Monthly Archives: December 2011

Home remedies for insomnia

Sleepy men

Image via Wikipedia

Did you toss and turn in bed last night, robbed of a rejuvenating deep sleep? Counting sheep didn’t help? Here are some natural home remedies for insomnia that will hopefully help you enjoy a more restful sleep.

Though insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, it’s a symptom (usually of some form of stress) rather than a disease. Of all the people who suffer from it — more than 60 million a year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Services — relatively few people with chronic insomnia discuss it with their doctor. For those who do, usually the only treatment suggested is sleeping pills.
Sleeping pills might help you fall asleep in the short term, but their efficacy usually wears off over time. Also, sleeping pills typically don’t induce a natural deep-sleep cycle that helps our body’s multitude of systems get a fresh start for the next day.
More natural treatments for insomnia include:
  • Controlling the sleep environment
  • Eliminating stimulants
  • Maintaining a strict sleep schedule
  • Natural herbal supplements
  • Winding down at night and meditation
  • Exercising
Woman in a sleeping mask, man reading in bed
Photo: Hill Street Studios/Jupiterimages
Watching television before bed: A no-no
Although suspenseful cable-TV shows about serial killers can be entertaining, especially after a long, monotonous day at work, watching TV right before bed can release adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) into your bloodstream.
If you have chronic troubles sleeping at night, try not to watch TV of any kind right before bed. You’ll also want to completely power down your computer, smart phone, iPad and all other wireless devices. Although there’s no concrete scientific evidence that WiFi devices can induce insomnia, it’s common sense that these devices won’t help you wind down at night, unless you have an app that mimics the sound of a babbling brook or migratory songs of whales.
Other environmental factors to consider include turning off all lights by 10 p.m., the hour that your cortisol levels should start dipping way down.
That cup of coffee you had at 3 p.m. could be keeping you up
The half-life of caffeine lasts for several hours. That means the effects of that big cup of coffee you had at work — which you gulped down perhaps because you didn’t eat enough throughout the day and now you’re feeling sluggish — lasts well into the night. By 9 p.m., several dozen milligrams of that cup of coffee is still active in your system. Sure, you may be able to fall asleep, but most likely you won’t enjoy a rejuvenating deep sleep.
Alcohol also can disrupt deep-sleep cycles. Although it can help you fall asleep, you’ll most likely wake up wide-eyed in the middle of the night if you have too much to drink.
Ben Franklin had it right
For those who work graveyard shifts, it might be impossible to live the motto: “Early to bed, early to rise,” but even those who have to work in the middle of the night can benefit from maintaining a strict sleep schedule, going to sleep at the same time every day. For those who work normal hours, try to be in bed by 10 p.m. with the lights out.
Try taking a hot shower or bath around 9 p.m. Add some all-natural bubble bath, Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) and light a candle in the bathroom. Lavender, for reasons that are not completely understood, has also proven in some studies to promote more restful sleep. Purchase some lavender and an essential oil diffuser and place near your bed.
Popping pills is OK, but try to take natural ones
Tryptophan is the amino acid found in turkey and is possibly the reason that millions of Americans get a restful catnap after a Thanksgiving holiday meal. Tryptophan is broken down into 5-HTP, which is then converted by the body into serotonin, which in turn is converted into melatonin, commonly known as the sleep hormone.
Melatonin as well as 5-HTP can be purchased at most natural markets that sell supplements. Consider starting with 5-HTP as it is converted into serotonin, the pleasure chemical that many people with depression don’t have enough of. Most of melatonin production occurs in the gut. Have your doctor or someone trained in lab diagnostics to check your melatonin levels. If they are low, it’s possible you may have a chronic gastrointestinal infection that you may not be aware of, which could lead to sleep disruptions because of low melatonin.
Exercise and meditation
Try to get regular exercise most days of the week. You can split up exercise routines into smaller segments during the day. But don’t exercise at a high-intensity late in the day, as you may have trouble winding down. The more stressful your life is, the greater the need for meditation, which ideally should be done every morning and night for at least 10 minutes.
Sleep journaling and CBT
According to the National Institutes of Health, a type of counseling called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help relieve the anxiety linked to chronic insomnia.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia includes regular, often weekly, visits to a clinician, who will give you a series of sleep assessments, ask you to complete a sleep diary and work with you in sessions to help you change the way you sleep.
Have any other suggestions for home remedies for insomnia? Let us know below.
Judd Handler is a health writer in Encinitas, Calif.

