Ah, sleep – a full eight hours, just think of it.
If you can’t, you’re not alone; in fact there is a pretty good chance that you may even be a card-carrying member of the Ranks of the Restless. Allow us to sound the alarm on that which plagues you: insomnia.
A common condition in which one has repeated difficulty with sleep initiation or quality, insomnia lurks in the darkness, affecting overall well-being and, if left unaddressed, can lead to severe depression and even chronic pain. The frequency of insomnia increases with age and affects more women than men as well as individuals with high levels of stress.
“Insomnia can occur acutely with a known stressful situation and can also be associated with learned insomnia, insomnia due to medical condition, substance abuse, mental disorder or inadequate sleep hygiene,” explains Swapna Parikh, M.D., of Kaiser Permanente’s Sleep, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in Sacramento and Roseville. “With learned or conditioned insomnia the person has sleep-preventing behaviors. These people focus on and worry about their inability to fall asleep, which results in more anxiety.”
Deborahe Prock, N.D., a naturopathic practitioner and master herbalist with the Smith Flat House Center for Health in Placerville elaborates on this idea: “Ninety percent of your health is how you feel emotionally, and I find many cases of chronic insomnia are related to emotions,” she explains. “We are able to avoid them during the day but they will resurface when we are tired because our defenses are down.”
Although persistent symptoms of insomnia may well indicate a serious medical problem that requires the attention of a physician, most interrupted shut-eye can be linked to lifestyle and environment. So before you pop another sleeping pill, which should not be a habitual occurrence, try one of the following, expert-recommended natural alternatives:
- Adjust the environment. Prepare your atmosphere for sleep – no bright lights, no noise, no wildly varying temps.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages after mid-day. Do not smoke and limit alcohol consumption (solid rules of thumb for all-around good health).
- Draw a hot bath. Infuse it with healing oils that calm the mind, soothe the muscles and prepare the body for rest (lavender is always reliable).
- Change your eating habits. Do not eat in bed or go to bed hungry, and do not overeat before hitting the sheets.
- Exercise on a regular basis. Doing so 5-6 hours before bedtime is optimal.
- Eyes off the clock! Nothing good comes from obsessively staring at the clock and watching the hours fly by, reminding you of the sleep you are missing, thus increasing the anxiety keeping you awake.
- Listen to your body. Sleepy at 6 p.m. on Friday night? Cancel your plans and go to bed, you need the rest.
- Regulate your inner alarm. Maintain a regular sleep schedule that re-trains the mind to switch from activity to sleep.
- Unplug. Work and sleep make strange bedfellows so enough with the iPad in bed. Reduce outside stimulation and remove all electronics from the bedroom.
- Try herbal-based homeopathic sleep aids. Those with chamomile, passion flower, or Rooibos tea are best.