Sleep Medicine

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According to the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National institutes of Health, 10 to 15 percent of American adults suffer from chronic insomnia, which is defined

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well being as sleeplessness lasting for more than a month. An estimated 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. population experiences some form of insomnia each year, most commonly chronic-intermittent insomnia, in which periods {days orweeks) of insomnia alternate with periods of good rest.

Researchers have discovered that behavioral changes, including relaxation techniques designed to increase body-mind awareness, can be a balm for restless sleepers. Unfortunately, sleep medicine is not extensively taught in medical schools, says Sat Bir Khalsa, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a yoga and sleep disorders researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Khalsa is troubled by the tendency of many doctors to prescribe insomnia medication. "Drugs may not treat the underlying problem; when people stop taking pills, often the insomnia returns," Khalsa says. "Pills have their place in certain situations, but behavioral treatment is often a permanent fix."

WHAT'S KEEPING YOU UP? Many roads lead to insomnia. Often the cause is obvious, such as the stress brought on from relationship woes or the loss of a job. Stimulants like caffeine and some medications can also bring about sleeplessness. And other factors, such as diet, lifestyle, room temperature, even bedding, can contribute as well. But sometimes the causes of a person's insomnia are unclear. In those cases, researchers and doctors don't fully understand why something as natural as sleeping can become so elusive.

During a bout ofchronic insomnia, the nervous, endocrine, and cognitive systems are in a high state of arousal. People typically experience this in the form ofwhirl ing thoughts, short or uneven breathing, and muscle tension. Sometimes you can fall asleep even with those symptoms, but after a few hours, when the extreme,

J MORE ONLINE Learn more about how yoga can help you get a good night's sleep at yogajournal.com/sleepwell.

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The Hindu-Yogi Science of Breath

The Hindu-Yogi Science of Breath

A complete guide on Eastern practices of breathing, mental, psychic and spiritual development. The book teaches that Yoga is divided into several branches, ranging from that which teaches the control of the body, to that which teaches the attainment of the highest spiritual development.

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