Winter craft: How to make a snow globe – Kids’ Crafts – Canadian Living

Girl with a snow globe

Snow domes first began shaking up North America in the 1920s and they still haven’t lost their charm. Whatever they’re called – snow globes, water domes, snowstorms, snow scenes, or blizzard weights – their small worlds contain special magic for all ages. Now you can learn to make your own. Marg Meikle was the Answer Lady on CBC Radio’s “Gabereau,” hosted by Vicki Gabereau. In response to a listener’s question, Marg researched the making of snow domes. Along with some fascinating history, she discovered a fun family activity, which can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. Just in time for Christmas, Marg shares her secrets with Vancouver artists, Anna Gustafson and Paul Burke, their children, Sophia and Oliver, and with Canadian Living readers.

Snow Dome
Adapted from Return of the Answer Lady (Douglas & McIntyre, 1993).

You need:
Dome or globe*
• Use clean clear jars with flat screw-on lids.
• Look for flat-bottomed globes at garage sales and junk shops.
• Take apart and clean.

Small figures and scenery
• Choose plastic, ceramic, glass or enamelled metal items that don’t deteriorate in water.
• Collect small figurines, cars, boats, buildings and trees at garage sales and junk shops. Dollhouse, miniature and model railway stores are also good sources, as are toy boxes.
• Make your own from colourful polymer modelling clay, such as Fimo brand (available at craft supply stores).

• Use two-part epoxy or a styrenebased adhesive sealant (available at hardware stores) to glue figures and scenery onto dome base.
• Use good-quality clear silicone sealant (available at hardware stores) to seal dome base or jar lid closed and to prevent leaks.

• Use acrylic paint (available in small tubes from art supply and craft supply stores) to paint figures, scenery, dome base or jar lid. (Note: Wet paint washes out of brushes with water, but once dry, paint is not water-soluble.)

• Pound thin white shells or disposable plastic cutlery into tiny pieces with hammer. (Note: Wear safety glasses.) Rinse in strainer to remove dust before using.
• Collect and use small amount of fine beach sand.
• Use coloured or clear glitter or tiny sequins (available at fabric and craft supply stores).

Pure glycerin (available at drugstores)

Distilled water (available at grocery stores and drugstores)

Liquid detergent, such as Ivory Clear (available at grocery stores)

Photographs and paper mementoes
• Choose personal photos, significant postcards or maps as scenery or background.

Artist’s paintbrushes

Glue gun (optional)

Plastic sheet to protect work surface

Plastic dishpan

*These can also be purchased in kit form.

To make:
1. Determine if snow dome will be viewed from all sides or will have a background and foreground.

2. Experiment with placement of figures, scenery and background. Set them up on base, stopper or jar lid, then cover with dome, globe or jar. The glass will magnify the objects; you may wish to change them or their placement. (Note: If using photographs or paper mementoes as backgrounds, treat as follows: Cut out desired image and, working quickly with brush, coat all paper surfaces with two-part epoxy; let dry.) When satisfied, fix in place with appropriate adhesive; let dry.

3. Paint figures, scenery, background and dome base, jar lid or stopper as desired; let dry.

4. Place approx 2 to 5 mL (1/2 to 1 tsp) of glycerin and tiny drop of detergent in upturned globe; fill one-half full with distilled water and shake to mix. (Note: if using sand for “snow,” use glycerin with tiny drop of detergent and no water added.)

5. Pour 2 to 5 mL of “snow” into mixture. Shake to mix. Finish filling globe with distilled water. Shake to mix. (Note: Add more “snow” if necessary.)

6. Apply silicone around inside edge of recycled dome base or jar lid. Push into base or screw onto jar. (Note: Assemble as follows: Holding globe or jar over dishpan, work slowly, allowing excess mixture to escape over rim of glass. Use care with this step. When figures and scenery are inserted in mixture too quickly, resulting pressure may break glass.) If using kit with rubber stopper, do not apply glue to stopper. Insert into globe in above manner, until bottom of stopper is flush.

7. To check for air bubbles, wait a few days before gluing a kit globe inside its wooden or plastic base. Remove bubbles by tilting globe, pulling stopper away from one side and filling globe with distilled water. Glue globe to base with glue gun.

How to care for your globe
Don’t display your snow dome in strong sunlight or expose it to extremes of hot or cold.

Winter craft: How to make a snow globe – Kids’ Crafts – Canadian Living.

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