Difficulty falling asleep, waking up at night … One in two people think they have poor quality sleep, mainly women, after a 2017 survey by the National Institute for Sleep and Vigilance (INSV) / MGEN). Fortunately, there are sweet solutions to finding peaceful nights without medication.
Chemical sleep, induced by taking sleeping pills , has nothing to do with natural sleep. ” It is an artificial loss of consciousness, comparable to a light anesthesia, a hypnotic state which brings none of the benefits of true sleep “, explains Dr. Patrick Lemoine, doctor in neurosciences, psychiatrist and author of Doctor, I do not sleep not ! Sleep in 50 questions (ed. In Press).
Yet around 46 million boxes are sold each year in France, according to a study by the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines (ANSM). Their use must remain punctual, because taken long term, these psychotropic drugs can generate serious undesirable effects. In addition to dependence and addiction, they cause drowsiness during the day, a lack of concentration and an increased risk of falls, therefore of fractures. Worse: they can generate or worsen sleep apnea . A study from the University of Bordeaux has even shown that the majority of anxiolytics and sleeping pills (benzodiazepines) degrade memory in the long term and increase the risk of brain degeneration. Swallow more than three months in a row would increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 51% in the years that follow! It is therefore better to rely on natural solutions to snuggle in the arms of Morpheus.
What are the benefits of sleep?
“Sleeping is not a waste of time,” says Mounir Chennaoui, doctor of physiology at the Biomedical Research Institute of the Armed Forces (Irba) and co-author of Sleep well for dummies (First ed.). Many of the body’s regulatory mechanisms are in effect at work during sleep.
- Recover his physical capacities. During the night, damaged cells repair themselves and eliminate their toxins. The muscles are reinvigorated, the skin heals, the immune defenses are sharpened and our energy stock is replenished so that the body can function at full speed the next day. The cardiovascular system also regains strength because blood pressure is lower when you sleep. This is why a chronic sleep deficit (less than 6 hours per 24 hours) increases the risk of myocardial infarction and vascular accidents. It also worsens inflammation, which further exposes you to arthritis and diabetes .
- Regenerate your brain. Sleep is the architect of our memory. It makes it possible to sort between important and subordinate information, to organize our ideas, to distance ourselves from problems and to dispel our anxieties. An American study by John Hopkins University has shown that it also boosts brain plasticity by promoting the creation of new connections in the brain, hence better reasoning and decision-making skills.
- Avoid weight gain. Too little time in bed alters the hormonal balance and the biological signals of hunger. Insomniacs’ stomachs produce more ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite. And the fat cells shed less leptin, a protein that regulates food intake and feelings of satiety . Result: the little sleepers (5h or less per night) are wrapped in extra pounds over the years. ” Their risk of obesity is 34% higher than normal, ” says Mounir Chennaoui.
5 natural remedies to restore restful sleep
- Hypnosis, to calm the mind. Stress and anxiety promote ruminations and prevent the mind from wandering freely, an essential prelude to natural falling asleep. ” Medical hypnosis is a tool of choice to release tensions and make peace with yourself,” specifies Cloé Pavaillon, hypnotherapist at the thalassotherapy center in Royan. It also helps to achieve a state of total security, necessary for a good sleep quality . ” The time to fall asleep is cut by a third and the duration of deep sleep increases by 80%, according to Swiss researchers from the University of Friborg. In practice: two to three sessions are often enough to return to a good sleep.
- Melatonin, to reset your biological clock. Many sleep disorders result from a desynchronization of the internal biological clock. The production of sleep hormone – melatonin – turns out to be insufficient or no longer in line with the day / night alternation and the rhythms of social life. We fall asleep and wake up spontaneously very late. Or, conversely, it is difficult to hold in the evening and then wake up between 3h and 5h in the morning. Taking melatonin by mouth ” allows you to reset your biological clock, without any danger ,” says Dr. Lemoine. For more effectiveness, opt for melatonin with immediate effect: one to two sprays under the tongue (i.e. 0.5 to 1 mg) at bedtime (Chronobiane Immédiat, Somniphyt 30 ‘…).
- Herbal medicine, to muzzle nervousness. Several medicinal plants can deactivate our arousal systems. In case of nocturnal or too early awakenings in the morning, valerian and eschscholtzia are advised because they exert an anxiolytic action and restore the architecture of sleep. And in case of difficulty falling asleep due to excessive nervousness, hawthorn and passionflower are better indicated. Take them in the form of an infusion (1 teaspoon per cup of boiling water, 3 cups per day) or dry extracts (2 capsules at bedtime).
- Tryptophan, to boost the sleep hormone. This amino acid is essential for the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls the sequence of sleep cycles. And to optimize its action, also use slow sugars in the evening (wholemeal bread, wholemeal rice, etc.) and vitamin B (brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, etc.). Tryptophan is found in dairy products, meat and grains like wheat, barley, rye and rice, as well as parsley, pumpkin seeds and soybeans.
- Also bet on sport: physical activity of at least 30 minutes, before 5 p.m., improves the quality of deep sleep, the most restorative by 65%, according to an American study by Stanford University.
- Listen to your body. When the warning signals for sleep appear at the end of the evening (yawning, itchy eyes, etc.), go to bed within 15 minutes. Otherwise you will have to wait for the next cycle to fall asleep naturally, that is to say 1h30 to 2h later.
The expert’s opinion: you must gently wean yourself from sleeping pills
Dr. Patrick Lemoine, doctor of neurosciences and psychiatrist: To break the addiction, the best option is to reduce benzodiazepines very gradually in consultation with your doctor, especially if you have been taking it for a long time. Weaning turns out to be more complicated if the consumption has been long. Reduce the doses in steps, every three weeks: from one tablet per day, go to à of the tablet, then to ½ and finally to ¼. At this point, ask your pharmacist to prepare you placebo capsules – filled with sugar for example – and capsules containing your sleeping pill. Mix them all and swallow one in the evening randomly, lowering the number of active capsules over the months. The body gradually gets used to going without chemical crutches to sleep.