by Cindee Gardner, Ph.D., HD (R.Hom.), D.Hom., C.Hom.
How Homeopathy, Herbs and Nutrition Can Work Better Than Drugs Treating Sleep Disorders!
Are you among the millions of people that suffer from sleep disorders? I&rsquom not talking about have trouble getting to bed on the occasional night before an upcoming event or after ordering that extra cup of coffee too late after dinner. I&rsquom referring to true chronic insomnia: the inability to fall asleep at night or the tendency to wake several times during the night, tossing and turning for hours, unable to get comfortable or stop rehashing the days events. Chronic insomnia can have many causes, including: restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, depression, breathing difficulties, an undiagnosed infection, heart problems, fatigue, cerebral disorders, pain, psychological imbalances, drug reactions, and many other functional or organic disorders.
The first step to treating insomnia, before you start taking OTC drugs-which often have unwanted side effects- is making sure that you eliminate and/or minimize any of the following triggers that may be robbing you of your precious sleep:
1. Stress: Scheduling too many tasks or activities, excessively worrying about upcoming events, or not taking enough time to wind down and relax before bed can cause insomnia. That&rsquos why it&rsquos crucial that you avoid extra stress and limit yourself to reasonable obligations. In the modern world, we multitask without even thinking about it. It sometimes seems like anymore, it takes extra effort to only do one thing at a time.
An easy solution to combating these types of self-induced stress is to try to make a list of all of your schedules tasks that you want to complete the following day. As you jot down this information, breathe deeply and clear the thoughts from your mind. Meditation or other types of relaxation therapies can be extremely useful for clearing your mind of the next day&rsquos tasks. It also helps to listen to relaxing music as you complete this information purge.
2. Drinking/Eating caffeinated beverages, alcohol, foods or stimulant-based medications within eight hours of bedtime: Coffee, cola, heavy spices, chocolate, menstrual cramp medicines, or opiate-based pain relievers can all interfere with your natural sleep cycles. Even drinking decaf coffee or many herbal teas can trigger insomnia because they often contain small amounts of caffeine. Likewise, if you take B vitamins or Carnitine, these should be taken earlier in the day to avoid affecting your sleep patterns. Notwithstanding, certain foods can aid your sleep cycles and should be eaten prior to bedtime, such as foods rich in Tryptophans like warm milk or turkey, or foods rich in Magnesium like bananas.
3. Strenuous Exercising within three hours of bedtime: Too much activity late in the evening can actually rev up your body instead of helping it enter into its natural relaxation mode. If you are prone to insomnia, you should avoid vigorous aerobic exercise right before bed, as these activities require a cooling-off adjustment period before your body is ready for commencing its sleep cycles. Of course aerobic exercises are healthy to attempt- and can even lead to a deep enriching sleep- if you do have ample cool down time.
4. Nutritional deficiencies/overdose: If you are missing key vitamins and herbs from your diet, or if you are ingesting too many vitamins or taking them in a form that your body can&rsquot properly digest, this dietary imbalance can certainly be a trigger for insomnia. In general, it is important to take vitamins that are made from herbs or whole foods in lower doses that your body can easily assimilate. In contrast, most over-the counter supplements, as well as inorganic vitamins like calcium pills and synthetic vitamins are made from cheap ingredients that the body has a hard time processing. These inferior products can put stress on your liver and make it operate sluggishly, which can be harmful to your health and harmful to your sleep. Likewise, inorganic forms of calcium cause blockages and crystals in places like the joints, bladder, gall bladder, and on the walls of the arteries as well- all of which can negatively affect your sleep. Additionally, all of the products that your body can&rsquot digest must be expelled via the body&rsquos detoxification pathways, which also can cause insomnia. If you must take this products (something I definitely do not recommend) try to take the non-stimulating vitamins and supplements at night and the energizing ones in the daytime.
