Insomnia is one of the most common complaints seen by physicians.
Up to 30% of the population suffers from it and roughly 10% has chronic insomnia.
Physiological factors like depression and anxiety accounts for up to 50% of all cases.
Make sure sleep apnoea is ruled out since it is very serious. Sleep apnoea is a breathing disorder recognized by snoring, choking sensations and periods of anoxia which is oxygen deprivation to the brain. Testing in a sleep centre is recommended. Two main issues seem to appear. Sleep onset and waking up in the middle of the night. According to Chinese medicine the body is working on different organs at very specifictimes and this will need attention.
The most important consideration would be to look at certain factors that could be eliminated:
- Beta-blockers if possible
- Oral contraceptives
Adequate sleep is vital for long term health and regeneration. Chronic sleep deprivation accelerates ageing of the brain that causes neuronal damage and lead to night time elevation of cortisol.
The best treatment would be to remove any causes (Murray and Pizzorno, 2010).
Treatment objectives :
- Restore circadian rhythm, the body’s internal 24 hour body clock.
- Improve sleep quality and time
- Improve the impact that insomnia has on the person during daytime regarding energy, fatigue and attention span
- Restore vitamin and mineral status to improve sleep
- Remove any obstacles that could hinder sleep and introduce new habits and extras to improve sleep hygiene.
- Treat the whole person to restore vitality in general
Short term treatment:
- Remove all caffeine in diet
- Darken the room with blackout curtains
- Install a sleep hygiene routine with no television
- Improve diet and hydration
- Refer for testing to determine the real issue and if nothing shows up, send to a sleep clinic for observation
- Dry skin brushing to improve lymphatic drainage
Long term treatment:
- Continue with short term treatment
- Exercise at a heart rate of 75% , 20 min every day
- Change doona and add weighted blanket
- Go away on a holiday without any technology for at least 10 days where you go to bed at sundown and rise during sunup to reset your sleep wake cycle.
- Take herbals and supplements for at least 6 months
- Maintain a good sleep routine before bedtime.
("The Best Ways to Tweak Your Habits So You Can Go to Sleep Earlier", 2017).
I have noticed that most people struggle to do all the changes at once. In that case I will suggest one or two changes a week until they tick all the boxes of proposed treatment.
Male Wistar rats was tested with dim lights at night and found to disturb their circadian rhythm which proof the importance of complete darkness at night for good quality sleep (Jan Stenvers et al., 2017).
Program for a good sleep routine:
- Make sure bedroom is dark and only used for sleep and intimacy. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time daily.
- No daytime napping and if really needed only take a 10 min power nap anywhere you can.
- Take a hot bath with epsom salts and essential oils like lavender and chamomile an hour or two before bedtime to relax the muscles and calm down the nervous system.
- Studies have shown it to increased slow wave sleep and stage 4 sleep , which is your deep sleep phase.
- Keep the bedroom comfy and quiet. White noise can help if quiet sensitive like ocean surf or steady rain.
- Even a fan running in the room. No technology in the bedroom, especially no television.
- Charge phones somewhere else.
- Sleep on your side to reduce snoring.
- Take herbals an hour before bedtime and have a hot cup of raw organic cacao to boost magnesium status.
- Finish of the day with something relaxing and put all your worries behind you.
- Meditation and massages are vital.
- Studies have shown that Bioptron light therapy obtain great results in restoring the circadian rhythm (van Maanen, Meijer, van der Heijden, & Oort, 2017).
- Remove caffeine since liver enzymatic reaction might be too slow in this case for elimination before bedtime.
It can take up to 12 hours to eliminate half a dose of caffeine in some patients ( Murray and Pizzorno, 2010).
- Introduce more iron rich foods since koilonychia and Restless leg syndrome are big signs of iron and magnesium deficiency.
That will include foods like almonds, avocados, parsley, pumpkin and sunflower seeds (Osiecki, 2012).
- Introduce more foods rich in magnesium. Sources : Almonds, cashews, leafy green vegetables, cocoa, mineral water.
Lack of Magnesium can cause a buildup of Calcium in soft tissue, tendons and ligaments (Osiecki, 2012).
- Adequate intake of B vitamins are vital for the production of serotonin and the regulation of melatonin to produce a healthy circadian rhythm
("Follow These Healthy Eating Habits for a Good Night's Sleep Tonight", 2017).
- Stabilize blood sugar levels by eating small meals with low GI during the day and something just before bedtime since rapid glucose drops
can wake up the client by stimulating the release of cortisol and adrenalin ( Murray and Pizzorno, 2010).
- Eat more foods rich in tryptophan since it is the precursor of serotonin.The body needs serotonin and melatonin for a healthy sleep wake cycle.
Serotonin is the day time hormone and melatonin is the night time one. Foods rich in tryptophan are turkey, chicken, fish, oats, kiwi fruit , dairy products (Osiecki, 2012).
- Hydration is extremely important. No alcohol since it causes sleep disturbances (Hechtman, 2012).
My all time favourite herb for insomnia is Kava when anxiety is present as well. Piper methisticum , Kava was found to be an effective treatment as an anxiolytic in numerous studies.
(Lakhan & Vieira, 2010)
Extracts of Kava was used to study the pharmacological actions and mechanisms and the results showed an increase in sleep and various mental disorders.
(Shi, Dong, Zhao, Tang, & Zhang, 2017)
The kava lactones or pyrones, kavain, methysticin, yangonin and dihydrokavain are responsible for inducing a good night's sleep, reducing anxiety and acting as a muscle relaxant.
Passiflora incarnata, Passionflower is specifically chosen to aid in a fresh awakening by promoting REM sleep. Piper methysticum and Passiflora incarnata work better together instead of either extract alone.
Significant decrease in amphetamine induced hypermotility as well as prolong sleeping induced by subcutaneous injection of barbiturates was seen in studies done with these two herb together.
In vitro studies of dry Passiflora on the GABA system was investigated and the result showed many pharmacological effects of Passiflora incarnata are mediated via modulation of the GABA system including affinity to GABA(A) and GABA(B) receptors, and effects on GABA uptake. It is not only used for anxiety and nervousness , but also improves insomnia , ADHD and hypertension.
(Appel K, 2017)
If all else fails give me a call and let's get together to get your sleep patterns back to normal. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that sleep can also be interrupted by the release of ammonia if parasites are present.
A stool test will easily reveal any creepy crawlies. On that creepy ending.. Good night, don't let the bed bugs fight :)
Penguins.. Mmm, now I have to know!!