Insomnia is a perceived lack of sleep, we feel that either the quantity or quality of our sleep is inadequate. Not getting a good night’s sleep can result from waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble getting back to sleep or difficulty falling asleep when you go to bed.
Insomnia can be a temporary, occasional, or chronic problem. The usual cause of disturbed sleep is anxiety, where recurrent anxious thoughts and fears kick in the production of adrenalin making us awake and alert when we really want to go to sleep.
If you are depressed, you may get to sleep but wake in the night with fear, persistent dark thoughts or sensations of impending doom.
Sleeping tablets, often prescribe by doctors, do not induce the same quality as normal sleep and they very quickly create dependancy. They should only be used for short periods in response to a specific situation, such as after a bereavement, which is disturbing normal sleep.
Sleep quality can be worsened by drinking caffeinated drinks, eating late in the evening, having a television in the bedroom or because of conditions such as night sweats during the menopause.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|5-HTP||5-HTP converts efficiently in the brain to serotonin, which is a potent tranquillising agent. Helps improve REM and deep sleep.||50 – 300mg 45 mins before bedtime|
|Magnesium||Deficiencies in the minerals magnesium and calcium may lead to irritability, tension and insomnia. Magnesium is also a cofactor for the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin, the sleep-inducing neurotransmitter.||200 – 300mg 45mins before bedtime|
|Calcium||Primarily due to their requirement for proper function of the nerves and muscles, deficiencies in the minerals magnesium and calcium may lead to irritability, tension and insomnia.||400 – 600mg 45 mins before bedtime|
|Valerian||Reduces the time it takes to fall asleep, improves sleep quality and reduces the frequency of waking up at night. It is non-habit forming and for the majority does not appear to produce excessive sleepiness or grogginess upon waking.||150 – 300mg 45 mins before bedtime|
|St John’s Wort||Relieves mild to moderate depression, anxiety and related sleep disturbances.||150 – 300mg 45 mins before bedtime|
|Passiflora||Relaxing and anti-anxiety properties. Can be taken in combination with hops and lemon balm.||as directed|
|Hops||Sedative and soothing action.||as directed|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
Going to bed too full or too hungry interferes with normal sleep patterns. Low blood sugar levels during the night can trigger early waking. Eating a heavy protein meal, late in the evening stimulates production of activity hormones, whereas eating starchy foods encourages the body to produce non-active growth and repair hormones.
Ideally base evening meals on beans, pasta, potatoes, rice, root vegetables and light proteins such as chicken and fish.
Avoid or eliminate:
• Caffeine is a stimulant and It’s effects can last up to 20 hours, so some people will have disturbed sleep patterns even when their last cup of coffee was in the morning. Besides regular coffee, black tea, green tea, cocoa, chocolate, some fizzy drinks, and many over-the-counter pharmaceuticals also contain caffeine.
• Refined carbohydrates which contain simple sugars
• Complex carbohydrates
• Vegetables (esp. dark leafy green) and fruit
• Nuts and seeds
• Whole grains
Take regular, gentle exercise.
Minimise impact of stress (use stress management techniques)
Practise relaxation techniques as part of bed-time routine or listen to the Relax to Sleep track which you can download onto an MP3 or iPod. It will talk you into a relaxed state and prepare you for a deep revitalising sleep.
Going to bed too full or too hungry interferes with sleep, Eating too late in the evening, especially animal proteins which stimulate production of activity hormones can affect sleep quality.
Food allergy may also contribute to insomnia as the immune system is triggered into activity when it should be resting.
Homoeopathic Remedies which may help. (Refer to the individual remedy for guidance on the one that is most appropriate for you.)
- Arsenicum alb
- Calcarea phos
- Kali phos
- Nux vomica
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