It seems that almost everyone I have spoken to over the last week has had problems sleeping, whether it is in getting to sleep, waking during the night or, for those that are sleeping, having vivid crazy dreams. Insomnia, or sleeplessness, can be either an inability to fall asleep or waking up through the night before the expected waking time. As anyone who has ever experienced a poor nights sleep knows, the impact of sleeplessness shows up the next day as a reduced ability to concentrate, lethargy, and fragile emotions.
The body actually requires sleep just as it does water, food and oxygen in order to function. Without sleep we would literally go crazy. When insomnia is long term (more than 3-4 weeks) it can have a major impact on your health, leading to memory problems, depression, irritability, with an increased risk of heart disease.
Tossing and turning for hours on end, worrying about not being able to get to sleep, or being unable to switch off can be very frustrating, and can even worsen the insomnia. The more you try to sleep, the more frustrated you get and the harder sleep becomes
For many people insomnia is an ongoing issue that has some pretty big repercussions on their life. While it can be caused by many things for a large number it is often the result of poor sleep behaviour, sometimes resulting from patterns established during childhood.
There are quite a number of poor lifestyle habits that can actually be the cause or sleeplessness, or else worsen it. Here are a few of them that you may need to address:
· Going to bed at different times each night
· Daytime napping
· Poor sleeping environment, such as too much noise or light – your bedroom should be a ‘haven of calm’
· Spending too much time in bed while you are still awake
· Working evening or night shifts
· Not getting enough exercise
· Using the television, computer, or smartphone in bed
The use of some medications and drugs may also affect sleep.
- Alcohol for instance may help you fall asleep initially but generally leads to waking up through the night.
- Too much caffeine is well known as a cause of insomnia, especially when it is drunk later in the day.
- There are a number of medications, including cold medicines and diet pills that can cause poor sleep. Be very careful about self-prescribing unless you know exactly what the effects of what you are taking are, as some herbs and supplements can lead to insomnia.
- Heavy smoking can be a problem.
- If you take sleeping pills regularly it is easy to become used to them, so they stop working as well as they did initially.
In addition to lifestyle habits there are a number of other physical, social, and mental health issues that can affect sleep patterns, including: anxiety disorders, Bipolar Disorder, certain medical conditions such as thyroid disease, feeling sad or depressed, physical pain or discomfort, stress whether it is short-term or long-term.
However sometimes there is just no obvious reason for sleeplessness.
We have our own inbuilt body clock called the circadian rhythm, that regulates our sleep patterns. This is what makes us fall asleep at night and wake up again the next morning. The body clock is easily thrown out by overseas flying, rotating shift work, or even a few late nights. When your body clock gets disrupted you experience symptoms like jet lag.
Taking sleeping pills to help you sleep often leaves you with a ‘hangover’ effect which is something you will avoid by using natural cures instead.
RESET YOUR BODY CLOCK NATURALLY
There are a number of very effective natural ways that you can reset the body clock so you can get back to good sleeping patterns. Here are a few that have proven success.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland of the brain which helps to relax us so that we can fall asleep. It is quite well-known for its ability to rebalance your body clock and is often used to treat jet lag. It is usually released in the absence of light, but we need to have spent some time in daylight in order to make enough in the first place. This is why it is recommended that you spend time outside after you have flown a long-haul flight. Taking a melatonin supplement can help to reset the body clock. But if you prefer to use food as medicine you can address melatonin deficiency with foods that boost serotonin (melatonin is made from serotonin) such as raw cacao , magnesium, fish oils and herbal tea containing hops, chamomile, ashwaganda and lemon balm.
Homeopathy: Homeopathy has a marvelous history treating insomnia. There are many Homeopathic remedies that work to reset the body’s sleep patterns, calm your mind and get restful sleep. While there are a number of combination mixes available over the counter, the ones that have the deepest and most long lasting effect are those that are prescribed individually by a Homeopath to suit your individual insomnia symptoms.
Some that a Homeopathic practitioner may consider for insomnia are Arsenicum Album – useful when anxiety, fear, or worry prevents sleep; Coffea – when you are unable to sleep because your thoughts are too active or you are excited about a surprise, or good or bad news; Nux-vomica – when very irritable, waking between 2-4am with racing thoughts only to fall asleep again about daybreak, with much stress caused by overstudy or work; Ignatia – sleepless after disappointment or grief; and Passiflora – for restless sleeplessness with exhaustion – the choice between these and many more would depend on these, and all the other symptoms you were experiencing. But check with your Homeopath as the remedies need to be selected and taken according to homeopathic principles
Herbs: There is a range of herbs that are very useful to induce sleep. Valerian root is one that is quite well known and often used. It is quite powerful and often used when changing time zones for fast results. Valerian is useful when you have difficulty staying asleep. Some people however get the opposite effect from valerian and can get hyped-up after taking it. It is good combined with Passionflower which helps to fall asleep initially. Some of the others that can be helpful are Kava which is again available after having been taken off the market for a while, can be used for short-term relief. It is good to relieve anxiety in the moment. Scullcap is great to use when you are very hyped-up and just can’t slow down, or are experiencing anxiety and are emotionally stressed, and you can use it for longer periods.
Aromatherapy: Using Essential Oils can help bring on sleep. While there are a number of oils that induce sleep, lavender has long been recognized as being the ‘Queen of Calm’, and lavender essential oil will effectively calm down overwrought nervous systems. A few drops added to a warm bath before bed or on a cotton ball under the pillow should bring on sleep.
SETTING A PERFECT SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Make sure your sleeping environment is calm and serene. THE KEY IS TO SWITCH OFF. Leave your worries at the bedroom door. Switch off all gadgets – phones (put them in flight mode), iPad, laptop, TV etc. Take some time to settle down and relax. Set aside 30 minutes before bed as ‘unwind and de-stress time’ – read a good book, wite your journal, listen to soft music – anything that you find relaxes you and does not involve an electronic gadget. Remember, exposure to artificial light (electronics) before going to bed increases your alertness and suppresses melatonin and so will keep you awake.
So, here’s to a great sleep.
What are some of the ways you deal with sleeplessness?
All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site.
- How Much Sleep Does Your Teenager Actually Need? (plushbeds.com)
- Eat your way to a good night sleep (time4sleep.co.uk)
- How Light Affects Sleep (plushbeds.com)