutic suggests that passion flower showed no side effects when used to treat withdrawal symptoms in people who were trying to quit smoking. Animal research shows that passion flower can cause uterine contraction. Although this side effects is not observed in humans, pregnant women are advised to ask a professional before consuming passion flower tea.

Mental Confusion/Dizziness: If you consume passion flower tea in large amounts, you may experience mental confusion, lack of physical-mental coordination,unclear thinking, dizziness, and so on. If you are prone to these mental disturbances, it’s best to consult a doctor before taking passion flower tea.

Blood Pressure/Heart Health: If you take blood pressure medications, consuming passion flower tea can lower your blood pressure too much. So avoid it using along with any blood pressure medication.

Antidepressants/Sedatives: If you take prescription antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, or sedatives of any kind, using passion flower can increase the sedative effects causing drowsiness, mental confusion, and can even be potentially harmful in some cases.

Gastrointestinal problems: High doses of passion flower tea can cause gastrointestinal problems such as stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and so on.

​7. Magnolia Bark

Magnolia Bark

In Chinese medicine, Magnolia Bark has been in use for over 2000 years. Its therapeutic properties make it antiseptic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory. It has bioactive compounds that can help with multiple health issues including anxiety, inflammation, sleep problems, stress, memory, and brain functions. It has bioactive components, including magnolol and honokiol, which produce its therapeutic effects.

It is known by its biological name Magnolia officinalis and originates from China. Although it’s often used to improve sleep, proper research is needed to confirm this sleep-inducing property of this herb.

​What Research Says

A study was done on 56 people to examine the effects of Magnolia bark on anxiety and stress. The researchers gave them 1/4th gram of Relora - a combination of two chinese herbs: magnolia bark and amur cork. After one month of this experiment, the results showed that the herbal treatment helped lower stress levels, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion in participants. It also improved vigor, energy levels, in participants.

Another study of Magnolia bark was done on 40 premenopausal women. The doctors gave the women both placebo and magnolia bark to test its effects. Quarter gram of Relora was given for one and a half month. As compared to placebo, the participants showed decrease in temporary anxiety with relora or magnolia bark. But it must be noted that no sleep quality effects were observed. So, the research shows that magnolia bark may provide soothing effects to people with some anxiety. However, concrete research needs to be done to make any solid claims.

Research published in the Neuropharmacology journal shows that Magnolia bark has bioactive compounds which help you get more hours of NREM sleep and REM sleep - the deep sleep stage essential to replenish and restore energy in your physical body. It contains magnolol which changes c-Fos expressions in the arousal and sleep centers in the brain, leading to relaxation and sleep-promoting effects.

​How It Works

Magnolia bark contains magnolol and honokiol, which modulate the GABA receptors in the brain, promoting relaxation and reducing neural activity. Magnolol increases the density of GABA-a receptors, the same action done by the tranquilizer called diazepam. Research also suggests that magnolia bark has some constituents which inhibit the release of adrenaline from adrenal glands, hence decreasing alertness and promoting relaxation.

How-it-works

Benefits of Magnolia Bark

1. Improves Sleep - As reported in the research studies mentioned above, magnolia bark has bioactive components such as magnolol, which induce sleep and increase the time of REM sleep, which is very important for sleep health. It also lowers adrenaline in the brain, leading to less alertness and more relaxation.

2. Stress and Anxiety Relief - If there is one thing that Magnolia bark was known for throughout history, it was for its soothing and calming effects. Since magnolia bark increases GABA activity and decreases the neural activity, it is effective at easing anxiety and stress. Its active component honokiol can produce the same relaxing and anti-anxiety effects as the drug diazepam. If a natural herb can be as powerful as an anti-anxiety drug, without the harmful side effects, it makes sense to try and see if it works for you.

3. Regulates Mood - According to brain science, dopamine and serotonin are two chemicals important for regulating our mood. Dopamine is the reward chemical in the brain. Everytime you complete any task or eat a meal - your brain secretes dopamine. Research shows that magnolia bark can regulate serotonin and dopamine and in turn help you regulate your mood.

4. Brain Health - Magnolia bark has certain chemical compounds which may counter cell death usually linked with Alzheimer's. It also helps regulate the chemical acetylcholine, which helps with learning and remembering things. Studies show that magnolia bark’s chemical action can help improve overall brain function and cognitive processes.

5. Eases inflammation and pain - Magnolia bark has been used in history as a medicine for pain relief and reducing inflammation. Animal research studies show that its constituent compounds, magnolol and honokiol block glutamate-, substance P- and PGE2-induced inflammatory pain.

​Side effects of Magnolia Bark

There isn’t sufficient research done to show any concrete side effects of magnolia bark. But from limited research, it can be said that magnolia bark can cause hand tremors, thyroid issues, dizziness, confusion, headache, and fatigue. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or scheduled for surgery, it is best to avoid using magnolia bark or consult your doctor before you do it.

Breathing problems - Magnolia bark has a chemical called tubocurarine which relaxes muscles. But when it works with other compounds present in the herb, the chemical can cause breathing problems and can even be toxic to children and infants. Therefore, it is recommended to not give it to children.

Vertigo - Vertigo is the sensation of spinning. It is caused when one consumes a high dose of magnolia bark. So if you feel like you are spinning in the room or that the room is spinning around you, immediately call your doctor.

Heart rates - Studies done by E Natural Health center show that magnolia bark can numb the nerve endings in the brain leading to relaxation. But this also heightens up the heart and respiratory rates.

Sedative effects - Magnolia bark contains a chemical called magnocurarine which works like a sedative. It is helpful when you want to sleep, but in large doses it can lower your blood pressure and potentially dangerous for your health.

​Medication Interaction of Magnolia Bark

Sedatives - Because of its sedative effects, magnolia bark shouldn’t be combined with sedative medications like benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and CNS depressants.

Anticoagulant - Magnolia bark combined with anticoagulant medications such as warfarin and edoxaban can result in complicate bleeding problems.

Other herbs - Combining two sleep herbs may cause excessive sedation and drowsiness. So consult your doctor before you combine magnolia bark with any other herb.

​8. St John’s Wort

St John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum is another product of nature used for hundreds of years to treat mental health conditions. In Europe, it’s a common remedy for depression. It is native to regions in Europe and Asia and grows as yellow flowers in the wild. Earliest records show that it was used to heal wounds. But as time progressed, it became more of a mental health remedy.

​What Research Says

Scientific studies on St. John’s Wort effectiveness to treat depression show mixed results. But it can still improve sleep patterns (not sleep quality). Here is what research says:

A study was published in the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology examining the effects of St. John’s Wort on sleep. Over the period of a month, researchers gave the herb to 12 older patients. The results showed an “increase of deep sleep during the total sleep period”. However, the herb didn’t improve the continuity of sleep, the onset of sleep, intermittent wake-up phases, and total time of sleep.

Many studies on the effects of St John’s Wort on depression and anxiety have been done. A research study shows that St John’s Wort may be effective in the treatment of “some adolescents with mild depression”. Another study shows that St John’s Wort is effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.

Research further shows that this herb can enhance the final stage of REM sleep. However, if you rely on anecdotal evidence and the vast history of use of this herbal medicine, it can be used to treat depression, insomnia, and anxiety.

St John’s Wort contains many chemical compounds that produce its therapeutic effects. They include xanthones, dianthrone derivatives, flavanols, phytosterols, coumarins, and some essential oil compounds as well.

Benefits of St John’s Wort

Benefits of St John’s Wort

Helps with depression: Throughout history, St John’s Wort has been used to treat depression. It contains chemical compounds which regulate important neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters make you feel motivated to do things and make you feel happy.

Helps with withdrawal: For people trying to quit alcohol, smoking, or other substances, St. John’s Wort can ease the withdrawal symptoms and help with overcoming addiction.

Treats inflammation: It has high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds help ease any inflammatory pain such as joint pain, muscle ache, and so on. It also helps treat inflammation in the heart, decreasing blood pressure and strengthening the heart.

Prevents viruses: According to research, St John’s Wort can combat viral infections, but only when it is taken in high doses. The downside is that, high doses of herbal remedies often lead to unwanted side effects.

Eases anxiety: St. John’s Wort restores the hormonal balance in the body, which boosts metabolism and fixes the internal clock. This restoration helps with insomnia and chronic fatigue. Once the chronic stress hormones are removed from the system, people feel less anxious and more in control of their lives.

​Side effects of St John’s Wort

Although the herb can help you sleep, it also has some side effects.

Same side effects as Prozac - Based on Australian Drug Safety reports, researchers discovered that St. John’s Wort could have the same side effects as Prozac, the popular antidepressant. It can cause side effects such as anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness, nausea, and spikes in blood pressure.

Other side effects from research studies include stomach upset, erectile dysfunction, dry mouth, diarrhea, liver injury, and headache. St. John’s Wort can also worsen symptoms of various mental health conditions including bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, and ADHD.

​Medication Interaction of St John’s Wort.

There are many kinds of medications that could interact with St. John’s Wort. They include:

  • Antidepressants: When St. John’s Wort is combined with serotonin uptake inhibitors, it leads to serotonin syndrome with symptoms such as high body temperature, tremor, diarrhea, agitation. Anyhow, it’s quite clear that you should not take any herbal remedy if you’re taking psychiatric medications.
  • Cough and Cold medicines
  • Seizure Medications
  • Heart disease medicines
  • Other herbal remedies
  • Blood thinners
  • Cancer medications
  • HIV drugs
  • Organ transplant medications

​9. California Poppy

California Poppy

California poppy originates from California but is grown on the west coast in United States from Washington in the north to Mexico in the south. It is golden orange in color and that is why it is also called “orange poppy”. It is the state flower of California known for its sedative effects. It can also relieve nerve pain, which if left untreated, can cause insomnia. It is used for any issues with nervous system, sleep disorders, and nerve pain.

​What Research Says

In a study done on 264 people with mild to moderate generalized anxiety, the effects of California poppy versus a placebo were tested. California poppy was given in the form of the drug Sympathyl, which contains California poppy, hawthorn, and magnesium. Those who took Sympathyl reported higher reduction in anxiety than those who took the placebo.

The researchers gave the conclusion that Sympathyl is safe and more effective than placebo at treating mild to moderate anxiety symptoms.

Preliminary research shows that the alkaloids present in California poppy work with brain receptors in multiple potent ways. This may or may not be the reason for the sleep-inducing effects, as some people believe it has. More research is needed to draw any solid conclusions.

In other tests performed to study its anticonvulsant and myorelaxant properties, the herb proved to be ineffective. Other animal tests showed that the herb has sedative properties and can be effective at inducing sleep.

Benefits of California Poppy

Benefits of California Poppy 

Treats Insomnia/Sleep problems - California poppy relaxes your mind and body, so that you can enjoy a deep sleep at night. No solid research supports this quality of this herb, but it’s been used since a long time for treating sleep problems.

Treats Anxiety and Depression - Research shows that California poppy is more effective than placebo at treating anxiety. It has isoquinoline alkaloids and flavone glycosides which give the anti-anxiety effects upon consumption of the herb.

Treats ADHD - California poppy helps the cognitive functions of the brain. This is why it can treat ADHD, a growing problem in children and young adults. It can bring peace to the overactive mind of children and ease the jitters.

Eases Muscle Spasms - The herb has the anulomana action, according to Ayurveda, which means it can reduce spasms and pain in the stomach.

