Insomnia is a major problem in today’s society. Sleeping should be so simple, but research in America shows that two thirds of people there suffer from sleep disorders, of which insomnia is the most common. This is defined as lack of sleep for more than three nights per week; on these nights, the insomniac sleeps fewer than four hours.
You should note, however, that the common complaints of feeling ‘tired all the time’, or ‘constantly lethargic’ may not necessarily be due to insomnia, but to another problem, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, osteoporosis or anaemia. You should check with your doctor that you are not suffering from any of these.
A poor sleeping habit develops in reaction to stressful events. The habit may continue even when the stress is over. Unfamiliar surroundings may also be a cause-other problems include your partner snoring, street sounds, uncontrolled room temperature, large meals, late dinners, excessive exercise and/or a hot bath before sleeping.
The good Snooze Guide
- Avoid alcohol at night and coffee anytime; also avoid eating or drinking anything that may cause acid, gas or excessive flatulence-these all send wakeful signals to the brain; treat any constipation by eating plenty of fruit such as papaya.
- Meals: do not eat heavy dinners and avoid sweet desserts or drinks at bedtime because the sugar agitates the brain.
- Walk for ten minutes after dinner, inside the house if necessary.
- Cut down or stop smoking: nicotine irritates the brain.
- Do not watch disturbing movies or hold serious late-night conversations.
- Keep a large glass of water by your bed. If you are dehydrated, your pulse goes up and this is a major cause of the anxiety which disturbs many people at night. If this happens, drink a little water.
- Do not have a hot bath just before bed because the blood vessels dilate and invigorate mind and body.
- Use the bedroom exclusively for sleeping, if possible. Don’t work or watch television there.
- Make sure the room temperature is comfortable, because your body’s regulatory system switches off at night. Being too hot or too cold can disturb your sleep. Keep the room temperature at 20-22C.
- If your partner snores, use earplugs or sleep in a different room.
- Choose a firm bed with one pillow (people with asthma or a hiatus hernia may prefer more, but keep them to a minimum).If you sleep on your side, have a soft pillow which fits into your neck and supports it. If you sleep on your back, have a soft pillow which is thick enough to keep your head slightly raised and the chin level with the chest. It is better not to sleep on your stomach.
- Get rid of electronic gadgets (computers, music systems, alarm clocks and TVs) which may emit radiation that affects the brain.
- Make your room as quiet and as dark as you can.
- Open a window if possible- or the door if not – especially if the bedroom is small.
- Acupuncture from an experienced practitioner can help relieve stress, anxiety and jet lag.
- Homoeopathy: take two tablets of nux vomica 200 (tablets) on the tongue at bedtime, followed five minutes later by two tablets of belladonna 30 (tablets). Repeat this combination in the night, if necessary, to relax muscle tension and remove wild thoughts.
- Herbal remedies (try these singly at bedtime to find out which suits you; you will need to see a qualified herbalist for guidance): valerian, 10 to l5 drops ¼ cup water; passiflora, tablets or l0 to 15 drops in ¼ cup water; avena sativa, l0 to 15 drops ¼ cup water.
- Ayurvedic remedy: take Brento nerve tonic every night for a month.
- Massage: most stress accumulates in the neck and shoulders, also the scalp. Massage with six drops each of lavender and camomile essential oils added to 2 tbsp base oil(almond, peach kernel or grape seed). Or use Dr Ali’s Lifestyle Massage oil. Massage it in yourself, or ask your partner to do it for you.
- Also drink one or two cups of Dr Ali’s Relaxation Tea at bedtime.