Insomnia can be devastating to both the body and the mind. There is nothing worse then lying in bed awake, hours after you should be sleeping. I feel like more and more I am hearing of people having trouble with the necessity of sleep. There are many things an individual can do to help relieve the symptoms of insomnia but until the root of the problem is addressed, insomnia will always be an issue.
There are two categories of insomnia. The first form is sleep onset insomnia where there is difficulty falling asleep. This may be due to anxiety and stress, environmental issues, emotional issues, phobia of sleep, the fear of not being able to fall asleep, pain, caffeine, alcohol and/or drugs. The second category is maintenance insomnia where the is frequent or early waking. This can be due to sleep apnoea, pain, drugs and alcohol, hypoglycemia or depression. Participation in a sleep study may be needed to rule out any serious conditions.
There are many herbs that can be taken to help with insomnia. If the problem is long term it is important to help build and tonify the nervous system. Herbs that are nervous system restoratives include: American, Asian and Siberian Ginseng, Oatstraw and berry, Flowering knotweed (He Shou Wu), stinging nettles and Schisandra berries. For symptom relief herbs such as lavender, chamomile, hops, oats, passion flower, skullcap and lemon balm can all be used as a tincture or as a tea 30 minutes before bed to promote rest. Valerian is also a common herb used in cases of insomnia, however it can be habit forming and in some people it has an energizing effect. You may wish to brew extra tea is you have maintenance insomnia and continually wake up in the middle of the night. Drink this tea when you wake up or pulse dose additional tincture.
Essential Oils can be very helpful when you are unable to fall asleep. I find oils such as Roman Chamomile, lavender, sweet marjoram, neroli and valerian very helpful at bed time. You can purchase an electric diffuser that can help vaporize the oil. In school I heard of a man who had an awful time trying to sleep but he had also lost his olfactory function and couldn't smell anything. He bought an electric diffuser and vaporized lavender essential oil and although he could not smell, he experienced the best night sleep he had in a long time. Essential oils can also be sprinkled on you pillow or mixed with water in a spray bottle and misted of the bed before bed time.
There is a long list of things that many individuals have found helpful when dealing with insomnia. It's important to find what changes in your routine work for you. Listed are a few lifestyle changes:
· Meditation before bed can help calm the mind and stop racing thoughts.
· No TV 1/2 hour before bed time. Too much visual stimulation makes it hard for your system to turn off when you are ready for bed.
· Expressing your anxieties and worries can help to ease stress and help individuals to sleep. Try not to keep worries bottled up. If you can't express these issues, how do you expect to resolve them?
· Certain prescriptions can cause insomnia and may need to be taken earlier in the day rather than before bed.
· Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every day can help the body to establish natural rhythms and can help reduce any sleep issues.
· Avoid sleeping medication. Pharmaceutical can promote the wrong type of sleep, reducing REM sleep and leaving you feeling groggy and exhausted.
· Avoid alcohol. It may initially help you fall asleep but it can disrupt your sleep cycle later in the night.
· Exercise during the day helps to tire the body and the mind, making it easier to fall asleep at bed time.
· Take a warm bath before bed. If you include a few drops of lavender essential oil it can be even more beneficial.
· For dinner, eat foods that are high in tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin which helps regulate sleep.
· Vitamin B3, B6 and magnesium all help with the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.
· Avoid foods high in tyramine a precursor to norepinephrine which is a brain stimulant.
Traditional Chinese Medicine really seeks to find the cause of the problem and address it. Insomnia is just a symptom within a bigger picture. Kidney Yin deficiency, blood deficiency and Liver Fire are just a of the bigger syndromes that might include a symptom of insomnia. If insomnia is an ongoing problem for you, I suggest making an appointment with an herbalist or with an acupuncturist that is also studied in herbal medicine. This way the root of the problem can be addressed producing long term relief.