Insomnia, whether temporary or chronic, is something that we will all suffer from at some point in our lives. However, there are some natural therapies that will help ease the frustration, making falling asleep and staying asleep easier. Read on to learn more.
Eating a carbohydrate meal of cereal or crackers with milk before bed may help as foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat can help to boost the production of serotonin and melatonin, two brain chemicals thought to help with sleep. Try to cut out caffeine as it can have a significant effect on sleep, causing both insomnia and restlessness. Sugar may give you a burst of energy but it is a bad idea as it causes uneven blood sugar levels, leading to disrupted sleep in the middle of the night as your blood sugar levels fall. Magnesium-rich foods are good as magnesium is a natural sedative. A deficiency in magnesium can cause difficulty sleeping, constipation, muscle tremors or cramps, anxiety, irritability, and pain.
The supplements L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) can be helpful for insomnia. L-tryptophan brings on sleep by raising levels of serotonin, a chemical that promotes relaxation. 5-HTP, which is made by tryptophan in the body, or as a supplement, may be helpful in treating insomnia associated with depression. Melatonin supplements are most useful for inducing sleep in certain people, especially those with disrupted circadian rhythms or those with low levels of melatonin.
The following herbs may help with insomnia:
• Valerian – acts as a mild sedative and improves the ability to fall asleep as well as the quality of sleep.
• Kava kava – causes changes in brain wave activity that is helpful with treating insomnia.
Other helpful herbs include:
• Jamaica dogwood
• Lemon balm
• Lavender flower
• German chamomile
• Gotu kola
Homoeopathic remedies that may be helpful for insomnia include:
• Aconitum – for insomnia as a result of illness, fever, or bad dreams.
• Argentums nitricum – for children that are restless and agitated before sleep and that cannot sleep in an overly warm room.
• Arsenicum album – for insomnia after midnight due to anxiety or fear.
• Chamomilla – for insomnia caused by irritability or physical pains.
• Coffea – for insomnia due to excitable news or sudden emotions.
• Ignatia – for insomnia caused by grief or recent loss.
• Kali phosphoricum – for night terrors associated with insomnia.
• Nux vomica – for insomnia caused by anxiety, anger, irritability, or use of caffeine, alcohol or drugs.
• Passiflora – for the elderly and young children.
• Pulsatilla – for women and children that are particularly emotional and do not like sleeping alone.
• Rhus toxicodendron – for restlessness and insomnia caused by pain that occurs when a person is lying down.
Acupuncture may have a nearly 90 percent success rate for insomnia, according to some reports. Through a series of signals to the brain, acupuncture increases the amounts of chemicals such as serotonin, which promote relaxation and sleep.
Massage is long known to increase relaxation and improve sleep patterns. Massage alone does work for relaxation but it works even better with essential oils, particularly lavender. This may result in improved sleep quality, a more stable mood, increased mental capacity, and less anxiety.
The following techniques may be used on their own or in conjunction with other therapies in order to treat insomnia:
• Sleep diary – a record of sleep habits including the amount of sleep, the length of time taken to fall asleep, the quality of sleep, how often they awaken during the night, any disruption of daytime behaviours, treatments and their effectiveness, the general mood, and stress levels, can help a person to understand and thus overcome their insomnia.
• Stimulus control techniques – this means learning to see the bedroom as a place only for sleep and sexual activities. The person only goes to bed when tired and leaves the room whenever they are not asleep. They must also awaken at the same time every day, regardless of how much sleep they’ve had.
• Sleep restriction – involves improving sleep efficiency by attempting to spend at least 85 percent of time in bed asleep. The time spent in bed is decreased each week by degrees until the 85 percent goal is achieved, and then the amount of sleep is increased again on a weekly basis. For example, the initial goal may be to spend 85 percent of 6 hours in bed asleep. Once this is achieved, the patient may progress to aiming to spend 7 hours in bed asleep and so forth.
• Relaxation techniques – progressive relaxation, meditation, yoga, guided imagery, biofeedback, and hypnotherapy can all help to break the vicious cycle of insomnia by decreasing the feelings of anxiety over not being able to sleep. Studies show that these therapies significantly reduce the time taken to fall asleep, increase the total amount of sleep, and decrease the number of times the person awakens during the night.
