Sure, drugs will knock you out for the night, but you could become dependent on them.
So you can't fall asleep? Your thoughts float or spin in your head, even if you feel very tired?
Or you can't stay asleep as long as you desire? You wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes several times, you go to the bathroom, you think, you stare in the dark, your mind starts racing again, you worry about something, you mentally review your to-do list for tomorrow, you brainstorm about the presentation you are working on?
If it has been going on for several days already, you can't wake up either, because your system does not rest and rejuvenate properly and is exhausted. You feel sluggish, sleepy, unable to focus or memorize easy things, experience muscular and mental fatigue. You might even feel irritable and depressed, have double vision, hallucinations.
Sleep deprivation and sleep of poor quality (not reaching stage 3 or delta sleep which has restorative properties) are to be taken very seriously. Insomnia is actually both a sign and a symptom that can accompany several sleep, medical, and psychological (even psychiatric) disorders.
About one third of adults complain about occasional insomnia and 10 percent suffer from true insomnia. This disorder is more common among women and the elderly. So you are not alone. It is a major health issue.
Firstly, try to figure out what could be the cause(s) of your sleep problems:
- Changes in the sleep environment or the timing of sleep?
- Stress? That is usually culprit #1 …
- Another disorder? Magnesium deficiency or low levels, restless legs, sleep apnea, excessive night time urination, major depression, all alter your sleep. You may need the help of (a) professional healthcare provider to nail it down.
After you figure this out, you can try to work on the causes if you have control over them.
In the meantime, you need to sleep, fast.
Of course, the easy path is to use hypnotic medication. But that should be your plan B and only for a very short period of time (a few days) because the body develops tolerance to its hypnotic effects, and because this medication is known to be addictive (think Marilyn Monroe, Heath Ledger, John Galliano, Robbie Williams, Michael Jackson and so many more…).
Some people turn to alcohol but who likes to wake up hung over? Not to mention the potential addiction. I won’t even talk about marijuana. It’s illegal, makes you stupid and it fries your brains on the long run.
Melatonin is a human hormone that is increasingly popular as a supplement to promote sound sleep, especially in people who travel between time zones or who work odd hours. People report mixed success with this product; some people find real benefit and others feel nothing from its use, while a smaller percentage of users experience side effects such as nervousness and increased insomnia.
Your plan A is natural solutions, that address the cause of the problem (see above) and beyond. Many have proved to provide long lasting improvement to insomnia.
Valerian is recommended for those type of people who have a hard time falling asleep, because it shortens sleep latency. It also reduces nighttime waking. (Note: Valerian can cause horrible nightmares)
Chamomile is a very well known sedative herb. Chamomile tea is commonly used in Europe and South America for insomnia and restlessness combined with irritability. It is safe for children and adults alike. Try 1 cup two or three times per day. Chamomile oil can also be put in bath water (5-6 drops) to calm nerves, diluted to 2% to make an excellent massage oil, or used as an inhalant.
Lavender is a gentle strengthening tonic for the nervous system. It can be absorbed in different ways:
- infused in water (1 cup two or three times per day).
- 3-10 drops of lavender oil added to a bath before bedtime are recommended for persons with sleep disorders.
- the oil may be used as a compress or massage oil (10 drops essential oil per ounce of vegetable oil).
- the oil can be simply inhaled.
Hops (a major flavoring in beer!) has been used as a sedative since the early 1900s, specifically for insomnia due to worry or nerve weakness. Try 1 cup two or three times per day. Hops pillows are sometimes used for mild insomnia.
Passion-flower is an important herb for insomnia caused by mental worry, overwork, or nervous exhaustion. It is an excellent sedative with no side effects even when used in large doses.
Relaxation therapy and EEG biofeedback are efficient to reduce stress. A major pro with relaxation therapy is that once you learn relaxation techniques, you can use them for the rest of your life. Cognitive behavioral therapies (changing maladaptive thinking to change effect and behavior) are good treatments too.
But they all require the help (and paying of) professional practitioners.
Numerous clinical studies show that acupuncture is efficient, even months after the treatment, to cure insomnia. Consult an acupuncturist. Several sessions might be necessary. The benefits of acupuncture is that it is a holistic medicine and it works on the deep levels of your system.
However, if you:
- can’t find the right herbs or essential oils,
- don’t have time to make herbal teas,
- don’t have the budget to pay for therapists,
- don’t like having needles inserted in your skin,
then rejoice: Acupressure is your solution. Acupressure uses the same points as acupuncture, only you press on them instead of inserting needles. So the beauty of acupressure is that you can apply it to yourself! [Read more on next page...]
Of course you need to be told what points to stimulate and how to locate them on your own body. Get that information directly from a certified source (practitioner, TCM official website, etc), not from a Pinterest board or a Facebook friend of a friend of a friend.
Should you be interested to give it a try, this book gives simple explanations and clear illustrations and you can learn in a matter of minutes, to sleep better and finally get the rest you need and deserve. All you need is your hands.
This article was originally published at Zen Attitude Wellness. Reprinted with permission from the author.