I hope this topic doesn’t apply you. But if (like me) you suffer from insomnia, maybe I can provide some help to you as I try to help myself. Or, maybe you have experienced similar issues and can help me.
I’m working on this post at 4:00am – a time when hopefully most of you are tucked in bed, off in dreamland. Because if you haven’t experienced insomnia, count yourself as very fortunate. This isn’t a problem I would wish on anyone. It’s frustrating, exhausting and makes for one tired and cranky momma during the day.
Photo by: maria takes pictures
There are different types of insomnia: transient, intermittent and chronic. Transient or short-term insomnia occurs when you have problems sleeping for a single night or up to a few weeks. Intermittent is short term insomnia that occurs from time to time. Chronic insomnia is difficulty sleeping most nights and lasts longer than one month. Both transient and intermittent insomnia are more common and caused by stress, change in your environment, temperature extremes, outside noise, medication side effects, or change in your sleep schedule (such as jet lag). I have what I would characterize as intermittent insomnia brought on by periods of high stress. When my stress level goes up, my sleep hours go down. It’s a bad combination.
I have tried a number of tricks and techniques over the years and sometimes feel tempted to resort to sleeping medication. I do not want to go down that road, so first I’m researching natural solutions. Here is what I’ve found.
• Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland which regulates many hormones in the body. Among its roles is controlling the body’s circadian rhythm, which is the internal time keeping system that controls when we fall asleep and wake up. Readily available in health food stores, there is evidence that Melatonin can help regulate sleep for insomnia sufferers. It’s best to start with a low dose (under 3mg) and increase or decrease according to your reaction to it. For more information, see this article Melatonin, Sleep Enhancement and ADHD.
• Valerian Root is a natural non-toxic herb that may help with insomnia. Not as common or commercially available as melatonin, it would be best to talk to your doctor about trying this as an insomnia solution. More information on Valerian Root and Insomnia in this article from About.com.
• Diet & Exercise – As is true of pretty much everything in life, a healthy diet and exercise will improve the situation. Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon or evening (but for those of us with insomnia, caffeine in the morning is usually a must). Many friends have suggested I try alcohol to help with sleep, but actually alcohol works against the body in establishing a sleep schedule, especially on the back end – you can go to sleep but not stay asleep (which is my challenge) so alcohol is not helpful. For more on alcohol as a sleep aid and other sleep myths, check out 5 Sleep-Myths Busted.
• Routines – Getting in a regular sleep routine is very important. See Ten Tips for Restful Sleep for suggestions of how to make your sleeping environment more conducive . Of course I’m breaking rule No. 4 right now – “your bed is not a desk”. Working on my laptop in bed just makes me feel better than going downstairs in the dark and working in the office. So sorry, No. 4 is out for me. Many other great suggestions here though for making your environment more conducive to sleep.
• Relaxation – yoga, acupuncture, meditation, there are many ways to manage anxiety that are good for sleep and healthy for your body – both physically and emotionally. I was a big yoga fan for years but haven’t kept up with it because of lack of time. I think it’s time to get back into it again. It’s great exercise and really good at helping you relax and quiet your mind.
If you have ever suffered from insomnia and have any recommendations, please leave a comment and let me know what worked for you. I’m open to almost any suggestions that will help me to get the sleep that I need. The quality and quantity of sleep that we get is crucial for health, safety and longevity. It’s not something we can function without. Here’s wishing all of us sweet dreams and a full restful night’s sleep.