insomnia2001… 2002… 2003… My legs are aching, my partner is snoring, noise pollution surrounds my everyday life and information overload cuts through my mind like a hot knife through butter… Too much thought at play.  If I could only fall asleep?  Even counting sheep is considered an “old wives tale”.

Insomnia is the inability to sleep.  It may vary from disturbed slumber or restlessness to curtailment of the normal length of sleep or to absolute wakefulness.

Insomnia can result from breathing problems, nocturnal hypoglycaemia, indigestion, anxiety, stress, grief, depression and physical pain.  Conditions such as Restless Leg Syndrome, Sleep Apnoea and nocturnal Myoclonus are all contributing to habitual sleeplessness.  Drugs such as decongestant pseudoephedrine, some appetite suppressants, beta-blockers, anti seizure medication phenytoin, many anti depressants and thyroid hormone replacement drugs can become an Insomniac’s worst nightmare.

Chronic inadequate sleep and sleep deprivation cause a serious deterioration in overall performance, create problems in relationships, decrease the ability to perform creative- or repetitive tasks and can even result in mild personality changes.

The question posed is how much sleep we need in order to feel refreshed and operate at peak efficiency during the day. Every individual’s requirements are different. Children generally require more sleep than adults.  Most adults need about 7-8 hours but some can function on as little as 5 hours.

Some interesting facts about sleep:

  • Man is the only mammal that willingly delays sleep
  • Not enough sleep causes leptin (an appetite-regulating hormone) levels to fall, promoting appetite increase
  • Caffeine delays our brain’s release of melatonin and interrupts our circadian rhythm by as much as 40 minutes
  • Melatonin is only effective as a sedative when body melatonin levels are low
  • You burn more calories sleeping than you do watching television
  • The record for the longest period without sleep is 11 days. Not advisable
  • Human beings spend approximately a third of their life sleeping. That is about 25 years
  • Insomnia most commonly occurs in elderly people (aged 60 and over)
  • The average person falls asleep in 7 minutes
  • Up to 80% of totally blind people experience insomnia

Tips to assist a smooth carriage ride to slumber land:

  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine-containing beverages after lunch. Make sure you are hydrated with good water
  • Add a little sunshine to your life: Sunlight regulates melatonin and a deficiency may cause insomnia
  • Regular Exercise improves sleep quality provided it is not undertaken too close to bedtime
  • Take a hot bath an hour before bedtime
  • Go to bed only when you are sleepy. Keep the bedroom comfortable and quiet, if too quiet – add soft background music
  • Think positive: Turn a negative thought like:  “My insomnia is getting worse” into “My sleep is getting better and better”.  Do this every morning as an affirmation
  • Progressive Relaxation:  forcefully contract one muscle group for a period of 1-2 seconds, and then give way to a feeling of relaxation.  Start with the muscles of the face and neck, followed by upper arms and chest, then lower arms and hands.  Repeat the process down your body i.e., the abdomen, buttocks, thighs, calves and the feet.  Repeat 2-3 times or until you fall asleep
  • Three Homeopathic Remedies for three types of Insomnia:  1) If you cannot fall asleep: Ignatia Amara, 2) If you wake up in the middle of the night: Arsenicum Album, 3) If you wake up early in the morning: Nux Vomica
  • Botanicals with sedative properties: 1) Passiflora incarnate, 2) Scutellaria lateriflora, 3) Valeriana officinales, 4) Humulus lupulus and 5) Matricaria chamomilla. These herbs can promote improved sleep quality and relief insomnia. Consult a registered Medical Herbalist / Phytotherapist for dosages and contra-indications

John Keats wrote:  “What is more gentle than a wind in summer?  More full of visions than a high romance?  What, but thee Sleep?  Soft closer of our eyes!”

Have a peaceful night… Out with the lights… Good night.

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