- Alternative & Natural Medicine
Overcome Insomnia, Naturally
By Joan Whetzel
It's not uncommon to have a sleepless or restless night from time to time. Tossing and turning. Checking the clock every 20 or 30 minutes. Mind racing. Just flat out unable to relax and fall asleep. Then, getting up the next morning feeling exhausted. Insomnia is a common malady, with many sufferers unable to function well the next day. The symptoms are few and the causes can fall into one of three categories: physical, psychological, or temporary due to events or outside factors. While sleeping pills are available with a prescription, these drugs are not the only means for getting a good night's sleep. There are some natural remedies that are fairly effective.
Symptoms of Insomnia
The symptoms for insomnia vary from person to person and may also fluctuate in severity from one episode to the next. Symptoms usually include one or more of the following:
- · Difficulty falling asleep which may involve lying bed for one or more hours, tossing and turning, and delays between the time you lay down and the time you finally fall asleep.
- · Waking up (bad dream, need to go to the restroom, noise) and having difficulty falling back to sleep.
- · Waking up too early, before the alarm clock goes off, or earlier than you intended to wake up.
- · Feeling tired or exhausted upon waking, as though you didn't get enough sleep during the night.
- · Getting up the next day feeling, sleepy, anxious, cranky, or feeling as though you can't accomplish the tasks that you need to take care of during the day.
Causes of Insomnia
The causes of Insomnia may be physical, psychological, or due to temporary events or factors.
- Hormonal Changes in Women. Hormonal changes include PMS, menstruation pregnancy, pre-menopause, and peri-menopause.
Decreased Melatonin Levels. Melatonin is produced naturally in the body, and tend to decrease with age until, by the time we reach 60 years, our body is producing very little of this chemical.
Medical Conditions. Medical conditions that interfere with sleep include allergies, arthritis, asthma, heart disease, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, and Parkinson's
- Pain and Discomfort. Illness and injuries can cause pain or discomfort which can disturb sleep.
- Genetics. Sometimes insomnia runs in families, though the role genetics plays has yet to be fully identified.
- Sleep Disorders. The main sleep disorder is Sleep Apnea, a condition in which the sufferer has episodes where he or she stops breathing while sleeping. Another condition involves periodic and involuntary leg and arm movements in a twitching or jerking motion.
- Anxiety. This condition makes people feel increased levels of tension and apprehension. They may feel helpless or vulnerable, or they may feel afraid or worried. These feelings may be caused by or influenced by situations at work, relationships with family or friends, or financial problems, to name a few.
- Stress. Stress involves a person's inability to cope effectively with factors (emotional, physical, social, economic) that necessitate a response or a change on their part.
Depression. This psychological condition is a mood disturbance which causes the sufferer to exhibit feelings of sadness, despair or loss of hope, and discouragement or a pessimistic viewpoint
- · Adjustment Problems. Making adjustments to events that have disrupted your life can cause insomnia. These events include: illness, death of a loved one, weather changes, and arguments with others.
- · Jet Lag. Travelling across time zones - whether by air, train, or auto, can cause temporary episodes of insomnia as the body tries to adjust to a different schedule.
- · Working Night Shifts or Long Shifts. People who work night shifts - and aren't naturally night people - or who work shifts that are longer than the usual 8 hours, may find that they are physically too tired to fall asleep.
- · Medications. Some medications, or medication interactions, interfere with sleep patterns.
- · Too Much Caffeine and Alcohol. Caffeine is a stimulant that interferes with sleep. Alcohol in moderation sometimes help people relax enough to fall asleep, but too much often leads to ragged sleep patterns. It may also cause a person to sleep soundly for a brief period then wake up and be unable to get back to sleep after the alcohol has worn off.
- · Environmental Factors. Thesefactors include unfamiliar and unexpected noises, extreme temperatures (too hot or too cold), or being in a strange and unfamiliar environment (hotel, travelling, someone else's home).
Natural Insomnia Remedies
Occasionally, prescription sleeping pills may be used to conquer insomnia. But long term use is dangerous as these sleep aids tend to be addictive. There are a number of natural remedies that are non-addictive.
- · Herbal teas such as chamomile.
- · Valerian Root or Melatonin, over-the-counter herbal remedies.
- · Relaxation techniques
- · Meditation
- · Visualizations
- · Yoga
- · Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- · Avoiding caffeine or cutting it off altogether.
- · Avoiding or cutting off alcohol
- · Cutting down on sweets which increases energy levels.
- · Eating foods that aid in sleep like foods with tryptophan, carbohydrate snacks like whole grain crackers, and foods high in magnesium.
- · Replacing worn mattresses with something more comfortable.
- · Wearing sleep wear that won't tangle up around the legs, feel binding, or make you feel too hot or too cold.
- · Keeping the room cool enough or warm enough.
- · Adding or removing blankets as necessary.
- · Keep a regular schedule for going to bed.
- · Set up a routine for activities in preparation for going to bed - shower, brushing teeth, going to the restroom, reading a book for 30 minutes.
- · Keep a sleep journal and write down all the things that have helped you get to sleep and all the things that interfered with your sleep patterns.
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