Eases Withdrawal Symptoms - The herb inhibits the enzymatic degradation of catecholamines, a hormone that plays a key role in addiction. So whether you want to quit alcohol, tobacco, or any other drugs, California poppy can help you with withdrawal symptoms.

Relieves physical pain - According to evitamins.com, this herb conditions your brain to enhance your opiate receptors, which naturally provides relief in pain. California poppy is non-addictive with the same benefits as a painkiller, such as Percocet or Vicodin, without the side effects.

​Side effects of California Poppy

In one study mentioned above california poppy, along with magnesium and hawthorn, were given to patients for the treatment of anxiety. Researchers noted that this treatment caused many side effects including nausea, muscle stiffness, and grogginess in the morning.

The herb can also cause some allergic reactions including rashes, hives, itching, swelling in the throat, swelling in the mouth, and respiratory problems. However, normal doses of the herb don’t usually lead to any side effects. If you are allergic or take any medication, it is advised to consult a doctor before you take this herb.

​Medication Interaction of California Poppy

Taking California poppy with sedative medications can be potentially dangerous. As we have seen with other herbs above, if you take any sedatives, psychiatric medicines, heart medicine, or medicine for any severe illness, you should consult your doctor before bringing this herb into your daily routine.

​10. Hops

Hops

You may know hops as an ingredient used in beer. The herb, with humulus lupulus comes from Europe and today it is grown in many countries around the globe. Hops plant has corn-shaped flowers that contain the bitter oils and nutrients that provide the medicinal effects of the herb.

According to the blog Sleep Passport, Germany’s commission E, which is equivalent to America’s Food and Drug administration (FDA), has approved hops herb for the treatment of anxiety, restlessness, and improving sleep. This official approval is the proof that hops can help you sleep naturally at night.

​What Research Says

One study published in the Sleep journal tested the effects of a combination of valerian root and hops, along with diphenhydramine, in the treatment of mild insomnia. This remedy was tested on 184 patients with mild insomnia in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. The results of this study showed “modest hypnotic (sleep-inducing) effect” for a valerian-hops combination. The treatment was deemed as safe and it didn’t bring rebound insomnia when the herbal remedy was discontinued.

Another study proved that hops acts just like melatonin, the medicine people take to fall asleep [source]. It explained that the valerian-hops combination reduced alertness and prolonged wakefulness. It concluded that this herb combination is effective for the treatment of sleep disorders.

Therefore, research shows that hops, when used with valerian, is an effective remedy for sleep problems. But, don’t take the herb combination on your own. High dosage can cause side effects, so always consider a professional herbalist or a doctor.

Benefits of Hops

Benefits of Hops

Induces Sleep and Relaxation - Just like beer helps you relax, hops -one of its key ingredients - is effective at calming your nerves and inducing sleep. According to a research study, the ethanolic and carbon dioxide extracts from hops decrease the locomotor activity and increase the ketamine action that makes you feel sleepy.

Fights inflammation - Research published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 2009 shows the inflammatory properties of Hops. Hops has bitter acids including alpha acids, beta acids, and iso alpha acids, which are responsible for fighting inflammation.

Fights Infections and Toxins - Hops is good at removing toxins from the body and fighting infections. The antioxidants in hops boost immunity, the microbes help provide relief in case of a sore throat or chest problems. It purifies the blood and decreases blood sugar.

Heart Health - Hops contains Xanthohumol which leads to powerful antiplatelet process. As a result, it protects your heart from cardiovascular illness.

Combats Stress and Anxiety - Stress is the main cause people suffer from insomnia, leaving pathological cases aside. So if you can heal stress, you can sleep better every night. Hops works on the GABA receptors in the brain, reducing excess activity and promoting relaxation. In fact, hops,when combined with valerian, can work better than sleep medications.

Brain Health - The xanthohumol compound found in hops protects your brain from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can cause Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and hops, by reducing this stress, prevents brain damage or disorders.

​Side effects of Hops

Drowsiness: In some cases, hops can cause drowsiness because of its sedative properties. This effect may be pronounced if you’re taking any sedative medications. Never take any herbal sleep tea if you’re taking antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, sleep medicines, or any psychiatric medication.

Allergies: Hops can sometimes cause nasal allergies such as sneezing, congestion, or running nose. In rare cases, hops can also lead to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis which is characterized by low blood pressure, swollen throat, and difficulty in breathing.

Estrogenic issues: Hops contains high estrogen levels which can lead to breast growth in men and also erectile dysfunction. People who have a history of breast cancer are also at health risks when consuming hops. Research suggests that pregnant women and those with kidney or liver disease should not consume hops.

​Medication Interaction of Hops

Anxiety/Depression/Sleep Meds: If you take medication for anxiety, depression, or sleep, taking hops tea can be dangerous. Two sedatives never go well and can cause allergic reactions.

Other sedative herbs: Although researchers have found that valerian works well with hops, it is recommended that you don’t mix it with other herbs such as St. John’s Wort, Kava Kava, and so on.

Infection or allergy medicines: Don’t take hops if you’re taking prescription medicines such as allegra, nizoral, paclitaxel and so on. Hops has diuretic action which works on the enzymes in the liver, so these two kind of drugs can interact and cause harmful effects.

What to Wear to Bed for a Great Night’s Sleep

how-sleep-works

What you wear to bed at night can depend on a lot of factors, including your age, the season or simply your personal preference. However, you may not know that your attire can greatly affect the quality of your sleep.

 If you find it difficult to settle down and relax at night and spend hours tossing and turning, this makes it nearly impossible to wake up in the morning feeling fully rested.

Read on to see how your attire can be the cause of this discomfort and what changes to make for a decent rest, along with what to wear if you frequently get too hot or too cold at night.

Great Night’s Sleep

How to Keep Warm in Bed

If you find yourself shivering in bed at night, regardless of how many jumpers you put on, then you may be missing one critical item of clothing - socks.

As you lose body heat through your feet, ensuring that these are covered up at night is essential to staying warm under the duvet. Investing in bed socks or thermal socks is an easy way to keep your temperature up.

Adding this item to your attire is also proven to help you fall asleep faster at night, meaning you can get a better night’s kip.

How to Stay Cool in Bed

If you find yourself getting incredibly hot, or sweating at night, then this could be because your pyjamas are made of synthetic fabrics.

Switching these to clothing made from 100% cotton or cashmere can help to keep you cool and dry, as they are much more breathable than synthetics.

 Polyester-based fabric is unable to absorb liquid, meaning that if you choose it as sleepwear you will wake up feeling more damp and uncomfortable.

Of course, this could also be related to a condition called night sweats.

Ditching the PJs

As long as you feel comfortable, choosing to cut pyjamas from your wardrobe altogether has many benefits.

 Sleeping naked can take part in improving circulation around the body and reduce the risk of you developing unwanted fungal infections or skin irritations.

This is due to the fact that it allows your skin to breathe and removes anything that could be constricting your blood flow, which benefits your heart and muscles.

Sleeping naked also keeps you cool, which in turn can improve the speed of your metabolism, helping you burn fat. If you are still experiencing discomfort or night sweating after making these adjustments, your sleeping environment could be the problem rather than your sleepwear.

Fresh bedsheets, a different bedroom wall colour or a new mattress could be a great option to increase comfort at night. As well as this, you may need to consider a sprung bed base, which will not only give your mattress the support it needs but your muscles and bones too.


Types of Products to Treat Sleep Apnea

how-sleep-works

There are so many products out there that claim to stop snoring and apneas. It has been a very competitive market, so how do we know which are the ones to go for?

In this article, we will talk about the products that have been scientifically and clinically proven to work, as well as how to use them, cost of each product, and a few things to be aware of when using each product.

Image

Product Name

Price

1) Essential Health Helps Stop Snoring ®

Essential Health Helps Stop Snoring

Puranox

Puranox Anti-Snoring Spray

1) Mute Snoring by RhinoMed

Mute Snoring by RhinoMed

Sleep Right’ Intra-Nasal Breathe Aid

Sleep Right Intra-Nasal Breathe Aid

AveoTSD

AveoTSD Snoring Mouthpiece

SnoreQuiet Tongue Retaining Anti Snoring Device

SnoreQuiet Tongue Retaining Anti Snoring Device

NightShift Sleep Positioner

NightShift Sleep Positioner

Zzoma Positional Device

Zzoma Positional Device

Theravent Anti-Snore Strip

Theravent Anti-Snore Strip

Provent Sleep Apnea Therapy

Provent Sleep Apnea Therapy

Oral Sprays

There are both nasal and oral sprays on the market that claim to eliminate snoring and apneas. Nasal sprays usually work by clearing your nasal passage, while oral sprays lubricates the soft muscle tissues at the back of your throat to prevent vibrations and reduce snoring, experts usually do not recommend nasal sprays to treat sleep apnea, mainly because sleep apnea is caused by the collapse of soft muscle at the back of your throat.

While nasal sprays can help expand and clear your nasal airway, it is effective for patients who often suffers from hay fever, flu, or allergies, it is not effective as a form of treatment for sleep apnea.

We will instead talk about 2 kinds of oral sprays that are most popular amongst mild sleep apnea patients.

1) Essential Health Helps Stop Snoring ®

1) Essential Health Helps Stop Snoring ®

What is it? 
A type of throat spray designed to lubricate the back of your throat and reduce the intensity of your snoring. It also slightly tones up the soft tissues behind the throat to prevent muscles from over relaxing at night.

What is it made of?
Made of natural essential oils such as eucalyptus, lemon, and peppermint.

How do I use it?
Spray 2-3 times every night after brushing your teeth, towards the back of your throat.

How long does a bottle last?
Each 59ml bottle will give you about 50 nights worth of peaceful sleep.

Who will benefit most from this product?
Patients who snore but are tested negative for sleep apnea will benefit most from it. Patients diagnosed as mild sleep apnea may also find it beneficial.

How much does it cost?
Approximately USDlow $$ for a 59ml bottle.

Is it clinically proven?
You can also use this device concurrently with other therapies too, such as a mandibular advancement device, tongue stabilizing device, nasal dilators, or EPAP therapy.

2) Puranox® Anti-Snoring Spray

Puranox

What is it? 
An anti snoring spray that works by moisturising the back of your throat, and prevents snoring.

What is it made of?
The company claimed it is made of all natural ingredients (only plants extract), meaning vegetarians and vegans can also benefit from this spray.

How do I use it?
Place your mouth around the spray applicator, then hold the bottle’s lever down for 1 second, a proper dose will then spray towards the back of your throat. Do not swallow for 10 seconds, you may also feel a tingling sensation after the dose is supplied. Do not eat or drink after applying the spray, it is best used right before bed.

How long does a bottle last?
A 45ml bottle should last you about 36 doses.

Who will benefit most from this product?
Patients who snore but are tested negative for sleep apnea will benefit most from it. Patients diagnosed as mild sleep apnea may also find it beneficial.

How much does it cost?
Approximately USD Low $$ for a 45ml bottle.

Is it clinically proven?
Yes, and for further effect, you can also use this device concurrently with other therapies too, such as a mandibular advancement device, tongue stabilizing device, nasal dilators, or EPAP therapy.

Nasal Dilators

Nasal dilators are usually made of small plastic rings. They are designed so you can comfortable place them into your nostrils, with the purpose of dilating and expanding the nasal passage. They open up your nasal passage by pulling it outwards, allowing more air entering your nose during the night. They are very simple, and is also non invasive.