In my practice, I try to get my patients to eliminate unnecessary supplements, and then balance the ones they do take with a proper diet and with herbs that strengthen the detoxification processes of the liver, kidney and skin. This balanced approach gives them more energy during the day and a more restful sleep at night. One great supplement that is easily absorbable and beneficial to improve natural sleep cycles is Elemental Magnesium, a tasty powdered formula that makes a nice evening lemon flavored drink. I personally use this on a regular basis and take a little extra if I have an especially restless night.
5. Bad air circulation: Often, bad air circulation can lead to dusty, dirty rooms that harbor dust mites and other micro-bacteria, forcing your body to work twice as hard to breathe and leading to an overall decrease in sleep quality. In order to improve your air quality for sleeping, always allow fresh air into your bedrooms- even if it means cracking a window in winter. If possible, keep the room free of debris, cover mattresses and pillows with allergy proof covers, sleep in cotton and natural fibers, and wash your bedding in hot water often. Remove dust catchers, wipe down furniture with a natural cleaner and, right before bed, spray a few drops of a high quality essential oil (lavender and chamomile are my favorites) to freshen the air and improve your relaxation.
6. Noise/Light/Distraction: Although often overlooked when diagnosing sources of insomnia, it is crucial to be in control of the stimuli in your sleeping space, as even a small amount of unsolicited optic or aural stimulus can negatively interfere with your sleep cycle. For example, a small diffusion of light from any source—be it a radio, alarm clock, streetlight or nightlight—can interfere with the brain&rsquos ability to make its own melatonin, which can trigger an insomnia attack. Try to keep your bedroom as dark as you can try a sleep mask as an inexpensive and effective tool to improve your sleep. To drown out unwanted city sounds, play relaxing music, or use sound machines to create white noise. When using these devices, make sure that you set them with sleep timers so that you can turn off the electronic apparatus and get some of the all important deep REM sleep without any noise in your bedroom. Likewise, it is best to keep TVs out of the bedroom your slumber zone should be your sleep temple and not cluttered with unnecessary squawk boxes and equipment. In the United States, we have sadly become so saturated with media and electronics that even when we have problems sleeping, and even when those problems are substantially downgrading our quality of life, we never think to reclaim our sleep zone as a cave of silence and peace. Sometimes it is just that simple&dashdisconnect your bedroom and get in touch with your natural biorhythms and sleep needs. If you must have some stimulus in the boudoir, read a book, or enjoy some sex.
7. Lethargy/Lack of regular exercise: It&rsquos very important for the overall balance of your waking and sleeping cycle that you schedule some exercise into your routine. Without this exercise during the day, your body stores excess energy and this imbalance can come out at night in the form of restlessness and insomnia. Adding just a few moments of activity-something as simple as walking a bit during the day- is highly recommended to enhance growth hormone release and allow your body to get a restful sleep.
Once you have benefited your sleep cycle by trying the methods I have outlined above, there are many ways to improve your sleep by using natural herbs, homeopathics, vitamins and supplements. One good supplement is called Insomnitol. My patients have raved about the way this supplement acts as a natural sedative without causing the hangover drowsiness that many of the pharmaceutical grade sedatives cause. Insomnitol contains supportives that aid neurotransmitters, and neurotransmitter precursors designed to support quality sleep by encouraging the calming of brain activity. It also helps not only with the ability to get to sleep, but also to stay asleep. Additionally, it:
Provides a natural sedative effect without causing morning drowsiness
Reduces generalized anxiety symptoms and
Improves pain tolerance in chronic pain syndromes, increasing the ability to sleep through the night.
Key ingredients include:
Blend of safe nervine botanicals known for their relaxant properties and ability to reduce tension and promote sleep, without causing morning grogginess.
PharmaGABA:a new, proprietary form of GABA (body&rsquos main calming neurotransmitter), naturally manufactured through a fermentation process and considered more effective than other traditional, chemically produced synthetic forms of GABA.
L-theanine for support of calming neurotransmitter production, clinically proven to reduce stress and improve the quality of sleep.
