Five Natural Remedies for Insomnia
We’ve all experienced it, the heightening anxiety as the clock ticks away, the tossing and turning, the mental computations that determine exactly how much sleep you’ll get if you fall asleep right now. Insomnia isn’t just a matter of sleeplessness; it’s a serious condition that acutely affects one’s quality of life, with symptoms ranging from irritability to depression to inability to concentrate. It can become chronic, and it’s reaching epidemic proportions in our society.
The causes of insomnia are varied. They can include life stress, illness, medical conditions, hormones, emotional or physical discomfort, environmental factors, and some medications, jet lag or switching from a day to night shift, and some mental illnesses.
If you’ve experienced it, you know how debilitating it can be.
Before you visit your family doctor and request a prescription sleeping aid – an option fraught with its own risks – why not consider a more natural approach?
Yoga – If you suffer from insomnia, you won’t find a better friend than yoga. Studies show that yoga is effective at lessening symptoms of depression and anxiety, two leading causes of insomnia, and certain poses are particularly effective at inducing relaxation and deep sleep. It’s also shown to be effective at improving cognitive function during the day even after a sleepless night, and therefore ideally suited for sufferers of insomnia. Experts recommend a more active session in the morning, and a more soothing session at night. The following link, ‘Beginners Yoga For Deep Relaxation, Sleep, Insomnia, Anxiety & Stress’ is one I’ve found to be very effective. It’s complete with beautiful, soothing music, and the instructor’s voice is easy to listen to.
Mediation – Meditation is experiencing a surge of popularity at the moment. I attribute this to the fact that our lives are busier than ever, and yet the quality of our living often feels lacking. We’re fortunate to have a wealth of information available to us, opening our awareness to new – or sometimes very old – methods of deep and effective relaxation. Meditation is a proven method to relax both mind and body. Its enthusiasts also claim the effects are cumulative, and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and frustration, and we all know the havoc those three culprits can wreak on sleep. For an effective meditation session, I recommend turning off your technology or television twenty to thirty minutes early, retiring to your bedroom or another quiet place free of distraction, and begin. Guided meditations are often easier for beginners, as they help focus the mind. I’ve included a link below for you to follow, or you can find your own. Don’t worry if your mind wanders or you feel silly. These are natural reactions that will melt away as you delve deeper into this soothing, restorative practice.
Acupuncture – Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been used to treat insomnia for thousands of years. If you chose to visit a doctor of TCM, you will be asked a variety of questions in order for the doctor to properly diagnose the type of insomnia from which you suffer, as acupuncture addresses the root cause of your insomnia unlike prescription sleeping aids which treat symptoms. The prescribed treatment will focus on the meridians associated with your particular condition, and can include insertion of needles, cupping, and traditional Chinese herbs. From an anecdotal perspective, I’ve found acupuncture to be powerfully relaxing, and have always responded well to treatment. Some sleep experts, however, assert that more research is needed to determine if acupuncture is truly effective in treating insomnia. If you are curious about acupuncture and how it can treat insomnia, try it out for yourself. You may find that acupuncture is the key to restoring an effective and revitalizing pattern of deep sleep.
Herbs – Your local health food store will be able to provide you with a litany of sleep-friendly herbs. There’s chamomile, lavender, passion flower, St. John’s wort, and valerian, to name a few. While most commonly available in pill or capsule form, teas have recently become popular, as well. One of my favorites, Mother’s Little Helper, can be purchased at David’s Teas. It’s a soothing blend that has become a favorite part of my nighttime ritual. Melatonin has also gained in popularity in recent years, and many find it effective. Keep in mind that drug interactions are possible with herbal remedies, and you should always consult your GP and/or pharmacist before beginning herbal or melatonin treatment.
Food – Another important thing to keep in mind is that it’s wise to stop eating around six pm, and limit all sugary or caffeine laden foods after four pm. An active digestion tract doesn’t make for restful sleep, and the stimulating effect of certain foods and beverages will virtually guarantee you won’t get one.
Atmosphere – Décor is another aspect proven to affect our well-being. If you suffer from insomnia, your bedroom may have become a psychological battleground. Just walking into it can trigger feelings of anxiety and distress. If such is the case, it’s time to turn things around. The bedroom must become your sanctuary. Create an oasis of calm by introducing soothing colors and textures. Purchase a set of lovely, eco-friendly bed sheets, light a candle, play soft music. Avoid bringing work into the bedroom, and remove the television if you have one. Make your bedroom a tech-free zone. If possible, instruct the children that once your bedroom door is closed, they mustn’t enter unless necessary.
If you find yourself unable to sleep and your anxiety beginning to heighten, get up and leave your bedroom. Engage in a soothing activity elsewhere in the house. Pick up a book – preferably a dull one – and read, meditate, or listen to soft music. Practice stretching or some sleep-friendly yoga poses. Ultimately, the goal is to eliminate all negative bedroom associations, and rewire your brain into thinking that your bedroom is a place for calm and sleeping.
Relax – Above all, be easy on yourself. You’re learning a new skill, or perhaps relearning it, and these things table time. Don’t allow yourself to fall into an anxiety trap if things don’t work right away. Anxiety can trigger an adrenaline response that will make it that much harder to fall asleep.
Set a schedule – Even if you don’t get much sleep the night before, set a schedule and stick to it. Rise at a specific time, and go to bed at a specific time. Train your body to know when it’s time to sleep. Create soothing ritual that will signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep, such as a warm bath, a cup of Mother’s Little Helper or other relaxing tea, meditation and yoga. More than likely, you’ll find your nighttime anxiety melting away, and bedtime just might become your favorite time of the day.