Sleep is vitally important, more and more evidence showing it is essential for general health and wellbeing as well as enhancing immunity and decreasing risks for chronic disease. Unfortunately it’s not always that easy and an increasing number of people suffer with insomnia or other sleep disorders.
I started to write this post and realised there is just so so much to say about sleep, so bear with me and please come back over the next couple of days to continue reading the saga.
Sleep is categorised into two types- Non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and REM sleep. During a normal sleep cycle we start in a non-REM Sleep and cycle through different stages until we get to REM sleep. This whole sleep cycle lasts 70-100 minutes for the first one, and 90-120 minutes for later cycles. Dreaming is most associated with REM sleep and it may also be associated with memory consolidation.
Also during sleep there are changes in blood pressure and heart rate, respiratory rate, and changes to hormone secretion, kidney function and blood flow to the brain.
Sleep and wake processes are a complex interplay of neurons and messages to different areas, as well as the effect of Circadian rhythms.
Equally insomnia is just as complex. There can be multiple contributing factors, which can make solving sleep problems really difficult!
Let’s talk about some of those contributing factors. We will talk about these today, homeopathic remedies tomorrow and supplements the next day.
Anxiety and depression – a huge contributing factor to insomnia. In some cases it is hard to pinpoint which one came first, as lack of sleep can and does affect mood. This is also multifactorial and needs multiple strategies. If this is contributing to your insomnia I recommend making an appointment for constitutional homeopathic treatment, and/or seeing a Doctor, Naturopath, Psychologist or other health professional to support you in your journey. One strategy that has good evidence for helping reinforce the positive pathways in the brain is gratitude diaries. Every night write down (or consciously think of) three things you are grateful for for that day. This does not have to be a big thing. You may have had a terrible day, but you can still be grateful for small things like clean water to drink, shoes that fit and a roof over your head. Making this part of your daily practice can reinforce those positive feelings before bed and rewire your brain.
For more acute anxiety or when something is playing on your mind, it may help to acknowledge this. For some people writing this down may help get it out of your head, for others this is not so effective and a homeopathic remedy may help calming this down instead.
Sleep Hygiene – this is a catch phrase for the boring routine stuff. Do you go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time? Do you have a before bed routine? Just like how you can drive on autopilot as you have done it so many times before, your brain learns routines and then sticks to them. If you have the same routine before bed and the same bedtime it is a prompt that it is sleep time. This is a major problem for shift workers as they cannot keep that routine every night. If this is something you need to work on, pick a bedtime and a time to wake up and stick to those. Find a routine that works for you, whether it involves a shower or bath, reading a book or something else. For shift workers try to keep those routine things the same, even with a different time of day.
Screens and melatonin – unfortunately to all those of us with smart phones and tablets, LCD screens degrade Melatonin. The recommendation is to have no screen time for 2 hours before bed. (Ironically I am writing this section at 10pm prior to going to sleep). This is not always so easy to achieve. There is some suggestion that blue light glasses can help with this – but the evidence is unclear.
EMF – electromagnetic frequency radiation is ubiquitous. While the argument that we have always been exposed to radiation (like from the sun) is true, the constant hum of electrical circuits, the wifi and 4G (soon to be 5G) all affects our own personal electromagnetic field. Consider where your bed is. Does it come up against a wall with appliances running on the other side or the electricity smart meter? Do you have devices running through the night in your room? Consider turning off your wifi at night and putting cell phones onto sleep mode. Using an Orgonite device to protect against EMF can also make a difference. I like the variety available from Life energy designs
https://www.lifeenergysolutions.com/a2802 and I own a pe.bal for the house as well as ki-bals for car keys and kids’ school bags.
Exercise – a sedentary lifestyle where you do not do enough exercise can contribute to insomnia. Exercise is generally beneficial, but aerobic or cardio exercise in the 2-3 hours prior to bed can cause problems. If you can only exercise in the evening a less intense exercise form like Tai Chi, Pilates or Yoga is probably a better choice. The relaxation at the end will also help getting into a sleepy mood.
The Chinese Body Clock – in Traditional Chinese Medicine, every hour of the day is associated with a different organ system. At night, if you wake at a specific time it can be an indicator that you need support in that area. The common waking times are 1-3am, associated with the liver, and 3-5am, associated with the lungs.
Come back tomorrow to find out about homeopathic remedies that may help.
If you would like help and support with your insomnia, addressing lifestyle, homeopathy and supplements message me for a consultation so we can get to the root cause. Depending on the nature of your situation it may take several consultations to address.