Melatonin - hormone whose main role is in the control of the circadian (day/night) rhythms. Its production should peak at night and is instrumental for maintaining quality sleep patterns. Melatonin production declines significantly with age, often causing sleep difficulties associated with aging.
5-HTP - precursor to serotonin, supports further melatonin production during the night to help with staying asleep
Pyridoxyl-5-phospate (activated form of vitamin B6) helpful in the conversion of 5-HTP to serotonin (5-HT)
Another natural sleep enhancer that I have witnessed achieving positive results for my patients is the custom Herbal Formula called the Insomnia Combo. It&rsquos a mild simple formula that is effective if you just need a little help to relax the system at night. It is best taken 30 minutes before bedtime. I have my patients use this formula on its own or 60-90 drops in some chamomile tea.
This formula uses superior full spectrum spagyric herbs including Fresh Milky Oats, the herb well known for to help people who burn the candles at both ends, along with Valerian, Passionflower, Skullcap, Chamomile, and California Poppy. Passionflower is a natural sedative as well as an antispasmodic. It relieves tension due to spasms in the muscles. Eating oats also strengthens the nervous system. Valerian is an effective sleep inducer and relaxant. Chamomile is also an excellent sleep aid as it calms the nerves. Skullcap is effective for nervous tension and revitalizes as well as relaxes the central nervous system. This formula has a calming effect on the body, and you can even take it in the daytime if you feel a bit wound up or nightly without the worry of waking up drowsy.
Additionally, if you don&rsquot eat enough whole grains and B Rich foods, adding a good B complex earlier in the day can be helpful. Many people find Melatonin 3-6 mg. (a hormone released by the pineal gland) 30 minutes before going to bed helpful as well.
Finally, some good Homeopathic remedies chosen in the potencies below according to the person and the REASON they are not sleeping are:
Coffea in a 30c (good to try for the racing thoughts).
Carbo Veg 200c (if there are stomach problems).
Ambra Grisea (due to business and financial worries).
Ignatia 1M (due to depressing news or grief).
Arnica (after overexertion or injury or if the bed feels hard).
Arsenicum 30c (for restlessness and waking up between midnight and 2:00 am).
Kali Carb 30c(waking 2-4am, may jerk or twitch when falling asleep).
Kali Arsencium 30c (Insomnia from anxiety attacks).
Medorrhinum 200c (for sleeplessness due to sex/drugs/rock and roll-ok, lets call it late night activities and bad patterns).
Chamomile 30c (Insomnia with frequent waking, anger, crying in sleep, a good children&rsquos remedy).
Lachesis 30c alternated with Sulphur 200c (for frequent wakings from night sweats, especially in peri and during menopause).
Bio Phosphate Tissue salts are low doses, safe for all to use and can be used as well as the above.
If you still have problems, it&rsquos time to get to the cause of the insomnia. In some cases, we have to rule out hormone and metabolic imbalances (hypoglycemia, adrenal stress, hypothyroidism and other hormone imbalances. In many cases, these disorders straighten themselves out as the body gets into a better balance while doing the program.
If you&rsquod like a helping hand with this condition, and everything else has failed, it&rsquos time to seek out a professional. Sleep and recharging of your batteries are a crucial part of good health.
A Full case analysis with an experienced professional certified Homeopathic Physician is the best way to help you to find the cause of the sleep problem and guide you to the proper Homeopathics and Herbs. Whether the sleeplessness is due to genetics, acquired illnesses, physical or emotional stress, or a chronic ailment, it&rsquos best to work with a person who can monitor your progress and change the program as needed. Your Homeopath should help you with your diet and lifestyle adjustments as well. No matter what diagnosis you receive, it&rsquos always prudent to get a second opinion from another medical practitioner and then make an informed choice. Please be aware that conventional modern medicine prescribes very serious drugs for insomnia, such as antihistamines, tranquilizers, anti-depressants, and opiates which have serious side-effects ranging from drowsiness, decreased libido, amnesia, depression, anxiety, to heart attacks.
Take control of your life: beat your insomnia and recharge and refresh your system using time- tested methods and natural remedies.