Just like nasal sprays, it does not work for everyone. In many cases, snoring is caused by vibrations of the relaxed muscle tissue in your soft palate and throat, and unfortunately, nasal dilators cannot always solve this problem.

We will talk about the 2 most popular nasal dilators that have claimed to work for treating snoring.

1) Mute Snoring by RhinoMed

1) Mute Snoring by RhinoMed

What is it?
Mute by RhinoMed is a removable nasal stent that is designed to keep your nasal nostrils expanded during the night, to promote increased airflow into your nasal passage.

How do I use it?
The first step is to get the right size for you. Mute offers a trial pack, which comes in 3 different sizes (Small, Medium, Large). Getting the right size is important as your comfort is crucial, too small and it may slip out, too big and you will feel very uncomfortable to wear.

What is it made of?
Mute is made of soft medical grade plastic to ensure comfort on your nostrils throughout the night.

How long does each Mute last?
10 days, for 8 hours of usage each night.

How much does it cost?
The trial pack is approximately USD Low $$, while the pack of 3 Mute sitting around USD25.

Who will benefit most from this product?
Patients who snore but are tested negative for sleep apnea will benefit most from this product. Patients diagnosed as mild sleep apnea may also find it beneficial.

Is it clinically proven?
Yes, and for further effect, you can also use this device concurrently with other therapies too, such as oral sprays, mandibular advancement device, tongue stabilizing device, or even EPAP therapy.

2) Sleep Right’ Intra-Nasal Breathe Aid

Sleep Right’ Intra-Nasal Breathe Aid

What is it?
Breathe Aid by Sleep Right’ is a reusable nasal dilator designed to reduce nasal congestion, it works by opening your nose to help you reduce snoring.

How do I use it?
Simply place it into your nostrils (there’s no right side up, the plastic bits can either point up or down) and you are ready for bed. Make sure to wash with cool water every morning and store is in the case provided.

What is it made of?
Medical grade plastic.

How long does each Mute last?
Reusable up to 15 days.

How much does it cost?
Monthly supply will cost about USD low $$.

Who will benefit most from this product?
Patients with deviated septum/blocked sinus from hay fever/allergies may benefit from this product. Best to be used to treat snoring, not sleep apnea. It does not work for patients who are diagnosed for severe sleep apnea.

Is it clinically proven?
Yes, studies have shown it expands your nostril size by 58% to increase airflow. For further effect, you can also use this device concurrently with other therapies too, such as oral sprays, mandibular advancement device, tongue stabilizing device, sleep positioning devices, or even EPAP therapy.

Tongue Stabilizing Device

Tongue stabilizing devices are used to ensure the tongue does not over relax and compress on your airways. It functions by pulling the tongue forward and lifts soft muscles away from your airway. The 2 most popular tongue stabilizing devices are:

1) AveoTSD Snoring Mouthpiece

AveoTSD

What is it?
AveoTSD is a tongue stabilizing device, its purpose is to pull your tongue forward and prevent it from collapsing on your airways.

How do I use it?
It uses gentle suction at the end of your tongue, pulling it forward and prevent it from
falling back towards the back of your throat. Simply place your tongue into the AveoTSD, and by gently using a pumping action, squeeze the upper and lower ends of the device with your thumb and index finger. Ensure it is not too tight (so it is uncomfortable) or too loose (so it slips out).

What is it made of?
Medical grade silicon

How long does each Mute last?
You can reuse this device indefinitely, as long as you take good care of it, it should last a long time. Wash it everyday after you wake up with hot water, and then store it in the container provided. Refrain from using any chemicals or alcohol and this may break down the silicon.

How much does it cost?
Approximately USD Low $$$.

Who will benefit most from this product?
Patients’ diagnosed mild to low range moderate sleep apnea may benefit from this product. A sleep study while wearing one of these devices may give a good indication on how well the tongue stabilizing device is treating your apneas.

Is it clinically proven?
Yes, clinically and scientifically proven. For further effect, you can also use this device concurrently with other therapies too, such as oral sprays, mandibular advancement device, sleep positioning device, nasal dilators, or EPAP therapy.

2) SnoreQuiet™ Tongue Retaining Anti Snoring Device

SnoreQuiet Tongue Retaining Anti Snoring Device

What is it?
This is another very popular brand of Tongue Retaining Device. It is most popular in the USA and they ship worldwide. It holds your tongue when you sleep and prevents it from collapsing into your airways.

How do I use it?
Place the device in front of the tongue and stick your tongue into it, gently squeeze and push out any air bubbles with your thumb and forefinger, you will create a suction pressure inside, resulting in the device pulling your tongue forward.

What is it made of?
Medical grade silicon

How long does each Mute last?
Each of these tongue retaining devices will last for a long time as they do not break down easy. Remember to clean it daily after use. If the silicon has turned yellow, it is time to get it replaced. This device will generally last for a minimum of 2 years.

How much does it cost? ( last checked on 25th April)
Approximately USD $$, and there is a 100% money back guarantee upon purchase (within 30 days + USD25 disposal fee + shipping). One good tip is to stay and browse around on their website, sometimes a 40% discount coupon may pop up in your face.

Who will benefit most from this product?
Patients who snore, or suffer from mild to low range moderate, may benefit from this device. It does not work for everyone as the reason why people snore may differ. To check if this is treating your sleep apneas, a sleep test while wearing the device may be necessary.

Is it clinically proven?
The company did not specifically state it is clinically proven, however it states it is clinically tested. SnoreQuietTM also claimed to have won the “#1 best rated anti snoring device” for 2017. For further effect, you can also use this device concurrently with other therapies too, such as oral sprays, nasal dilators, sleep positioning device, or even EPAP therapy.

Sleep Positioning Device

Sleeping either on your left or right side is always better for sleep apnea patients, as it alleviates any direct force on your airways from the relaxing of soft muscle tissues. Most of us do not even realize we are tossing and turning at night, so how do we ensure we are constantly sleeping on the side at night?

There are products out there designed to help us stay asleep on the side, let us talk about 2 of the most popular and effective products.

1) NightShift Sleep Positioner

NightShift Sleep Positioner

What is it?
NightShift is a sleep positioning device designed to keep you sleeping on the side. Every time you turned to sleep on your back, the device vibrates, it does this to remind you to turn back onto your sides.

How do I use it?
You wear the device around your neck. Many patients do not like this as it looks like a dog collar, but it is a very effective way to keep you sleeping on your sides at night. You press a button to turn it on, and the device delays the start of the treatment by 15 minutes, to allow you to fall asleep before therapy starts. The device can also record your treatment efficacy, which can be downloaded into a computer. The device can store up to 1 year’s worth of data inside. The recorded data shows how well you slept each night, as well as your snoring levels.

How long before this device needs to be replaced?
Just like any portable electronic device, you will need to charge the battery up before using. If you use the device for 8 hours a night, this device will need to be charged once every three days. It will also tell you when the battery is low. The device itself should have a life of a few years, however, you will need to replace the neck strap every 6 months (approximately USD $$).

How much does it cost?
The cost of NightShift is around USD $$$. It comes with a 1 year warranty, and if it does not work, you can send it back for a refund, minus shipping charges (within 30 day).

Who will benefit most from this product?
Patients who have done a sleep study, and have detected they do not have any apnea events while sleeping on the side may benefit from this device. Patients who are diagnosed mild or low range moderate (AHI <20) may also benefit from this device. Patients who has heart conditions and/or pacemakers are not recommended for this product, as the device may interfere with other medical devices that are close by.

Is it clinically proven?
Yes, and for further effect, you can also use this device concurrently with other therapies too, such as oral sprays, mandibular advancement device, tongue stabilizing device, nasal dilators, or even EPAP therapy.

2) Zzoma Positional Device

Zzoma Positional Device

What is it?
Zzoma positional device is an alternative to the “tennis ball therapy”. It keeps you on your side by preventing your body from rolling onto your back.

How do I use it?
Simply place this around your waist, with the bulged out structure towards your back (like a backpack). Position the device so its Velcro straps are on the level of your chest. Make sure it is not too tight, otherwise it will be uncomfortable and hard to breath, then then just lie on your side and go to sleep.

What is it made of? 
Zzoma is made of mainly foam, and covered by nylon. The straps that is touching your body has PVC dots (similar to bathtub floor tacks) which creates friction on your body to prevent slippage of the straps while you sleep.

How long does each last?
Just like any garment, they will wear out eventually if you wear it everyday. A good way to ensure they last a long time is to unzip and machine wash the outer fabric in cold water. Hand washing is of course always best. They generally should last for a few years.

How much does it cost?
It cost USD 185.95 for each of these devices, it comes with a 1 year warranty and 30 days money back guarantee. However, in some countries, to get one of these, you will need a prescription from a doctor.

Who will benefit most from this product?
Patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea may benefit from this product. Patients who are not compliant on CPAP or any other treatment may also make good use of this product.

Is it clinically proven?
Yes, and it has gone through rigorous clinical trial reviews with studies being done on it. It is also FDA approved in the USA. For further effect, you can also use this device concurrently with other therapies too, such as a oral sprays, mandibular advancement device, tongue stabilizing device, nasal dilators, or EPAP therapy.

Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP)

Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP) is a type of therapy that draws more air into the nostrils, but preventing some of it from being exhaled. This creates a positive air pressure in your airways, and also to prevent your airways from collapsing. You may feel it is hard to breathe out with this therapy. Let us have a look at the two most popular EPAP products.

1) Theravent Anti-Snore Strip

Theravent Anti-Snore Strip

What is it?
Theravent is a type of EPAP anti-snore strip. It is very lightweight, and uses one way micro valve (and the power of your breathing) to create a positive air pressure that helps keep your airways from vibrating (and snoring). This type of therapy is very popular amongst patients who travel a lot, as it is very portable.

How do I use it?
Firstly, make sure the skin around your nostrils is clean and dry. Peel the paper backing to expose the adhesive. Place one piece of the Theravent strip (in front of a mirror may help) over your nostrils, ensuring the micro vales are covering both nostrils and the adhesives are covering and sealing properly on the skin around the nostrils, make sure there are no wrinkles or gaps. What you will feel at first is it takes no effort to breathe in, but requires some effort breathing out, this basically means you placed the Theravent on properly. You should only need to place this on right before you head to bed. It will take about 1 week in general to adapt to it.

How long does each piece last?
One piece of Theravent will last one night, it is highly recommended not to wash and/or reuse them, as the adhesive will not stick as well when using it the second time.

How much does it cost? 
There are 4 different packs with Theravent.

  • Theravent Trial Pack (Approximately USD 9)

You can get the trial pack first to ease you slowly into the therapy, it contains all different strengths for you to try. There are 6 in a pack (2 of each strength) so this pack will last you for 6 nights.

  • Theravent Starter Pack (Approximately USD 21)

The starter pack has the least amount of resistance. It is really good if you are a first time user of Theravent, as it will let you experience the least resistance before going any further. Although this is the pack with the least resistance, it actually may be enough for some snorers. Each pack comes with 20 pieces, and it will last you 3 weeks.

  • Theravent Regular Pack (Approximately USD 21)

The pack with moderate amount of resistance. Most snorers will benefit from this, and this is more effective than the starter pack. Each pack comes with 20 pieces, and it will last you 3 weeks.

