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Anxiety & Sleeping Meds linked to Dementia

It is estimated that 100 million prescriptions of Benzodiazepines are written each year.

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs used mainly to treat insomnia and anxiety.

A new study found that benzodiazepine use for three months or more was linked to an increased risk (up to 51%) of dementia.  The study involved about 2,000 cases of Alzheimer’s disease in adults over 66 years of age living in Quebec.  They had all been prescribed benzodiazepines and were compared with about 7,000 healthy people of the same age living in the same community.

Lead researcher, Sophie Billioti de Gage of the University of Bordeaux, France, and colleagues wrote,  “Benzodiazepine use is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Long-term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern.”

While it’s never a good idea to use drugs long-term, nor do I suggest using drugs as a first line of treatment, anxiety and insomnia can be severely debilitating, if left untreated.  If you experience anxiety or have trouble sleeping, these are clear symptoms of an even bigger issue.  It’s letting you know that your nervous system is off balance and that stress occurring in the body.

By taking Xanax, Clonopin, or Diazepam (benzodiazepines), you’re essentially masking one problem and potentially creating another.

So I’ve composed a list of natural remedies to try first.  Many times, it’s not a matter of short term effort in pursuit of relief, but an issue of lifestyle change and a tweak in perspective and attitude.

Lifestyle change trumps all medicine.  For some, it's a harder pill to swallow.

Lifestyle change trumps all medicine. For some, it’s a harder pill to swallow.

Here are some natural ways to get rid of anxiety and banish insomnia:

1. Meditate.  When you feel overwhelmed, it’s because you’re either thinking too much into the future or the past.  Try to be cognizant and one with your body in the present moment.  After all, tomorrow is never guaranteed, so why obsess over things that may or may not happen?  Using your breathe, try to slow down your heart rate and clear your mind.  Observe your thoughts and let go of the emotional charges you attach to them.

“Close your eyes, take a deep breath, relax. Imagine yourself sitting at the bottom of a beautiful pond. Each time you have a thought, put it in a bubble; watch the bubble float to the surface and disappear. Keep repeating this for every thought. You are now meditating.” -Dr. Brian Weiss

2. Yoga. The variety of techniques used in yoga all stress the discipline of holding poses.  It’s a yin and yang of strength and stillness wrapped into one.  Not only is it physically challenging, but mentally as well.  Challenge yourself to be still and feel the stretch, as you dig deeper into the pose.

3. Exercise.  Physical exercise encourages feel good chemicals called endorphins.  Keeping your body strong keeps your mental abilities and emotional capabilities resilient.  Train for happiness.  Channel all the unwanted energy into something productive.  Lift, run, hike, squat…

Be advised that exercising at night may get in the way of a good night’s sleep. It can suppress melatonin, and the adrenaline surge may make it difficult to relax. Try exercising as early as possible.

4. Stretch.  Stretching along with deep breathing can help relax you without raising your heart rate dramatically. It also loosens the muscles and improves circulation before sleep.

5.  Zen up your bedroom.  Make your bedroom a technology free zone.  Studies have shown that TVs, cellphones and ipads create mental overstimulation, so try to avoid using these devices in your bedroom.  Your mind is more powerful than you think.  If you associate your bed with games, text messaging, email, and Facebook alerts, then you set yourself up to be in an active state of mind, rather than a restful state.  Reserve your bed for sleep only.  

6.  Stay away from artificial lights.  Light suppresses melatonin, your body’s natural hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Your brain should secrete more in the evening, when it’s dark, to make you sleepy, and less during the day when it’s light and you want to stay awake and alert. However, many aspects of modern life can disrupt your body’s natural production of melatonin and with it your sleep-wake cycle.  Make sure your bedroom is dark when it’s time to sleep and avoid reading from back-lit devices, like an i-phone, at night.  If you must use your phone or an i-pad, make sure you have a separate source of light, like a lamp.

7. Make a list or keep a bedside journal. If you find yourself consumed with to-do lists cycling in your head, keep a journal near so you can purge your thoughts on paper.  The act of writing is cathartic in itself and is a powerful catalyst for self-actualization.  Don’t worry about structure, grammar or format.  This journal is yours and yours alone-use it to doodle, make lists, emotionally vent or to write prayers.  Just write!

8. Get adjusted.  Chiropractic takes the pressure off the spine so you can optimally function at every level.  Being in proper alignment reduces the work load on your body, so you can move efficiently and freely.  Get adjusted to take the stress off your body.  Since a healthy spine restores balance to the nervous system, side effects include feelings of well-being and better sleep.  Your chiropractor may also recommend natural supplements to help you lead a vitalistic life.

9. Try N.E.T. NET is a mind-body technique that uses a methodology of finding and removing neurological imbalances related to the physiology of unresolved stress. NET is a tool that can help improve many behavioral and physical conditions.

10. Try Valerian Root. Valerian root is derived from a plant native to Europe and Asia. The root of this plant has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for various ailments including sleep problems, digestive problems, disorders of the nervous system, headaches, and arthritis. It is believed that valerian root has an impact on the availability of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain.  Although there isn’t sufficient research evidence to support the use of valerian root in the treatment of anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder, anecdotal reports from those who take the supplement regularly indicate that it promotes feelings of calmness and reduces nervous tension and stress. Valerian root should not be taken if you are pregnant or nursing, if you suffer from liver disease, or if you are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Valerian root has the potential to interact with other medications, and may not be recommended in those cases.  Make sure you consult with your doctor before starting any new program.

11. Drink some Chamomile Tea. Traditional healers have long recommended chamomile tea as a simple, healthy way to relieve anxiety, and current scientific studies support this tea’s long-time reputation as a stress reliever and nerve relaxant, showing it to be an effective way to reduce anxiety and depression. Chamomile is most known for its use as a sedative in both adults and children who suffer from restlessness, insomnia and nightmares.

12. Quit smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant, which disrupts sleep, plus smokers experience nicotine withdrawal as the night progresses, making it hard to sleep.

13. Cut down on caffeine.  Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to 10 hours of drinking it.  So avoid that cup of joe after lunch time.


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