• Cognitive behavioural therapy – re-establishes healthy sleep patterns by helping the individual to cope with his or her sleep problem. One approach, paradoxical intention, retrains a person’s fear of sleep by doing the opposite of what is causing the anxiety. Paradoxical intention is the deliberate practice of a neurotic habit or thought. This is based on the concept that a person fears actually being able to sleep. Therefore, instead of trying to sleep, the patient actually tries to stay awake. The focus then becomes on staying awake, taking the fear out of falling asleep, and the individual loses their performance anxiety about being able to get to sleep. Another approach, thought stopping, allows the person a certain amount of time to continuously think about going to bed, wearing out the anxiety associated with sleeping, and thus decreasing the likelihood of worrying at other times.
Believe it or not, the layout of your home may be affecting how you sleep. To promote relaxing sleep, try not to have the bed in the corner of a room. The corners are where energy tends to be stagnant. Avoid putting the bed next to a window as this can drain energy. Do not place the bed so that the soles of the feet, when lying face up in bed, directly face the doorway. Also, when lying in bed, you should have full view of anyone coming in the door. If you cannot do this directly, use a mirror to reflect the entrance.
There are several essential oils used in aromatherapy that can help in the treatment of insomnia. These include:
• Benzoin – sedative, warming and relaxing, it is useful for sleeplessness caused by worry, emotional exhaustion, tension, bronchitis and coughs.
• German and Roman Chamomile – calms the nerves and stomach, induces sleep, and is especially good for children. It is good for insomnia and anxiety.
• Jasmine – is relaxing, soothing, an antidepressant, sedative, aphrodisiac and expectorant. It is good for insomnia, depression, apathy, nervous exhaustion, and stress.
• Lavender – is calming, soothing to the nerves and digestion, an antidepressant, a pain reliever, and lowers blood pressure. It is used for insomnia, tension, depression, headaches, shock, and earache.
• Melissa – is relaxing and uplifting, lowers blood pressure, and helps digestion, menstruation, and the nervous system. As well as insomnia, it can be used to treat nervous tension, high blood pressure, and indigestion.
• Neroli – is very relaxing and is used for insomnia caused by anxiety, depression, irritability, panic, or shock.
• Rose – is relaxing and soothing, and is an aphrodisiac, a nervous and digestive tonic, and helps menstruation. As well as insomnia, rose is used for nervous tension, depression, headaches, and painful periods.
• Sandalwood – is relaxing and calms digestion. It is used for insomnia, depression, nervous tension, and colic.
• Sweet marjoram – is warming and comforting, and is a sedative.
• Ylang ylang – is relaxing and anti depressant.
Crystal therapy can be used in the healing of insomnia. There are several crystals that may be of help to you. Garnet brings order to chaos and helps to regenerate energy. When used for insomnia, it is not a stimulant. Hold garnet in the hand or place on the belly button or top of the pubic bone to provide grounding due to a lack of self worth, personal security, and to neutralise nervous energy. Jade is physically and mentally relaxing and provides a soothing vibration and sense of wellbeing to the entire body, especially when there has been a health concern. Wear it as a necklace or pendant for a few hours before sleeping in order to promote relaxation.
Amethyst reduces headaches and other pain and it also helps to view and transform issues into manageable pieces. Amethyst is actually a master healer and can be used to regulate imbalances in your life. Place a single amethyst piece or cluster on your heart chakra for 15 minutes prior to bedtime. You can leave it on as you sleep, letting the crystal roll off on its own, or use some tape to keep it in place.
Hematite is physically and mentally calming. It balances yin yang energy and dissolves negativity. Lepidolite is the anti stress crystal and helps to dissolve accumulated tension and to alleviate despondency. It also helps with accepting change and promotes feelings of wellbeing and trust. Sodalite is a crystal of peace that reduces mental chatter and confusion. Lapis lazuli provides mental clarity and awareness, and used before bedtime, helps resolve unfinished mental business. Moonstone is an ancient remedy for calming insomnia that is caused by emotional distress, as it helps to reduce emotional tension.