Insomnia - how to fix it with naturopathy
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is your inability to sleep during a period in which sleep should normally occur for you. Sufficient, restful sleep is a human necessity. The average adult needs slightly more than eight hours of sleep a day. People with insomnia experience sleep disturbances such as having difficulty falling asleep at night, waking too early in the morning, or waking frequently throughout the night.
While occasional restless nights are often normal, long periods of insomnia can interfere with daytime function, and may reduce the ability to concentrate and remember things. This can lead to accidents, headaches, and depression. Common indications of insomnia include not feeling refreshed after sleep, the inability to sleep despite being tired, daytime drowsiness, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and reduced ability to perform normal activities. A person with insomnia may feel anxious as bedtime approaches. Sound familiar?
What causes insomnia?
Insomnia may stem from a disruption of the body's circadian rhythm, an internal clock that governs the timing of hormone production, sleep, body temperature, and other functions. Occasionally insomnia is a symptom of an underlying medical or psychological condition, but it may also be caused by stress (from work, school, or family) or lifestyle choices, such as excessive coffee and alcohol consumption.
For many people there is no identifible cause. Some situations that commonly lead to an inability to sleep include excessive computer work; certain prescription medications (decongestants, bronchodilators, and betablockers); smoking, which can cause restlessness, and smoking cessation may also result in temporary insomnia; shift work, travel across time zones, or vision loss; a partner who snores; hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle where insomnia may occur during menstruation; menopause, perhaps due to hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, and fluctuations in hormones; biological changes associated with ageing.
The naturopathic approach to treating insomnia
If you ain't sleeping, you're not going to feel better - period. Sleep is really important for the regulation of your sleep/wake cycle, called your Circadian Rhythm, (we mentioned it before). Some practical ideas you may find useful to improve your ability to get to sleep, include;
- Limiting the use of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, especially at nightime
- Maintaining consistent bedtimes and wake-times, including on weekends and vacations
- Establishing the bedroom as a place for sleep and sexual activity only, not reading, watching television, working, or other activities
- Avoiding naps, particularly in the evening
- Exercising regularly, which can help regulate circadian rhythms. (Be careful though! Exercise should be performed prior to dinner, as exercising too close to bedtime may make getting to sleep harder)
- Getting regular exposure to late afternoon, outdoor sunlight, as dusk promotes production of melatonin by the pineal gland, which helps regulate normal circadian patterns
- Taking a hot bath 1.5 to 2 hours prior to bed. This affects core temperature and may induce sleep
- Keeping the bedroom cool, well-ventilated, quiet (with, for example, a white noise device), and dark (using shades)
- Avoiding looking at the clock, which promotes anxiety and obsession about time
- Avoiding fluids prior to bed
- Not watching television, tablets or phones just prior to bedtime as they emit bright light
- Getting up if sleep does not occur within the first 15 to 20 minutes in bed. Go into another room with dim lighting (again, avoiding television)
NUTRITIONAL AND HERBAL TREATMENT FOR INSOMNIA
Naturopathic treatments can be very effective for getting you more and better quality sleep, but it does depend upon the individual. Some options include;
Valeriana officinalis (valerian): can act as a mild sedative and improve both the ability to fall asleep, and the quality of sleep also. Valerian should not be taken with barbiturates, (a type of drug). If you are unsure about your medications, seek the advice of your healthcare professional or pharmacist before taking valerian.
Kava kava: is effective for insomnia. Although rare, kava may cause skin rashes and liver failure, (when taken at very high doses for a prolonged period), so get some professional advice before you use it. Kava should also not be taken with benzodiazepines. If you are unsure about your medications, seek the advice of your healthcare professional or pharmacist before taking Kava.
Other herbs which can be used naturopathically include passionflower, Jamaica dogwood, lavender flower, German chamomile, motherwort, gotu kola and skullcap.
Adenosine: this amino acid can be really helpful, especially if you are the 'wired but tired' type of person, who can't get to sleep even though you are exhausted.
Glycine: another amino acid, which helps to reduce your core body temperature, and set you off to a sound sleep.
SAFETY WARNING - PLEASE NOTE
As with any health advice from the internet, (or anywhere else), please make sure you follow the advice of your health care professional primarily. If you would like to try any of the options listed above, please talk to your healthcare practitioner, (including us), about this first. We have seen so many clients come through our clinic, who have tried to self medicate with natural therapies, and have gotten into worse problems, or have not received any benefits. There are plenty of cheap, dodgy supplements on the market these days, so please be wary as cheaper is definitely not better!
SOUNDS GREAT, NOW HOW CAN I IMPLEMENT THIS?
You can hopefully get some take away points from this information, but if you need further assistance, then we are here to help you. Seeing a qualified practitioner can take the guess work out of the equation for you, saving you time and money in the long run, and get you feeling better much faster.
You will get the benefit of our skills and expertise to correctly identify the best nutritional treatment options for you. You will be prescribed only the best quality herbs and nutrients, which means that you know that you are taking only the nutrients that you really need, and that they are the best quality available.
With guidance from us and these simple tips, you can stand up to insomnia – and get a good night's sleep!
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