  • Theravent Max Pack (Approximately USD 21)

The pack with the highest amount of resistance. For snorers who find the starter and regular pack did not do the job, this may be the one. However, if the max pack also does not eliminate your snoring, you may need to seek other forms of treatment. Each pack comes with 20 pieces, and it will last you 3 weeks.

Who will benefit most from this product? 
This product will benefit patients who suffer from snoring, as well as patients who are diagnosed with mild to low range moderate sleep apnea. This product may treat sleep apnea, but it is not a guarantee. For further effect, you can also use this therapy concurrently with other products too, such as oral sprays, mandibular advancement device, or tongue stabilizing device.

Is it clinically proven?
Yes, it is clinically proven to reduce snoring, it is also FDA approved. Clinical trials were also conducted on Theravent, and they found a reduction of snoring in 76% of patients in the trial.

2) Provent Sleep Apnea Therapy

Provent Sleep Apnea Therapy

What is it?
Provent is another effective EPAP therapy, it is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. They are discrete, light weight, and extremely portable. It uses the power of your breathing to hold your airways open and enable natural airflow. Provent uses one way micro valve that shuts when air is passing through in a particular direction, creating a slight pressure in your airways and reduce apnea events by opening up your airways. It differs from Theravent as it uses one individual piece for each side of the nostrils, instead of one big piece covering both of your nostrils.

How do I use it?
Firstly, peel off the paper backing from the adhesive part of Provent. You will find each piece is oblong shaped. Align the long axis with the long axis of your nostrils, you will also see tabs on the Provent, and they should be pointing outwards and upwards. Once aligned, make sure the one way valve is sitting right in the center of your nostrils, then press down on the adhesive section, onto the skin around your nostrils, check to make sure there are no gaps or wrinkles in the seal, as this may compromise the effectiveness of Provent therapy. After finishing applying the Provent on each nostril (overlapping is okay), you should feel it is normal to breath in, but may require some effort breathing out. After waking up in the morning, discard the used Provent.

How long does each last?
Each piece of Provent used will have to be discarded the next morning. Washing and cleaning them for reuse is not recommended, as the adhesive will not be as sticky as the first night, which will also change the effectiveness of it.

How much does it cost? 
There are 3 different packs to Provent Therapy.

  • Provent 30 Day Starter Pack (Approximately USD $$)

This started pack helps patients acclimate to Provent Therapy. It contains 3 different phases.
Phase 1 – Low Resistance Patches (2 nights worth of patches)
Phase 2 – Medium Resistance Patches (2 nights worth of patches)
Phase 3 – Standard Resistance Patches (26 nights worth of patches)

Patients who have never used Provent before may benefit from this pack, as it helps ease you into the provent therapy. Studies have shown the starter kit helps patients get used to Provent much easier.

  • Provent 30 Day Pack (Approximately USD $$)

This pack is for patients who are already acclimatized to Provent Therapy, and may use this as an ongoing therapy.

Who will benefit most from this product?
Patients of all levels of obstructive sleep apnea will benefit from this therapy, and especially patients who snore. For added effect, you may also use this therapy concurrently with other treatments such as oral sprays, tongue stabilizing device, sleep positioning device, and/or mandibular advancement splint.

Is it clinically proven?
Yes, it is clinically proven, and unlike the Theravent, Provent is clinically approved for sleep apnea. In clinical studies, it has demonstrated significant levels of improvement across all levels of sleep apnea patients.

5 Best Over the Counter Sleep Aids

how-sleep-works

Many people have trouble sleeping at night, which means they feel groggy and not themselves the next day. A lack of sleep can also lead to a wide range of serious health conditions, including heart attack and stroke. If you’ve followed the usual tips for getting enough sleep, including sleeping on a regular schedule, exercising consistently and reducing stress, but sleep is still elusive, it may be time to try over the counter sleep aids. We’ve compiled a list of the best sleep aids to help you finally get the sleep you need.

Which type of sleep aid?

When it comes to choosing an over the counter sleep aid, the first thing you need to do is decide which type you feel most comfortable taking. Your main options are melatonin, anti-histamines and herbal remedies. Here’s a basic guide to help you understand the difference between them:

  • Anti-histamines – generally the strongest in terms of sedative effect. Antihistamines induce drowsiness by working against histamine, a chemical produced by the central nervous system

  • Melatonin – help to regulate sleep after situations such as shift work or jet lag. Melatonin's main job in the body is to regulate night and day cycles or sleep-wake cycles.

  • Herbal pills – tend to be milder. Herbal pills induce drowsiness, helping you sleep.

1)Ambitropin

Active Ingredient: Valerian Root

A 100% all-natural sleep aid, Ambitropin has been specially designed to help you get a restful night’s sleep. Carefully formulated with seven clinically-proven ingredients, it helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep, ensuring you feel rested and refreshed when you awake. There are no harmful side effects, such as drowsiness.   

Ambitropin’s active ingredient is the Valerian root, which works to relax the body and regulate your normal sleep cycle. Hops extract manages restfulness, and melatonin - a powerful sleep-enhancing ingredient - stimulates sleep and relaxation. This is an effective sleep aid which soothes and relaxes the body, promoting sleep. It’s also very affordable. It may not work for everyone however, and the duration it takes to achieve results is not yet known. Also, although the manufacturer claims that it has a 95% success rate, it has failed to reveal any concrete proof to back up this statement. It’s worth a try though, especially as it causes no side effects and is one of the best-selling over the counter sleep aids on the market.  

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2)Kirkland Signature

Active ingredient: Doxylamine Succinate 25 mg

Kirland Signature is arguably the most powerful and effective sleeps aid that you can buy over the counter. The active ingredient is Doxylamine Succinate, which is an anti-histamine with a strong sedative effect. This means that you will probably feel very drowsy – both mentally and physically - after taking it. Obviously, this is exactly what you want from an over the counter sleep aid. 

Kirkland Signature is a good choice if you want a long night’s sleep. However, if you go to bed late at night and then need to be up first thing in the morning, it may not be ideal. In this situation, a milder sleep aid may be more appropriate. There’s no way of knowing exactly how long this sleep aid stays in the body once you’ve taken it, as this will vary depending on factors such as your age, size and metabolism. 

It’s important to keep in mind that if you need to get up less than eight or so hours after taking Kirkland Signature and rush off to work, you may still feel a bit drowsy. But if you have plenty of time sleep and then wake up slowly, this sleep aid could suit you very well.  Fortunately, there isn’t a risk of becoming addicted to Doxylamine, unlike with many other prescription sleeping pills, and you won’t find yourself needing to increase the dosage each night.

Ultimately, if you require an over the counter sleep aid to help you get a good night’s sleep, and you have the time to wake up slowly and at your leisure, this could be a suitable option.

​3)ZzzQuil

​Active ingredient: Diphenhydramine HCI 25mg   ZzzQuil

Nighttime Sleep Aid is made by Vicks NyQuil and has been available for several years. It remains a firm favourite, being one of the best-selling sleep aids on the market. If you occasionally have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, and you want to be able to fall asleep faster, ZzzQuil Nighttime Sleep Aid could be worth a try. It’s a quick and effective remedy for sleeplessness.    

The active ingredient in this popular Vicks sleep aid is Diphenhydramine HCI - a compound that helps you to fall asleep. It may also be worth noting that alcohol is present in the ZzzQuil Liquid drink form.    

Diphenhydramine HCl 25 mg is effective at deactivating alertness, putting the mind and body at ease, and at rest promoting sleepiness. The primary function of Diphenhydramine HCl is to act as an antihistamine, switching off mental alertness in order to make you feel relaxed and drowsy in the process.    

This sleep aid is backed up by clinical studies that show that Diphenhydramine can provide a solution for occasional sleeplessness, reducing the time it takes to feel sleepy. Although this sleep aid does its job very well, because it induces drowsiness and blocks mental alertness it can be potentially dangerous. Do not drive or operate machinery after taking ZzzQuil.

​4)REMfresh

Active ingredient: Melatonin 

REMfresh is a supplemental melatonin sleep aid from the company Physician’s Seal. It works by mimicking the way the body releases melatonin during your sleep cycle, helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer. Ultimately, it helps you to experience better sleep overall.

REMfresh contains no narcotics, hypnotics, barbiturates, sedatives, antihistamines, or alcohol, and what’s more is that it’s non-habit forming.  

The company claims that REMfresh is absorbed in the digestive tract for up to 7 hours continuously. However, it’s worth noting that the effectiveness of time-release supplements may vary amongst individuals. 

Overall, REMfresh is worth a try if you suffer from sleep deprivation, particularly as it has no side effects. There’s no “hangover effects’ as with some other sleep aids. REMfresh is made with 99% pure melatonin, and because this hormone creates the urge to fall asleep, it’s no surprise that it does its job so well. 

On the other hand, if price is a big concern, you may want to try one of the cheaper alternatives on the market. Many of these products also contain 99% pure melatonin and so could have the same effect for a lot less cash.

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​5)Zenwise Labs Sleep Support

Active ingredients: Melatonin 6mg, Magnesium 80 mg, L-Taurine 200 mg, L-Theanine 200 mg, Chamomile powder 150mg, l-Ornithine 5 mg, Valerian powder 150 mg, GABA 100 mg and 5-HTP 100 mg. 

The Zenwise Labs sleep aid is one of the strongest over the counter sleep aids on the market, which when you consider how many ingredients it has in it, isn’t all that surprising. It contains melatonin (6mg), magnesium, L-Taurine, L-Theanine, Chamomile, l-Ornithine, Valerian, GABA and 5-HTP – all ingredients which are believed to help with either relaxation or sleep. 

Zenwise Labs Sleep Support does help you to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep throughout the night. Plus, because there are no after-effects in the morning, it’s ideal if you need to rush off to work soon after waking up. It’s an effective sleep aid, but there are a couple of things you may want to consider. Firstly, 6 mg of melatonin is very high. 3 mg is the usual dose found in sleep aids. 

Secondly, because there are so many ingredients in this sleep aid, it has the potential to be a little too strong for some people. As such, it’s a good idea to try a half dose to begin with. If you only experience a feeling of light sedation, you can always increase the dosage next time.

Important considerations

There are some important considerations to make when it comes to taking over the counter sleep aids:

  • Consult your doctor. Although you don't need your doctor's permission to take over the counter sleep aids, it’s a good idea to ask him or her if they might interact with any other medications you’re taking, or underlying conditions you may have. They can also help you to determine the best dosage to suit your needs. Some sleep aids can pose a risk to women who’re pregnant or breast-feeding, so it’s definitely a good idea to speak to your doctor in this instance. Over the counter sleep aids may also pose risks to people over the age of 75 as they can increase the risk of stroke.

  • Keep precautions in mind. Over the counter sleep aids come with various precautions. Keep in mind that Diphenhydramine and Doxylamine are not recommended for people who have certain conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleep apnoea, severe liver disease and digestive system obstruction. These drugs are also not recommended for older adults because they may increase the risk of dementia.

  • Take it one day at a time. Over-the-counter sleep aids are a temporary solution for sleeping problems. Generally, they shouldn’t be used for more than two weeks.

  • Avoid alcohol. You should never mix sleep aids with alcohol. Alcohol can increase the sedative effects of the medication, which can be dangerous in certain situations.

