Coping with Insomnia
Most of us go through periods at some stage in our lives, where we are unable to sleep for a variety of reasons – feeling stressed about life’s problems, excited about a forthcoming event, getting our body clock’s out of whack after a fun weekend, etc. This is normal and usually it will eventually catch up with us, and then our bodies will make up for lost time. However, if the sleeplessness goes on for a prolonged period of time, it will begin to cause problems in our health and interfere with our daily lives, and this is known as insomnia.
There are 2 types of insomnia – primary and secondary. It is known as primary insomnia when there doesn’t appear to be any apparent, associated physical problem and secondary, when it is due to some physical illness i.e. depression, heartburn, alcohol abuse, having to wake up for pain medication for a medical condition, etc.
I’m going to be discussing primary insomnia – possible causes and possible cures.
We are all unique and require varying amounts of sleep. Some of us are happy with four to six hours per night, while others may need ten. I’m sure you will be aware of your own sleep pattern and you will know you have primary insomnia when you are unable to fall asleep or stay asleep for enough hours, for several nights running. This then begins to interfere with your daily life. You will begin to feel sleepy during the day time and since the brain recharges while you sleep, you will find that The Lost Book of Herbal you aren’t able to concentrate, will have difficulties driving, poor memory function, etc.
Another very important function that goes on during those sleeping hours is that your body’s cells are repairing themselves, therefore, when your body is not getting enough rest, then your immune system is also down, leaving you prone to other infections and illnesses.
There are possible factors that can prevent you from falling asleep and you should make sure that you avoid these:
- No matter how tired you feel in the daytime, don’t take naps. Forcing yourself to stay awake will of course make your body more tired by bed time.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before going to bed as these are all stimulants and of course, will keep you awake.
- Try to observe the rule ‘don’t dine after nine’. Preferably, don’t eat at least two hours before bedtime.
- Don’t exercise either for at least two hours beforehand. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which give you more energy. Do something relaxing instead – read a book; listen to some soft music, etc.
Things to do:
- Do set a time every night for going to bed and have a warm bath (or shower) beforehand.
- Go to bed at a set time every night and if you are unable to fall asleep within half an hour, then get up and do something relaxing again – the aforementioned book or soft music.
- Keep some paper and a pen by your bed. If something is bothering you, then write down whatever is on your mind. This way you are transferring the troublesome thoughts from your mind onto paper and you will feel better.
(If you know that it is stress/worry that is causing your insomnia, then you should also consider going for some natural health and relaxation at least once a month e.g. reiki, massage, reflexology, etc.)
If none of the above helps, then you have a couple of natural options – relaxation CDs and herbal remedies – try one or both.
Relaxation CDs come in various forms – there are those which talk you through, step by step to a complete state of relaxation, those that just have soothing sounds (e.g. waterfalls and birds singing), meditation CDs, etc. Have a browse around the music store or look online and see which one you think you would prefer.
As for natural remedies, other than the chamomile tea, there are two others that immediately spring to mind – Valerian and Melatonin. Valerian is the only one that I have tried. It’s herbal and therefore completely natural, but like every other sedative, it may make you a little dizzy and you should use caution if having to drive or operate machinery next day. I would also start off with just one tablet as you may find this is enough for you.
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the body and it controls our sleeping cycle. The body’s production of melatonin decreases with age and if this could be a contributing factor, then you may want to try Melatonin supplements.
Both of these products should be available in your local health store or pharmacy.
If neither of these products works for you, then there are a few over-the-counter drugs that you can buy from the pharmacy, which may help, however, if you have any underlying health problems, particularly heart problems, then you should consult your doctor before taking these medications.