Dealing With Insomnia Naturally
Insomnia is one of the most common complaints seen by physicians and is normally classified as habitual sleeplessness. A failure to get an entire night’s sleep on most nights over one month can be considered chronic insomnia.
Insomnia Can Be Categorized into Two Patterns
- Unable to Fall Asleep When You First Go to Bed
- Waking During the Night and Having Difficulties Going Back to Sleep
How Does Insomnia Impact Our Quality of Life?
In most cases, it’s usually only a temporary issue, however, in some cases, sleep-related problems can last for months or even years. Continued sleep deprivation can begin to cause a more serious deterioration in overall performance and even result in mild personality changes.
Statistics have shown that about 30% of Canadians struggle with getting to or staying asleep at any given time and insomnia symptoms have increased by 42% over the eight years from 2007 to 2015 among Canadians aged 18 or older.
Adequate sleep is essential for long-term health and regeneration. A few days without sleep is usually tolerable with full recovery. But chronic sleep deprivation can accelerate aging of the brain, cause neural damage and lead to night-time rises of cortisol (our fight or flight hormone).
What Are Some Causes Behind Why You Could Be Struggling With Insomnia?
Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. Early recognition is important because this disorder is also associated with irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Treatment can involve weight management, allergy treatment, or laser surgery to open obstructions in the nasal passages.
I know you didn’t want to hear it, but it had to be said, some of us are just not meant to drink coffee. Caffeine can stay in your bloodstream for up to 12 hours. Additionally, caffeine is not just that cup of coffee, you also need to look at black tea, chocolate, and energy drinks/supplements.
Estrogen affects the production and balance of brain chemicals and hormonal shifts that occur during PMS and menopause can influence some women, resulting in insomnia
Certain medications like beta-blockers, oral contraceptives, thyroid hormone replacements can all lower melatonin and cause insomnia.
Other possible causes include lack of nutrients, like magnesium and calcium, jet lag, a sedentary lifestyle, and restless leg syndrome
The Downside of Prescription Sleeping Aids
Research has shown that people who take sleeping pills regularly find that insomnia becomes worse. Over-the-counter sleep aids (at the pharmacy drug store) also come with a wide range of side effects (like agitation, confusion, depression, and/or dry mouth). The use of prescription sleeping pills should be reserved for those whose insomnia has a physical basis and then only as a temporary solution.
Therapeutic considerations for insomnia
Avoidance of stimulants
Caffeine is a big one!
Get regular exercise
20 minutes 3x a week is generally enough
This can involve meditations, foot soaking, a warm bath with Epsom salts, journaling all your thoughts out so your mind is clear before sleeping.
Manage Glucose Levels
This means not eating high carbohydrates before bed, and for some, eating a light snack containing protein and fat (both of which do not cause blood sugar to spike) can help certain cases of insomnia, related to blood sugar drops.
Have a Regular Sleep/wake Cycle and Try Not to Nap
Setting your circadian rhythm by waking and going to rest at the same time every day. If napping is already a part of your routine, be sure to keep naps short and less than an hour. And use them only if they are providing benefit to your health Other Natural Approaches and Considerations
Passionflower, Lemon Balm, and valerian are all great options for those suffering from insomnia, and also those struggling with anxiety and racing thoughts.
More than 20 double-blind clinical studies have shown Valerian’s ability to improve sleep quality and relieve insomnia. Valerian also does not cause morning sleepiness like common prescription and over-the-counter drugs do.
A very important hormone and natural sleep aid. Melatonin has been known through studies to be effective in helping induce sleep in both children and adults who struggle with poor sleeping patterns. However, the sleep-promoting effects will only work if melatonin levels are low.
In all cases, natural considerations for insomnia are considered safe and a better solution for the long term. However, the main goal should be to discover WHY you are having trouble sleeping in the first place. Working with a qualified practitioner such as a Holistic Nutritionist or Naturopath can help you uncover the underlying cause(s) and result in full recovery.
1. Zeidler, Maryse. “Sleep Congress Shines Light on Women's Struggle with Insomnia | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 22 Sept. 2019,https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/insomnia-women-world-sleep-congress-1.5290738
2. Murray, Michael T., et al. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Time Warner International, 2006.
3. Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements. Penguin, 2011.