  • Beware of side effects. Over the counter sleep aids can cause side effects, therefore it’s important not to drive or attempt other activities that require you to be alert whilst taking them. As well as drowsiness, they can cause blurred vision, confusion and hallucinations.

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Conclusion

Over the counter sleep aids can be an effective way of getting the sleep that you need to maintain optimal health and wellbeing. They are affordable and can be purchased easily from reputable retailers. However, if you continue to have trouble sleeping, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor for additional help. Your doctor can recommend lifestyle changes that could help prevent sleeping problems, as well as behavioural therapy to help you adapt new sleep habits. He or she could also suggest ways in which you can change your sleeping environment so that it’s more conducive to sleep. The short-term use of prescription sleep aids might be recommended as well.

Over the counter sleep aids are a good place to start if you’re struggling to sleep and the best of these promise a good night’s sleep. They tend to be gentler than prescription sleeping pills, but it’s still important to take them in accordance with instructions. You should also keep in mind that most of these remedies aren’t intended to be taken over long periods of time. This can reduce their effectiveness. They are not a permanent solution to getting the sleep you need.

Sleep Test Report Discussions

how-sleep-works

Two weeks after doing your sleep test, your sleep report should be ready for your review. Depending on the type of sleep study you did, the amount of detail shown on your report will vary. This is the time when lots of patients I met are extremely anxious, they usually do not know what to expect, nor do they know which are the right questions to ask.

During the result discussion, a sleep therapist, or your family doctor/ physician may go through the report with you, but which sections of the report must we pay most attention to? What are the correct questions to ask?

Let’s talk about it!

​Questions you should always ask your physician

1. “What is my AHI?”

AHI stands for Apnea Hypopnea Index. In a sleep test report, this is always the number one thing physicians refer to. It gives them an idea of how severe your sleep apnea is. AHI also refers to how many times you stop breathing per hour, the higher the number, the more severe your sleep apnea is. Every time you stop breathing for 10 seconds, it will be considered as “one apnea”.


See following table for a guide:


AHI

Severity

​ 0-5

​ Normal

​ 5-15

​Mild

​15-30

​Moderate

​30 and above

​severe

Now you have understood what AHI refers to, you may realise the report sometime mentions another acronym “RDI”. RDI stands for Respiratory Disturbance Index. In general, your RDI would usually be a number higher than your AHI. While your AHI represents how many apnea episodes (stopping breathing) you have in an hour, the RDI is a combination of all your apnea, plus any respiratory disturbances in your airway.

For example, if there is a big difference in your AHI and RDI, you may be a chronic sufferer of hay fever or allergies, or you might just have a case of deviated septum. With an obstruction in your upper airway, your airways will naturally be narrower, creating a higher resistance in your airway; this will have an effect of how well you are breathing while sleeping.

Take note there is no universal consensus exists on whether the AHI or the RDI should be the standard index used to determine how severe your sleep apnea is. Some doctors may like to use the RDI index to obtain your worse case scenario, while most physicians stick to the general AHI number.

2. “What is my SpO2 Nadir?”

Firstly, lets put some definition into the question above.

SpO2 stands for “arterial oxygen saturation”, and Nadir means “the lowest point”. Combine them together, it pretty much means the “lowest amount of oxygen in your arterial blood”. The units for these are always by percentages. Remember the little finger clip thing you had when you did your sleep study? That’s exactly what it is recording.

To give you a reference, a healthy, conscious person would usually have their blood oxygen level sitting around the 95-96% mark. When we go to sleep and relax, it is natural for our blood oxygen level to drop down to maybe 92%, or 90% minimum. When it drops below 90%, this sometimes can be a concern, especially when it happens during one of your apneas. Oxygen level dropping more than 4% at one time will activate your body’s’ “flight or fight” response, causing your heart to beat faster to compensate for the oxygen lost, resulting in you overworking the heart and waking up tired and groggy. So if you feel groggy or have a case of daytime sleepiness, understanding the level of your oxygen level while sleeping may answer some of your questions.

                                                          *******************

Well, those are pretty much the two main questions I would like you to ask your physicians. Even if you chose to do the simplest pulse oximeter sleep test, should still be able to give you your rough AHI and SpO2 Nadir.

Now, if you did a more comprehensive test, say, a home based sleep study or an In-lab/ Hospital Polysomnography Test (PSG), your sleep test report should consist of about 3 pages. With the first page showing a full summary of your report, including a few recommended treatment options, second page giving you numbers and data such as amount of time spent sleeping and sleep efficiency, and on the last page, you may see a page similar to this:


The image above gives you a very detailed overview of exactly what is happening during the night, with the X-Axis showing the time, and Y-Axis giving you different parameters.

Let us break down each parameter and talk about it in more detail:

1

​Sleep Cycle

sleep cycle graph

The graph above represents a healthy representation of which stage of sleep you are supposed to be in during the night. We go through about three to four sleep cycles a night, and spend different amounts of time in each cycle too. Sometimes, by stopping breathing or having apneas at night, this may impede on how well you are sleeping and may mess up your sleep cycle.

The graph above shows a sample of what the report may look like for someone whose sleep cycle is very disturbed. As you can see, there are red bolded horizontal lines, and those represent your REM cycle. Ideally, we like to have about 3-4 cycles of unbroken REM sleep. From the diagram above, we can see 4 cycles of sleep, the second and fourth cycle occurring at approximately 11:50pm and 3:00am are very disturbed and broken up, this is possibly due to a disturbance from the patients’ apneas. The second cycle occurring at 1:23am is also being shortened by arousal/ disturbing episodes.

See below for a reference of how long we should stay in each cycle of sleep.

Stage 1

1-5%

Stage 2

40-55%

Stage 3+4

20-35%

REM

15-30%

​2

Heart Rate

A persons’ resting heart rate depends on your age and fitness level. On average, our resting heart rate should be sitting at around 70 beats per minute. If you are an experienced marathon runner, you may have a resting heart rate of 50 beats per minute. Overall, what the sleep test looks out for is a big jumps or fluctuation of heart rate. There is always a reason why your heart rate will spike in the middle of the night.

The graph above represents heart rate. It might be a little bit hard to see, but the graph is showing a resting heart rate averaging around 60 beats per minute (see Y-Axis). Every now and then, you will see a spike or two, this is most likely happening when you are having any apneas or a result of a drop in your blood oxygen level.

​3

Sleeping Position

Your sleep test will also show which sleeping position you are in, with the terms “supine” meaning you are lying on your back, left side, right side, and “prone”, which means you are sleeping on your stomach. By comparing your sleeping position with the amount of apneas you have, it may suggest which sleeping position is the best for you. In general, sleeping on the side is always better than sleeping in the supine position, as your muscles at the back of the throat does not collapse directly onto your airway.

The graph above is showing the sleeping position of this patient. With the patient starting out sleeping on their back (supine), flipping onto the left side at around 11:03pm, turned onto their belly between 11:15pm and 1:00am, briefly sleeping on their left side again at 1:15am, then sleeping on their belly for the rest of the night.


​4

 Snoring Index

With a sleep test, it will tell you your intensity of snoring. Some people have very intense sessions of snoring during the night, but it may not cause any damage or a drop in oxygen level at all.

On the graph above, it represents your snoring index. Every one of those black lines means you snored once. The longer the line, the more intense your snoring is.




​5

Blood Oxygen Desaturation

This is probably the most crucial part of the report. It tells us how much oxygen we are deprived of during the night, and how many times it is occurring. The more times it occurs, chances are your heart rate will be elevated more often.

On the graph above, the Y-Axis has a value of between 80% to 100%, and as you can see, the average blood oxygen level across the graph is sitting above the 90% mark, however you can notice there is a drop in oxygen level in a few places here and there, chances are these drop are due to the patients’ apneas. Ideally, we will like our blood oxygen level to maintain above 90%. If it drops below 90%, the patient may feel symptoms such as migraines or headaches upon waking up.




​6

Apneas
There are four different types of apneas we need to be concern of.

1) Hypopneas

    This type of sleep apnea is the most common amongst all patients, it is when your airways are partially closed, but enough to cause a desaturation of your oxygen level. Shallow or slow breathing because of a partial obstruction in the airway causes hypopnea.

2) Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This kind of apnea is a little bit more severe than hypopneas. It is when your airway is fully shut down for more than 10 seconds. This is more common in patient who are overweight or obese.

3) Central Sleep Apnea

Central Apnea occurs due to a communication fault in the nervous system. This is when your nervous system is telling you to breathe, but your muscles are not responding to its’ command. This type of apnea is not as common as hypopneas or obstructive sleep apnea, but by using the right treatment option, it is as easy to treat as hypopneas and obstructive sleep apneas.

4) Mixed Sleep Apnea

Mixed Apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. It typically starts with central apnea episodes for about 10 seconds, followed by obstructive apnea events. (Brain telling body to breathe but it is not following instructions, followed by a complete shut down of the airway.) A majority of patients with mixed sleep apnea have both obstructive and central sleep apneas.

To see which kind of apnea you have from a sleep test, a graph similar to this one may be shown on your sleep test report:
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​http://www.schneiderclinic.com/sleep-apnea/

The graph above represents a patient with severe hypopnea events with Central Apneas. With each respective vertical line showing one apnea event.

Acronyms

Type of Sleep Apnea

HYP

Hyponeas

OA

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

CA

Central Sleep Apnea

MA

Mixed Apnea

​7

Arousals

Arousals are also known as “wake events”. This occurs when your body enters a “fight or flight” mode due to your apneas. It is a self defence mechanism in the human body where it tries to wake us up so we can start breathing properly again. Arousals can both be conscious or unconscious to the patient. Some people may experience events such as waking up in the middle of the night feeling “panicky”.

In the figure above, you can see multiple blue vertical lines. Each and every one of those lines represents one wake event. This patient is constantly being aroused during the night, not getting enough good quality sleep. The patient will most likely experience symptoms such as daytime sleepiness.

​8

PLMS (Periodic Limb Movement Syndrome)

​The sleep test also checks out for Periodic Limb Movement Syndrome (PLMS). PLMS is when your legs or arms move involuntarily when you are asleep. If you have PLMS, this may happen every 10 to 60 seconds and is out of your control. There are various ways this can happen such as flexing of the toe or foot, bending of the ankle or knee, or twitching of the hip. Patients who has restless leg syndrome may experience more of these compared to a healthy individual. These are all involuntary movements, and can disrupt your sleep quality. Patients with numerous amounts of these events may wake up feeling groggy or tired.

​9

Pressure (ONLY FOR PRESSURE TITRATION STUDIES)

This parameter only exists for people who were previously diagnosed with sleep apnea, and this is another additional study used to assist with their treatment. The purpose of this parameter is to find out the perfect amount of pressure needed to open up an airway for a patient. You do not need to do this study if you are tested negative for sleep apnea.

With the assistance of a sleep technician, the patient will be wearing a mask during the night (instead of nasal cannula and oral thermistor), which will be hooked up to a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. During the night, the sleep technician will manually regulate the amount and intensity of air pressure pumping into the mask. The general rule of thumb is, if the patient is snoring, the pressure should be increased, and vice versa. The pressure is constantly being fluctuated up and down to get the most comfortable and perfect pressure for the patient.

The graph above represents a titration study. As you can see, the horizontal blue line represents the amount of pressure with the unit of cmH20 (centimetre of water), the pressure always starts at the lowest setting, to allow the patient to fall asleep before it is increased. The vertical red line on top represents the type of Apnea.


