1. Lack of sleep can cause pain

    How sleep disorders set the stage for all-over pain

    There's pain, and then there's PAIN.

    The first is the pain you feel when you stub your toe, wake up with a headache or have to endure yet another grueling dinner with your in-laws.

    The second is the widespread all-over PAIN that starts from the inside and works its way out, leaving you feeling as if you've just been hit by a truck.

    If you've never suffered from that all-over PAIN yourself, count your blessings. And if you want to make sure you never find out what it feels like, be sure to get your beauty sleep -- because new research confirms that lack of sleep is the single biggest risk factor for widespread PAIN.

    Lack of sleep comes in many forms. In some cases, it's classic insomnia -- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. In others, it's the restless sleep marked by tossing, turning and waking up too often no matter how many hours you spend in bed.

    Some unlucky souls battle all of the above.

    The bad news is, these and other sleep disorders are among the most common health problems facing Americans today -- meaning there are going to be a lot more people in the coming years learning the difference between pain and PAIN.

    The good news? You don't have to be among them.

    Pass on sleep meds; they might help you fall asleep a little faster and keep you unconscious a little bit longer, but they don't provide the rest you need for rejuvenation -- and they come with big risks, up to and including death.

    I recommend a two-step approach to sleep problems instead.

    First, turn to the safe and natural supplements that can help you sleep tonight -- including the "sleep hormone" melatonin, GABA, theanine and Inositol as well as tried-and-true herbal remedies such as chamomile and passionflower.

    And second, work with a holistic doctor to find out what's keeping you awake. Sometimes, it's as simple as a lifestyle issue such as too much caffeine late in the day.

    In others, lack of sleep may be a warning sign of a nutritional or hormonal problem.

    A holistic doctor can run some tests and get to the bottom of it in a jiffy. Once you have it figured out, you'll be able to fall asleep the moment your head hits the pillow.

    If you're in Southern California, I can help. Make an appointment to see me at my clinic outside San Diego.

    Not in the area? Not a problem -- I'm also available for telephone consultations. Call 855-DOC-MARK to schedule yours.

  2. How to sleep without sleep medications

    Americans are addicted to sleeping pills

    Sometimes, I can tell what the problem is before the patient even has a chance to speak.

    Bloodshot eyes... dark circles and bags hanging under them... and a slow shuffle from the waiting room into my office.

    Yes, it's a sure sign of someone with a sleep problem -- and if you're fighting that battle yourself, you're not alone.

    New research from the CDC shows that the number of Americans drugging themselves to sleep has jumped by nearly a third in less than a decade, with close to 10 million of us popping prescription sleeping pills and sleep medications.

    And that's just the tip of the iceberg, too -- because you can bet the number of people on over-the-counter sleep medication is even higher.

    Now, I can't say I blame them for trying. I know from my own patients how desperate people can be for a good night's sleep.

    No, I blame their doctors -- doctors who should know better, because the research on this is crystal clear, and it shows that these sleep medications fail on two levels.

    First, they just don't work for many people. They either don't increase sleep by enough to make a difference, or don't increase the amount of quality sleep you need to feel rested.

    And second, they're dangerous.

    Common sleep medications come with a long and ugly list of side effects, from run-of-the-mill stuff like nausea to far more serious conditions such as bizarre sleepwalking behavior.

    They can even kill you, with one study last year showing how these meds can increase the risk of death by more than 500 percent and cancer by 35 percent.

    There's a much better way, and I'm here to share it with you.

    Start with lifestyle changes. You may not think you're sensitive to caffeine, but you could be -- and a cup of coffee or a can of soda late in the day could keep you up well into the night.

    So skip the caffeine, especially after lunch (and always pass on the soda, even if you're not sensitive to caffeine).

    Other lifestyle changes include turning off the TV, putting away the iPad and unplugging the cellphone, just to name three, because the lights from these devices can trick the brain into thinking it's still daytime, making it harder for you to fall asleep.

    Regular exercise can also help you get to sleep -- but as I told you recently, a single workout won't do the trick.

    You need to get moving three or four times a week. Over the course of a couple of months, regular exercise can add as much as 45 minutes to your nightly sleep, and you can read all the details for free right here.

    Other natural sleep aids include chamomile, passionflower, GABA, theanine and Inositol as well as the "sleep hormone" melatonin -- but in many cases, these are quick fixes rather than long-term solutions.

    If you're having trouble getting to sleep and lifestyle changes alone don't do the trick, you could be suffering from a nutritional or hormonal problem.

    A holistic physician can run some tests and get you back on track.

  3. Green tea beats depression

    There's a reason so many people like to relax with a cup of tea – new research finds that green tea may actually help you beat the blahs.

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