Insomnia can be a very difficult and frustrating problem, and it can have a significant impact on your health. Many people think that prescription medications or over-the-counter sleep aids are the only methods available to manage insomnia, but there are several natural treatments that can help.
What Causes Insomnia
Primary Insomnia is referred to when there is no underlying cause.
Sometimes there is an underlying cause such as a general health condition, anxiety, depression or sleep disorder. This is diagnosed as secondary insomnia.
Insomnia may be made worse by:
- poor sleep habits (sleep hygiene)
- substances including caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other drugs
- stress caused by work, financial problems, relationship issues or grief
- medical issues, in particular conditions causing pain, hormone changes (e.g. hot flushes and night sweats during menopause , and breathing, urinary or digestive problems
- mental health problems — insomnia can be a symptom of anxiety, depression, rumination or other disorders
- sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnoea, circadian rhythm disorders caused by irregular sleep patterns, restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement
- life stage — elderly people are more likely to have insomnia
- shift work— people who work different shifts often do not sleep as well as those who work set hours during the day
Why Is Insomnia a Problem?
Insomnia is a health risk and if left unmanaged can cause:
- increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure)
- heart attack
- poor decision making
- mental illness
Management of Insomnia
The cause of insomnia will be diagnosed by your health professional or doctor. The management will depend largely on the cause. For instance obstructive sleep apnoea is a cause of insomnia. Your doctor may refer you to a Sleep Disorder Clinic. There you will be assessed and may be advised to have a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP) to assist your breathing. This helps you to get a good nights sleep by managing your sleep apnoea.
Are There Natural Options?
There are, thankfully, quite a few natural methods for dealing with insomnia. Many people find relief in herbal remedies, lifestyle adjustments, and exercise. Once you’ve checked with your health care provider about possible medical causes for your insomnia, you might try some of these natural treatments for insomnia.
Herbal teas and supplements are said to be a gentle and effective way of inducing sleep. Herbs with a reputation for inducing sleep include the following:
- Chamomile – This is a long-held remedy for sleeplessness that is exacerbated by nervousness and anxiety. Drinking a cup of chamomile tea in the evenings before bed may be all you need – but it can have a slight diuretic effect, so drinking a cup an hour or so before bed might work better. You may also find it beneficial to drink it throughout the day, hot or cold, or mixed with other beverages.
- Valerian Root – It makes an unpleasant tea, but many people have had significant success with taking valerian root capsules. Valerian is a natural sedative.
- Lemon Balm – In contrast to valerian, lemon balm tastes very good and makes a lemony tea. Like chamomile, drinking a cup in the evenings may help promote sleep. You could mix it with chamomile tea as well.
Insomnia can sometimes be managed by making adjustments to your lifestyle. Here are some ideas.
This is one of the best ways to get your body into balance and help you relax at night. Plan to exercise a couple of hours before you go to bed.
Cut Out Caffiene
Drinking coffee is very addictive. It is a stimulant as well as a social norm. Next time you are out with friends for a coffee try a herbal tea instead. You still get the social aspect however are reducing your coffee intake.
Those who smoke cigarettes tend to have more sleep problems than non-smokers.
Make changes in your diet to reduce sugar, artificial colours and flavours and preservatives. These substances can cause hyperactivity and mood imbalances.
Practicing self care prior to sleep can help eliminate the stressors from your day. Choose what makes you feel relaxed for instance having a warm bath, hot shower or meditating. This will help you to relax your mind as well as you body. Very often we go to bed and we are physically tired from the days work and activities however we find that our brain activity is still high (going a million miles and hour). We are thinking constantly about work, family or financial problems to name a few. If you find this is happening you might need to have a book to read or relaxing music to listen to.
Self Compassion and Insomnia
Treat yourself as kindly as you can. You’re worth it.
When you are going to sleep are you constantly finding you self critize. Are you saying to yourself “why cant I sleep, why cant I solve this problem, if I were a better parent, friend etc” then you will have difficulty getting to sleep.
Learn to be self compassionate which is turning compassion inward. Be kind and understanding rather than harshly self-critical. Give yourself encouragement rather than being cold and judgmental if you have had a difficult day at work, with your family or when challenges and difficulty arise.
Practice meditation and use these skills when you need them. The meditation below is by Kirstin Neff. Kirstin is a renouned speaker and founder of Self Compassion. Check out Kirstins website for more meditation exercises. https://self-compassion.org/
Research is finding that having a good restful sleep is a major contributor to good health and balanced lifestyle. Talk to a Health Professional or your Family Doctor if you or a family member are having difficulty sleeping and you have tried to manage his by yourself implementing strategies such as above.