 

The sleep technician slowly increases the pressure up to a point where all the apneas are eliminated, and then slowly titrate up and down as needed during the night to get the perfect pressure.

In the morning, they would have achieved the most suitable pressure for the patient, and this gives the physician an idea of what settings the CPAP treatment machine needs to be set at. Depending on the sleeping position, the amount of pressure you need may be different too. It is up to the sleep technician to find out the perfect pressure for the patient.

This parameter may seem confusing or hard to understand for some people, we have not gone into detail as much, but we will explore more about CPAP machines in the next article.

                                             ************************************

It may take some time to interpret your sleep study report, but it will  definitely help you stay aware of what is going on during your daily sleeping routine and work on ways to fall asleep.

On the next article, we will talk about the various types of treatment option for different severities of sleep apnea, as well as their pros and cons.



The Sleep Apnea Test Definitive Guide To At Home Or Overnight Tests

The Sleep Apnea Test Definitive Guide To At Home Or Overnight Tests

Now that you have understood what side effects sleep apnea could lead to, you are probably wondering how you can get it tested.

The general term for a sleep test is also known as a “Polysomnography Test”, or in short term, a PSG study. These test, or studies, uses many different parameters as a diagnostic tool for sleep apnea. They are conducted overnight, and generally, one nights’ worth of data will be enough to determine if you are diagnosed positive for sleep apnea or not.

There are actually many different ways to get tested for sleep apnea on the market, so which one is better? How and why are they different? Are there any preparations we need to be aware of?

​1) Simple Oximeter Home Sleep Test

This is the simplest of all sleep studies, and it only uses 2 parameters to determine if you have sleep apnea.

- Finger Pulse Oximeter– To monitor the level of oxygen in your blood

- Heart Rate Monitor –To look out for elevated heart rate

This type of test kit could be picked up from any good pharmacy or chemist (make sure you call and make an appointment first!).


Who is best suited for this kind of study?

Patients who suspect they are MOST LIKELY positive for sleep apnea, or have very obvious signs and symptoms such as constant daytime sleepiness and snoring could benefit from this study. This test is also better for candidates with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 25.


This test kit usually comprise of a small machine that straps onto your wrist, with a clip that’s going to be attached to one of your fingers. It monitors for a drop in blood oxygen level, and a rise in heart rate during the night. It is not the most accurate test kit available for patients who have mild symptoms of sleep apnea.

Pros:


  • check

    You can do it in the comfort of your own home

  • check
    Simplest and most affordable study
  • check
    ​You can wear the device and still be physically mobile
  • check
    ​Able to eat, drink, and brush teeth while wearing the device.
  • check
    ​Able to get up and use bathroom at night with ease.

​Cons:

  • check
    Least accurate results
  • check

    May produce false negative results


Preparations for this study:

There really is not a lot you have to be aware of before commencing this study. You will be given a pre-sleep questionnaire to complete. Remember to sleep enough so there is sufficient data to generate a report. Remove all nail polishes, and do not over indulge in alcohol before doing this test. Stick to your normal sleep/ wake time as close as possible. After waking up in the morning, remove the device and return it to the chemist for analysis. The turnaround time for this test is generally 8-10 days. We will talk about interpreting test reports in the next article.

2) Home Based Sleep Study/Ambulatory Home Sleep Study

This is also a sleep test that can be done at home. It is usually a machine that’s attached to the centre of your chest, with wires and electrodes coming out of it. Compared to the Simple Oximeter home Sleep Test, this is a bit more extensive. It uses a few more parameters:

- Electroencephalography (EEG)/ Electrooculography (EOG)-Measures brain waves and eye movements

- These electrodes are usually situated on the lateral corner of your eyes, the centre of your forehead, and on the bony structure behind your ear. They are used to see what stage of sleep you are in.

- Respiratory Belts– Measures breathing movements

- Nasal Cannula– Detects for nasal breathing

- Oral Thermistor– Detects for mouth breathing

- Finger Pulse Oximeter– To monitor the level of oxygen in your blood

- Body Positioning Sensor – Records if you are a side or back sleeper

Who is best suited for this kind of study?

This study is usually recommended for people who are able to follow simple instructions at home. This is also suitable for all patients who suspect they may have sleep apnea.

.

Pros:


  • check

    You can do it in the comfort of your own home

  • check
    ​Able to talk, eat, and drink while wearing the device
  • check
    ​Able to get up and use bathroom at night, although not as easy as the simple oximeter home sleep test.

​Cons:

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    ​You will have to ensure all leads are placed in the correct position
  • check

    If any of the leads comes off at night, the study may fail


Preparations for this study:

This study requires you to attach all the gadgets onto yourself. Prior to setting up the sleep study kit, complete the pre-sleep questionnaire provided for you. I would highly recommend you start attaching the sleep kit 30 minutes before bedtime. An instruction card in words and pictures will be provided. The whole set up generally takes about 15 minutes to put on, but make sure you give yourself some time to relax so you are nice and comfortable before heading to bed, it’s not a bad idea to put the machine on first, then relax and watch TV/ read before bed. Remember to remove all nail polish and stick to your normal sleep/wake up time. Return the sleep study kit the next morning for analysis. Generating reports for these kind of studies are generally longer, about 2 weeks turnover time.

​3) In-Lab Polysomnographic Sleep Study

This is the most extensive sleep test one can pick from. The chances of this sleep study failing is pretty much close to zero, unless the patient have troubles falling asleep. In this sleep study, you will be admitted into the hospital for one night, a sleep technician will be working with you to ensure all signals and electrodes are in the correct position. During the night, an infrared night vision camera will also be used to monitor your sleeping patterns.


The parameters for this test will be the most comprehensive, including:

- Finger Pulse Oximeter - To monitor the level of oxygen in your blood

- Nasal Cannula - Detects for nasal breathing

- Electroencephalography (EEG)/ Electrooculography (EOG) -Measures brain waves and eye movements. In this study, there will be 2 pairs of each electrode.

- Oral Thermistor – Detects for mouth breathing

- Respiratory Belts– Measures breathing movements, one on the upper chest, one on the level of your belly button.

- Electrocardiogram (ECG)– Monitor heart rate and monitor for irregularity heart rhythm

- Body Positioning Sensor – Records if you are a side, back, or tummy sleeper

- Electromyography (EMG) – Electrodes placed at your jaw muscles to detect for teeth clenching and grinding.

- LegEMG – Similar to the electrodes placed at your jaw muscles, except these are placed on your leg muscles to detect for restless leg/muscle twitch.

- Snoring Sensor– A small microphone placed on the neck to detect for vibrations and snoring

- Infrared Night Vision Camera- Camera used by the sleep technician to oversee the study


Who is best suited for this kind of study?

This study is suited for everybody suspected with sleep apnea, it is extremely accurate and especially good for people who require additional assistance in the middle of the night such as bathroom breaks, it is also good for the elderly who are unable to conduct home sleep studies themselves.

.

Pros:


  • check

    ​The sleep technician will ensure all the leads are in the correct position and recording correctly, giving you peace of mind.

  • check

    If any electrodes detaches at night, the sleep technician will come in and fix it for you.

​Cons:

  • check
    ​Expensive
  • check

    Someone will be watching you during the night, you may feel uneasy.

  • check

    You will need to be assisted if you require a bathroom break.


Preparation for this study:

Prior to arriving at the hospital, have dinner and make sure all nail polish are removed. Remember to bring pyjamas, toothbrush, shampoo, soap, and all your amenities required for cleaning up the next morning. Most hospitals will provide you with your own private room and a bathroom attached to it, towels and water are usually provided too. Admission time is usually around 8-9pm. After settling in your room, you will be greeted by a nurse, who will double confirm your details and the reason you are admitted into hospital. The nurse will also take clinical observations such as blood pressure and body temperature. After the nurse has completed all the administrative tasks, they will pass you onto the sleep technician. From here on, you will be under the care of the sleep technician until the morning.


The sleep technician will introduce themselves to you, you will then be asked to complete a pre-sleep questionnaire, after completion of the questionnaire, brush your teeth and then change into your pyjamas, you are welcome to relax on the bed, read (if you brought a book), or watch TV while the sleep technician prepares their equipment.


After a while, the sleep technician will enter your room and proceed to attach all the electrodes for you. This will take approximately 45min-1 hours. You will be seated on a chair, you are definitely welcome to read a book, watch TV, or just have a casual chat with the sleep technician while he/she is hooking you up. A well-experienced sleep technician will not be disturbed and they do not mind at all.


After the sleep technician is done hooking you up, he or she will move you into bed and work with you to complete some final calibrations to make sure all the signals are recording properly. You may be asked to do some simple exercises such as blinking a couple of times, roll your eyes to the left and right, do a few breathing exercises, and flexing your foot a few times. Bedtime will approximately be 10pm, you are allowed to watch TV or read before sleeping, and there should be a light switch within arms’ reach for when you are ready to sleep.


I would highly recommend you using the bathroom prior to the hook up, but if you need the bathroom in the middle of the night, you will need to be unhooked from the machine with the assistance of the sleep technician. If you require the bathroom, simply click on the bell provided or raise your arm to gain attention.


During the night, if any electrodes fall off, the sleep technician will enter the room. They will attempt to fix it without waking you up, feel free to ignore them if you are accidentally disturbed/ woken up.


Wake up time is usually 6am-6:30am, the sleep technician will take about 20 minutes to unhook all the electrodes. You are then asked to complete a post sleep questionnaire. Breakfast may be provided, and you will have an option to stay and shower or go straight home.


Your report should be ready in approximately 2 weeks time for a review with your doctor.

​4) In-Lab Titration Polysomnographic Sleep Study

This study is very similar to the previous in-lab study we talked about, and this study is usually offered to people who are already diagnosed positive to sleep apnea, and are wanting to use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine (we will discuss about CPAP in the next few articles). The purpose of this study is to help find out the settings needed to treat sleep apnea.


All the parameters recorded will be exactly the same as the In-Lab PSG Study. The only difference is you will lose the nasal cannula and oral thermistor, in exchange for a CPAP mask. The sleep therapist will help you try on a few masks to ensure you are fitted with the most comfortable one for you.


During the night, the sleep therapist will remotely adjust the amount of CPAP pressure needed to eliminate all apnea events.


By the end of this study, the sleep technician would have found out the perfect and most suitable pressure in order to alleviate your apnea events.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I NEED a sleep study to start sleep apnea treatment?

Technically, no, especially if you have severe symptoms of sleep apnea. However, I would definitely do a sleep study first to confirm my suspicions, also for a peace of mind.

I wear a mouthguard for teeth grinding, do I wear it during the test night?

If you usually wear a mouthguard, wear it during the test. I have seen cases where people mentioned they do not snore as much with the mouthguard on, wearing the mouthguard while doing the test will tell us how severe your apneas are while you have it, and if addition treatment is required.

I have medications, should I stop taking them?

You can take all your medications as normal.

Can I sleep on my sides?

You can sleep any way you like during the night, just keep in mind the electrodes may fall off if it’s a home sleep test.

I’m doing a home sleep test, what happens if the leads fall off?

If you realise any of the electrodes have fallen off, do not panic, just put them back on as best as you can. Losing signals for 20-30 minutes (sometimes up to an hour) will not be a big issue at all, however, it’s best to have it attached in the correct position for the bulk of the night.

