Author: Monica Costa-Moreno, A.P.
The man or woman in the movies who is seen having a drink, smoking a cigarette, and unable to sleep while thinking about their lover has romanticized insomnia. We know better now.
We are in the business of health and wellness, therefore, we do not smoke or over drink, and definitely do not lose sleep over trivial things…or do we?
First, let’s talk about the difference between the types of insomnia and restless sleep (known as sleep disturbance). I have seen in my practice three distinct types of insomnia that I outline below.
1. The “I can’t fall asleep” insomnia. Here, we are exhausted, go to bed, and just lie in bed desiring desperately to fall asleep, but the hours go by and we cannot. As soon as the body gives up and falls asleep, we hear the alarm clock go off and realize we have had just a few brief hours of sleep, if any at all.
2. The “I fall asleep but wake up during the night” insomnia. This type allows us to fall asleep only to wake us up about two hours after we fall asleep and keep us up for awhile. Or worse, it wakes us up several times a night.
3. The “I fall asleep, but wake up at 3 a.m. and can’t go back to sleep” insomnia. In this instance, we fall asleep and are able to remain asleep, but wake up much too early and not get nearly as many hours of sleep as we need.
Then there are other issues with sleep disorders. We may fall asleep and remain asleep, but toss and turn so much that it causes restless sleep, and we wake up as if we had gone to the gym all night. We may also have dream disturbed sleep, in which we spend all night dreaming and our brain does not really rest.
There are several reasons why you may not be able to sleep soundly. If the problem is physical discomfort or pain, check your mattress – is it too firm or too soft? Find one that suits your personal level of comfort and provides support for your spine. If you suffer from low back pain, try sleeping with a pillow under your thighs if you sleep on your back, or in between them if you sleep on your side. Refrain from sleeping on your belly. If you are one to sleep with two or more pillows under your neck, limit them to just one for support. You may try taking Arnica, Berberis or Rhus Tox homeopathic remedies to help you with pain and inflammation, thus providing a better night's sleep. You can also take warm baths with Epson salt right before going to bed.
If your sleep problem is due to worries, concerns or emotional factors, first tackle the issues that arise in your mind when you try to fall asleep by managing them with the help of a therapist or coach. Some people go to sleep thinking of what they have left undone that day, or what they need to get done the next. The question is, can you really get those things resolved at the moment of bedtime? Most of the time, the answer is no.
Some of us have the tendency to overbook our days or take a bigger bite than we can chew. No matter how many things we need to get done, the fact of the matter is that the day only has a certain amount of hours. Plan and set your goals for each day understanding this. You cannot possibly do in one 24-hour day what will realistically take 48 hours to accomplish. Others do the complete opposite – procrastinate on items that need to get done until the deadline creeps up and causes unnecessary stress, which in turn leads to insomnia. Again, planning your tasks and allowing time for rest is key to achievement and a good night’s sleep.
For this type of insomnia, you may try Chamomile, Passiflora and Hypericum in herbal or homeopathic form. Valerian root in small doses may also be effective, but large doses may cause nightmares and can become habit forming.
If you have recently had a child (or have small children), you may be sleep deprived. This causes your nervous system to go on overload, making you feel irritated, overwhelmed and exhausted. If possible, take naps during the day, and ask for help during nights when feeding or care of a child is required. Taking turns for feedings is very beneficial. Herbal remedies are not recommended while you breastfeed, but homeopathic remedies have no known side effects.
One of my children was very restless at bedtime, and I came up with a ritual that may work for yours as well. We would turn off all electronics at least one hour before bedtime, read a happy book (no mysteries or monsters), sip on a warm cup of Chamomile tea with milk and play some soft instrumental music. It takes a bit of patience and practice, but I assure you, the results are worth it! You may also try placing a couple of drops of Lavender oil on the child’s pillow.
Acupuncture works wonders for generalized insomnia and aches and pains that may impair your sleep. Coaching helps you organize yourself and avoid unnecessary stress.
Sleep is key to our nervous system and our wellbeing. There are many natural ways to go about achieving a good night’s sleep. Give them a try.