I Used to Be Dependent on Muscle Relaxers to Fall Asleep
One of the symptoms that I experience due to multiple sclerosis is muscle spasticity. Particularly, in my hip and groin. The pain is excruciating – so much so, that it would keep me up at night. The answer from my doctor was to take a muscle relaxer to ease the pain. Unfortunately, it wasn’t effective at eliminating the pain – but it was effective at making me drowsy and sleepy. So much so that, after a while, I could not fall asleep without taking them. The muscle relaxers also affected my quality of sleep. I would wake up several times per night, and feel groggy the next morning – as if I didn’t get much sleep at all. Medication was not the answer.
It’s Not Just Me
In our fast-paced society, it is no surprise that many people struggle to get enough sleep. Chronic conditions are plaguing the population. Our stress levels are constantly rising. Technology advances lead to constant demands for everybody’s attention. We have less exposure to natural sunlight than ever before. Our diets are full of high-sugar, high-carbohydrate, heavily-processed foods. All of these things play a role in the rising levels of sleep deprivation in our society. But what does it actually mean to be sleep deprived? How does sleep deprivation adversely affect our health? And what are some ways we get a better night’s sleep?
Is Sleep Deprivation an Epidemic?
A general definition of sleep deprivation is, “the condition that occurs if you don’t get enough sleep.” According to a 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. The amount of sleep that qualifies as ‘enough’ differs the individual. But it is typically between 7–9 hours per night for adults. Some people need up to 10 hours of sleep per night to feel their best. Others need an extra couple hours of rest on occasion when they are feeling run down.
Getting enough sleep is vital for a healthy lifestyle. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions, including:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- frequent mental distress
The statistics for sleep disorders are staggering. In the United States, between 50 to 70 million individuals are estimated to have some type of chronic sleep disorder. This is equal to approximately 1 in 5 people. In addition, approximately 8-18 percent of the general population struggles with insomnia.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Depriving yourself of sleep has a negative impact on your health in many ways:
- Lack of alertness: research shows missing as little as 1.5 hours of sleep at night can have a negative impact on alertness
- Impaired memory: sleep deprivation can affect your ability to think and to remember and process information
- Relationship stress: lack of sleep can adversely affect your mood, which can cause you to become more likely to have conflicts with others
- Quality of life: those who don’t get enough sleep are less likely to participate in normal daily activities or make healthy lifestyle choices, including exercise and eating properly
- Greater likelihood for car accidents: the National Department of Transportation and CDC estimate that drowsy driving is “responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the United States.“ About 5 percent of drivers say they occasionally fall asleep while driving at least once per month.
- Higher risk for chronic diseases: including hypertension, diabetes, depression, and cancer
Causes of Sleep Disorders
Most adults experience sleep deficiency or deprivation due to a number of factors:
- An illness or affliction that disrupts sleep, such as thyroid disorders, chronic pain, or sleep apnea.
- A demanding, busy schedule
- High amounts of stress
- Effects of certain medications or stimulants
- Alcohol or caffeine consumption
- Eating a poor diet (which leads to fluctuations in blood sugar)
- Eating too close to bedtime, or not eating enough with dinner/later in the day (such as if you’re fasting)
- Pregnancy or other health issues that lead to hormonal changes
The less sleep you get, and the longer you suffer from sleep disorders, the more severe the negative effects will be on your health.
5 Natural Techniques for Sleep Deprivation
Suggested remedies for sleep disorders vary with each individual. The recommended regimen depends on the root cause of the sleep disorder, as well as the severity of the symptoms. These are several natural remedies to help you sleep better at night:
- Adjust your diet: Try and incorporate fresh vegetables, grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, raw dairy, and whole grains – these are foods that can help you sleep. Avoid foods that are high in simple carbohydrates or sugar after dinner.
- Exercise: One of the best ways to promote sleep is to exercise daily, 30-60 minutes, during the day. Being active in the morning or during the day can help to regulate your circadian rhythm and lead you to feel calmer and sleepier at night. Bonus points if you do it outside!
- Increase natural light exposure during the day: exposure to natural light is a very important regulator of the circadian rhythm, which regulates the balance between wakefulness hours versus those spent resting. Because your body requires a pattern of light versus dark exposure to properly function, it helps to spend time in natural light (at least 10-30 minutes per day).
- Limit – or better yet avoid – blue light exposure at night: Rather than using your phone, computer, tablet, or watching TV, practice a bedtime routine that doesn’t incorporate ‘blue light.’ Blue light on electronics can lead to increased alertness. Try reading a book (NOT on your tablet).
- Manage your stress! Stress is one the biggest obstacles to getting a good night’s sleep. There are several techniques that you can do to manage your stress – which, in turn – will help you sleep better:
How I Eliminated My Dependence on Muscle Relaxers to Fall Asleep
I used a combination of all five natural techniques for sleep deprivation that I listed above to improve my sleep! I am especially grateful for our best-selling SLEEP roller bottle, which contains a combination of Roman Chamomile and Lavender essential oils. When I smell that blend while practicing deep breathing techniques, I am out like a light!