How much data will we need?

Technically we only need about 4 hours worth of data, this will give us about 2 cycles of sleep and is generally enough to produce a fairly accurate report. However, the more you sleep, the more data we get, and the report will be more accurate for you.

I have the flu and a blocked nose. Can I continue on doing the sleep study?

It is best to postpone a sleep test in this case, as a blocked nasal passage may cause additional discomfort. It is best if we could get a more accurate clinical picture.

Understanding Snoring vs Sleep Apnea

Understanding Snoring vs Sleep Apnea
The most common question I usually get is “Is snoring the same as sleep apnea?” Before we talk about sleep apnea, we need to understand what it is first.

In most cases, snoring is a precursor of sleep apnea. No snoring? Most likely you do not have sleep apnea.

Some peoples’ intensity of snoring may be very loud, but are not actually causing any harm or danger to their bodies at all (except when their partners punch them during the night).

As long the individual is breathing, and their lungs have constant access to sufficient amount of oxygen during the night, they are usually okay. We will eventually talk about how we know if there’s a lack of oxygen while sleeping.

As we explained before, snoring comes from a slight obstruction in the airway, sometimes, people snore too much and eventually their airways are fully obstructed. An “apnea” or sometimes spelt “apnoea” (depending on where you are in the world), by definition means one episode of “stop breathing”.

When a person stops breathing continuously for 10 seconds, this is counted as one “apnea”, the amount of times you have apnea episodes per hour determines how severe your level of sleep apnea is, we will discuss more on these later.

Now that we have understood what an apnea is, let talk about how to know if someone has it.

Do I have sleep apnea?​

Now, there must be a reason why you’re reading this. Perhaps you suspect you may have sleep apnea, or you are worried about someone you love may have it, or you are just a student on this website doing some research for your school project.

For whatever reason you’re reading this for, there is no harm in educating yourself on what to look out for.

Indications such as tiredness during the day, or feeling groggy in the morning, might actually be a first sign of sleep apnea.


There is a simple test that you could do at home, it’s called the ESS test (Epworth Sleepiness Score).

In this test, you will give yourself a score out of 3 for each scenario:


  1. Would never doze off

  2. Slight change of dozing off

  3. Moderate chance of dozing off

  4. High chance of dozing off


Go Ahead, try it.

Scenarios

Chance of dozing (0-3)

Sitting and reading

Watching TV

​Sitting inactive in a public area (movies or in a meeting)

​Being in a car as a passenger (without a break)

​Lying down in the afternoon

Sitting and talking to someone

​Sitting quietly after lunch (without alcohol)

In a car while stopped in traffic.

Total

​/24

Now add all the numbers up, and that will be your Epworth Sleepiness Score.


If you obtained a score of less than 10, most likely you are getting enough quality sleep. If you scored between 10-16, you are suffering from excessive daytime tiredness, if you scored 16 and above, definitely see your doctor, as this is definitely not normal, in other words, you are dangerously sleepy.


The ESS is a rough test to give you an idea of where you stand in terms of sleepiness. This test does not determine if you have sleep apnea or not.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea​

We talked about having apneas, but what does it do to your body? I get a lot of people asking me: “What happens if I don't do anything about sleep apnea?”


Well, it’s very important to be aware of how you sleep at night, because depending on the severity of your apnea, it may have drastic consequences on your body, health, and mindset.


Short term symptoms you may be aware at first could be:

- Snoring

- Headaches in the morning/ Migraines

- Dry throat and mouth

- Mood swings or easily irritated

- Daytime sleepiness

- Feeling groggy in the morning

- Attention deficit

- Deterioration of your short term memory

- Restless Sleep

- Decreased level of concentration

- Night Sweats

- Weight Gain

- Nocturnia episodes (trouble falling asleep – especially if woken during night time)

- Gasping for breath in the middle of the night

- Choking while sleeping

- Sudden awakenings feeling panicky


Long Term effects of sleep apnea:

- Diabetes

- Hypertension

- Heart Disease

- Cardiac Failure

- Diabetes

- Depression

image source : drpestanadds.com/sleep-apnea/

You are probably very shocked right now to see that whole list of symptoms sleep apnea can cause. However, it is actually very easy to understand why.


Basically, with sleep apnea, you are pretty much deprived of oxygen. With a lack of oxygen, comes with a lot of consequences. The main and very obvious symptom is tiredness, why do you feel tired you may ask? Think about this, when you stop breathing, your body will go into a self defence mode that is also known as the “fight or flight response”. Your heart will then pump a little bit harder and faster to compensate for the oxygen lost, so essentially if you think about it, you are doing “exercise” in bed, constantly overworking your heart during the night, resulting in you waking up groggy and tired, moody all day, ruining your work efficiency, and since you’re overworking your heart constantly during the night, if untreated in the long run, it could unfortunately lead to diseases such as high blood pressure (hypertension), heart attack, or even stroke.


It’s actually a vicious cycle. Constantly being deprived of good quality sleep, and if this cycle continues on for a long time, you will accumulate what we call a “sleep debt”. 

​Sleep debt? What is it?

Sleep debt is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep. To understand sleep debt, I like to compare it to real money.


You can take out a loan and have a debt against the bank, you can also have less or low quality sleep time and create a sleep debt too. Fortunately, sleep debt is way easier to pay off than real money. With the proper recovery and treatment, you can pay off your sleep debt in as soon as a month.


The amount of time we need to sleep for varies from person to person.

Generally speaking, the amount sleep time you need decreases as you get older:

​Newborn

​14-17 hours

​Toddler

​11 - 14 hours

​Pre Teen

​9-11 hours

​Teenager

​8 - 10 hours

​young adult

​7 to 9 hours

​Adults

​7 to 9 hours

​Older Adults 70 +

​7 hours

It’s very simple to calculate how much sleep debt you have accumulated, and each person’s calculation varies too.


For example, you are a teenager, and your goal is to sleep for 8 hours every night. Instead of going to bed, you decided to stay up until midnight playing video games, knowing you have to wake up at 7:00 am to get ready for school.


Which means every week, you will accumulate one hour of sleep debt, and over a five-day week, the amount of debt increases to 5 hours. You may think sleeping for an extra 5 hours on the weekend would help pay it back, but it does not necessarily work that way – Snooze marathon does not work, but taking on an extra hour a night is the way to catch up. For the chronically sleep deprived, take it easy for a few months to get back into your natural sleeping pattern.


In saying that, why do some people still feel tired even though they get enough sleep? This is when we do a more extensive test to find out the real reason behind daytime sleepiness.


Top 10 Reasons You Snore According To A Scientist

WhatCausesSnoringTop10Reasons

So many answers could be given to the question of why people snore. Snoring comes from the vibration or a partial obstruction of the upper airway, particularly at the rear of your tongue and throat, or to be more specific, in the oropharynx. It doesn’t only occur to humans, but some animals too.

These days, snoring is so common that the general population are unaware of the side effects it can cause. It has become very socially acceptable, most people would laugh about it, make jokes about it, up to the point that even Hollywood movie director, and Disney cartoon animators are using the action of snoring to depict a character that has fallen asleep.

So what causes snoring, why do some people snore and some do not? Is it just a natural thing that we all do?

Lets talk about it.

1. Muscles Relaxing

Naturally, most of us breathe through our nose, only when we’re not getting enough air through the nasal passage, our mouth starts opening, and that’s when the snoring starts.

Snoring is due to a disruption of the upper airway, especially when your throats’ soft muscle relaxes. When we go to bed, the soft muscles behind our nose and throat will start relaxing. In the case of snoring, it has relaxed too much and has blocked the respiratory pathway, creating a resistance against air that is trying to squeeze through. Any air that is squeezing through will create some sort of vibration between the soft muscle tissues, resulting in snoring.

2. Enlarged Tonsils

Tonsils are clusters of lymphoid tissues, and they have a role of defending your body from germs and bacteria, preventing you from getting infections to other parts of the body. Tonsils are usually really good at what they’re doing, but unfortunately, in rare circumstances, viruses and bacteria may get into your tonsils, resulting in them swelling up when infected. Tonsils sit very closely to the back of your throat, so a swollen tonsil will actually create a little obstacle for air to pass through, causing you to snore louder than usual.

​Image Source - Mayo Foundation

3. Adenoids

Copyright : Viktoriya Kabanova

Adenoids are very similar to tonsils, except instead of them sitting at the back of your throat, they’re positioned more closely to the back of your nose, on the roof of your mouth. Adenoids are also a part of your immune system, they are responsible in producing white blood cells and antibodies to fight off germs, and it works together with your tonsils to prevent infections to your body. Although much rarer in adults, they can be infected and grow into a big and swollen mass of tissue, blocking your nasal passage, resulting in snoring.

4. Deviated Septum

​Source : michiganentallergy.com

Deviated septum is also known as a “crooked nasal passage”. The nasal airway is supposed to be clean and clear of obstruction for air to pass in and out without resistance.

If your doctor mentioned you have a deviated septum, think back to your childhood, have you ever been hit in the face by a football? Or accidentally bump yourself in the face? Any of these scenarios could result in you suffering with a deviated septum. In saying that, a deviated septum does not necessary come from such unintentional events, things like birth defects, genetics, or a broken nose may also play a part in you having difficulty breathing on one side of the nostrils. 

​5. Swollen Turbinates

Turbinates are a series of shelf like structures in your nasal cavity. They are responsible in creating turbulence (hence the name turbinates) when air is passing through.

Turbinates have two main functions:

  1. Trap dirt from the air you’re breathing in

  2. Slows down air that’s coming through so it’s warmed up to an appropriate temperature before sending the air down towards your lungs.

There are 3 of these bony and soft like tissue in each of your nostrils. In some people, their turbinates may be quite swollen due to allergies, and become overly enlarged, causing a resistance in the airway, and ultimately, snoring.

6. Alcohol

Alcohol helps relax our mind, not only that, it relaxes our muscles too, especially the ones at the back of the throat. Alcohol is a depressant, and there is a huge negative correlation between drinking and snoring, this is true even to those who claim they are normally non-snorers. Alcohol may assist you in having a longer, uninterrupted sleep, while it can also create a lot more resistance in your airway due to the extra folding of the muscle, resulting in the extra effort required to breath during the night. Studies have shown that the likelihood of people who do not snore, is 4 times more likely to snore after consuming alcohol, while regular snorers has the elevated risk of 8 times more than they normally do.

7. Genetics

If you have ever witnessed your parents’ snore, or your grandparents snore, chances are you will be part of the chorus. DNA plays a big part in snoring because of your muscle composition. A lot of physical attributes such as narrow nasal passage, narrow throat, large muscle mass, or enlarged adenoids or tonsils, could contribute to your snoring. 

8. Overweight

Obesity is the major cause of snoring. Overweight people are more susceptible to snoring due to their wider necks, and heavier fatty tissues surrounding their neck. The extra fatty tissues around the neck allow your airways to be compressed and condensed, resulting in the restriction of airflow. The general rule of thumb is, if your neck’s circumference is more than 42cm (16.5 inches), chances are you are a snorer. Even if you’re not overweight in general, even carrying excess weight around the throat can cause snoring.

9. Lifestyle

More and more people these days are snoring, all due to the lifestyle changes in the 21stCentury. Ponder about this, can you think of a home without a TV? I certainly cant, I have even come across houses where there’s more televisions than people living in it! The differences in lifestyle has changed dramatically in the last 50 years, with junk food such as McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken located and easily accessible on every corner of the block, while Netflix and cable TVs are a must have for most household. We rarely see people going outside for a jog these days, but we see office workers sitting on the same chair for 8 hours a day, sometimes even more.

Don't get me wrong, I love technology, I love the convenience of getting a quick bite, but it is taking a toll on our bodies.

Staying fit is crucial as poor muscle tone and a loss of muscle structure can definitely cause snoring,

10. Ageing

Unfortunately, ageing is something that is inevitable. You may realise your partner’s snoring is getting worse and worse as time flies. Snoring can start at any age, but we snore more as we get older due to our muscles become increasingly flaccid with age. As we get older, most of us put on weight, often gaining weight around the neck, so the “throat space” becomes much narrower.

For women in particular, the change may be seen soon after going through menopause. During the time when women are still able to bear children, snoring can be dangerous as it decreases the amount of oxygen intake to the foetus, the hormone progesterone is able to activate a defence mechanism to prevent mothers from snoring. Post menopause, the hormone level of changes, resulting in the loss of defence mechanism, and sometimes weight gain may be an occurrence.


Top 5 Interesting Things About Lucid Dreaming

Top 5 Interesting Things About Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming is a very grey area of research in the sleep industry. A lucid dream is a state where it allows you to consciously control your dreams, when all the major senses such as vision, smell, taste, touch, and feel could be as real as when you’re wide awake and conscious.

We don’t exactly know if there’s a specific way each individual is able to induce themselves and enter into a state of lucid dreaming, but there are many ways one can practice and attempt it. In this article, I want to share my stories of patients I have encountered over the years, to possibly help another person, and hopefully help others who are facing their own health unknowns.

​In saying that, why are some people so curious about this state of dream? Is it beneficial, exciting or dangerous?...

Let’s talk about it.

*Please note names in the story below have been changed to maintain patient confidentiality*

1: When and how does a Lucid Dream happen?

Sleep is divided into two major stages, REM, and Non-Rem.

The REM cycle, or also known as Rapid Eye Movement sleep, is the stage of sleep when your skeletal muscles are “paralysed”, followed by a rapid movement of your eyes.


A lucid dream usually occurs during REM cycle, where your skeletal muscles have lost their movement due to certain neurotransmitters (a chemical that carries messages between brain cells) being released in the brain, research has shown that lucid dreaming is accompanied by an increased activation of parts of the brain that are normally suppressed during sleep. The 2 major neurotransmitters responsible are Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) and Glycine, these neurotransmitters are specialised cells in the brain that prevents muscles to be active, and are also the neurotransmitters that keeps you in a sleeping state. Although GABA and Glycine, is required to keep you in a REM cycle, you do need another neurotransmitter to activate the process of dreaming. ACh, or also known as Acetyl-Choline, is the neurotransmitter responsible for memory, learning, and dreaming. The level of ACh is almost identical during REM and wake cycle, and ACh is the possible neurotransmitter that helps us be more aware of our surrounding during the state of lucid dream.


We get an average of 4-5 sleep cycles a night (see picture below), experiencing 4-5 REM cycles per night, Lucid dreaming represents a brain state between REM sleep and being awake.The first REM cycle starts approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep, and it is typically the shortest REM cycle. The amount of time spent in REM cycle gets longer as the night progresses, with the longest amount of time spent in REM cycle occurring right before waking up, and this is also when, with practice, lucid dream is easiest experienced.

Lucid Dreams graph

​image source : centerforsoundsleep.com

2: Why is it fun or beneficial to go into a state of lucid dream?

There are many reasons why people want to experience lucid dreaming. People are attracted to lucid dreaming just because they want to experience things or events that are impossible to achieve in waking reality. During a lucid dream, activities like flying over breathtaking sceneries, walking on the moon, or swimming with the dolphins can feel very real. An experienced individual could have complete control of it, and manipulate any way they would like it to, all with no consequences. Lucid dreaming can also help some patients deal with struggles in real life, such as:

  1. Grieving – People are able to “visit” their lost loved ones, giving them emotional support and gaining a sense of self love with a living purpose. I have seen patients who came out of depression after practicing lucid dreaming, they were able to see their loved ones, communicate with them, and lived a much happier life.

  2. Fantasy – Is it true that you can learn how to lucid dream and have sex with your ultimate fantasy? Yes it is. The experience could also feel like the real thing. Muscular responses and elevated heart rate could also be a result of orgasm in lucid dream. However, not all fantasy is necessarily a physical one.

  3. Overcoming phobias – People who have phobias about sharks or spiders could practice handling or facing them in lucid dreams, which will calm them down when actually coming across real sharks or spiders in real life.

  4. Introverts – Terrified of being in an unfamiliar environment such as a party or work function full of strangers? Trouble making friends? Why not try a few pick up lines in your dream, who knows, it may help make you a confident person in real life.

  5. Public Speaking – Experts say about 75-80% of the human population have a slight fear of conducting public speaking. Some CEOs or high ranking managers have tried using lucid dreaming as a practicing tool to overcome the fear of speaking in front of a crowd.

3: How do you induce lucid state dreaming?

With enough practice, you can actually become an expert in gaining control of your dreams, every single night.You may not be able to maintain lucidity in the first few weeks, but with enough patience and perseverance, it will become second nature. Let us talk about a few ways we can try achieve a state of lucid dreaming.

a) Keeping a record of your dreams

  1. Leave a notepad beside your bed, every morning right after waking up, recall and write down your dreams in as much detail as possible.

  2. Before going to bed, read what you have written for the past week, this will help you remember and recall what you dreamt about a few days back, it will also help you feel the dream was as real as waking life.

(iii) Reading your dreams like this will help you recognise the pattern, and with practice, you will be able to control your dreams pretty much every night. Try experimenting with a change in scenario when you come across a similar dream!

b) Meditation

Meditation is an effective way to help one enter into a lucid dream state. As you meditate, focus on something very specific you want to dream about, make sure your environment is nice and quiet, so nothing distracts you. You may use things like aroma sticks or scented candles (make sure candles are not placed near curtains or flammable things around the house!) to assist in calming you down.

During meditation, your breathing pattern plays a big role. Remember to take nice, calm, and slow breaths. Count 1 when you breathe in once, then 2 when you exhale. Count up to number 10, and then reset the numbers, do not exceed the number 10 as a bigger number may be too complex and will make it more difficult for you to focus on the topic in hand. It may seem boring and you might feel restless, but do this for about 20-30 minutes, focusing on what you want to dream about. After a few weeks, you’ll realise how powerful this technique is in terms of helping you focusing and handle stress.


c) Plan your dreams

Planning a dream before you go to bed could be an effective way to pick what you would like to dream about. For example, you plan to sleep for 8 hours. Set an alarm for 6 hours, and after waking up, spend about 30 minutes writing down what you would like to dream about, lie back down thinking about what you have written, if you’re thinking about being on an island, visualise the salty wind blowing against your face, imagine the warm water on the beach splashing against your legs, roam and run (or fly) as fast as your can on your private island, you may then be able to continue and expand what you have written down. Remember to let your imagination run free!


d) REMEMBER!

The most important and hardest thing to do is to remember you’re actually dreaming. Once you realise you’re in a dreaming state, manipulating it should be fairly simple. By constantly repeating “I will be aware I am dreaming” before you head to bed, you may actually end up realising you’re in a dream state. This is also known as Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming.


e) Be aware of unusual events

Have you ever felt some things are impossible? Such as a flying cow? Or your teeth falling out? If you do, chances are you may be dreaming. Take note of these bizarre events, and play along with it. Who know, you may be able to ride a flying cow.

4: Dangers of lucid dreaming

Lucid dreaming can put a toll on your body. During a lucid dream, your brain is very active, too much of it may actually make you more tired during the day. Sometimes it can be exceptionally dangerous for some individuals. Some drugs or enhancing supplements may even cause damage to your nervous system. If using enhancing drugs, remember to use them responsibly and understand the risks that come with them.


In saying that, I have personally come across patients who have used lucid dreaming for self-harm.


Story time:

In one of my hospital rotations, I was assigned to the mental health department for 6 weeks. During my rotation, I met Jane, who was a patient diagnosed with a severe case of schizophrenia. Jane likes to write, but she wasn’t writing imaginative stories, the bizarre thing was, she was listing down everything that was in her room, from pillows, to TV remotes, to door handles. Doctors, nurses, even case managers weren’t able to figure out why. Everyday, she would wake up, draw a big cross against some of the items she has listed down, and continue listing other things she may find during the day.

One fine morning, 8am.

Yup, time to record our usual clinical observations. Blood pressure is fine, body temperature is fine, heart rate is…. Jane, why are there red, painful scars on your wrist??”

Turns out, Jane has been listing down everything she has access to in her room, and have been experimenting self harm in her dreams using her list of items.


Jane’s item of choice? A piece of almond.


Needless to say, almonds were off her menu for the rest of her stay.

5. Drugs that induces lucid dreaming

Currently, there is no specific medically proven drugs that has proven to promote lucid dreaming, but people around the world has been experimenting on different things to enhance their lucid experiences. Keep in mind to use these supplements responsibly, as some of them may have risk to your health and wellbeing. Below are lists of popular products people are using to enhance their lucid dreaming experiences.


  1. LucidEsc – LucidEsc is listed as a “Lucid Dreaming Memory Support Supplement”. It is intended for people who are after dream support and help people become lucid in their dreams. The main ingredient in LucidEsc is Choline, a similar compound as ACh, the molecular compound responsible for memory, learning, and dreaming, as discussed in the above topic. It also contains an ingredient called Huperizine A, a compound responsible in memory and making your dreams more vivid, helping you remember your dreams better.


  1. Galantamine – Galantamine is a natural product made from daffodil, usually used to treat patients with Alzheimer and Dementia, to improve their short and long-term memory. Galantamine is responsible in preventing the break down of ACh in the brain.
  1. Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6 is also another supplement people have been using to promote lucid dream. It doesn't only help with dreams being more vivid, it also helps the individual taking it remember their dream better the next morning. Vitamin B6 is found in meats, whole grains, vegetables, nuts and bananas. You won’t get enough Vitamin B6 to induce lucid dream just by consuming those particular food, a concentrated amount in pill form (100mg-250mg) will be more effective.
  1. Melatonin – Melatonin is known to increase REM sleep, the stage of sleep where you’re most likely to dream.
  1. Mugwort – Mugwort is a type of herb mainly found in Europe, Asia, Alaska, and North America. It is used to enhance dream recall, make sure you drink lots of water when taking mugwort, as it is known to cause dehydration. There are many ways of taking mugwort; smoking, pill form, and tea are common ways people have been using mugwort.


  1. DreamLeaf – DreamLeaf is a company that came up with the red and blue pill, designing each pill containing a cocktail of compounds specially to enhance lucid dream. The pills are designed to lengthen your REM cycle, allowing you to stay in a dream state for a longer period of time.

Now that you have read this article, hopefully it has given you insights in terms of how lucid dreams come about, and how they can be induced naturally and artificially. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done about lucid dreaming. It’s not an easy thing to achieve, it may be easier for some than others, but along with enough time and patience, keep up your techniques for a few weeks and you may become an expert at it.

Happy Dreaming!