Are you losing sleep over losing sleep?
Insomnia is estimated to affect 30-50% of the general population and is a concern for many of my patients, even if it isn’t always the main reason they came to see me. There are 2 types: sleep onset insomnia (problems falling asleep) and sleep maintenance insomnia (problems staying asleep). It’s no wonder people don’t feel well when they are sleep deprived: we need proper sleep to ensure optimal immune function, good energy levels and stress management, tissue repair and growth, memory processing and many other vital body and brain functions. The good news is that there are simple solutions to this complicated problem.
Insomnia is often a symptom of an underlying condition or stressor. Factors that are easier to identify include caffeine intake, chronic stress, smoking, alcohol abuse, shift work, chronic pain or certain medications like beta-blockers, asthma medications or antidepressants. Factors that may require more investigation or lab testing include hormonal imbalances, hyperthyroidism, sleep apnea, depression, cortisol imbalance, hypoglycemia or food sensitivities. Identifying and treating the underlying condition is not only vital for improved sleep, but also for your overall health.
So what can you do to get good sleep tonight? Well, you’ll rest better knowing that you have an appointment with your health care provider to rule out any underlying causes, so make that appointment first! Next, focus on proper Sleep Hygiene:
1) Sleep in a dark room (no night lights!): Light stimulates the retina which has a direct neuron pathway to the sleep center in our brain where the hormones that control our sleep/wake cycle are released. And wouldn’t you know it, light stimulates the wake portion of this cycle!
2) Develop a regular sleep pattern: Go to bed at the same time each night. We are creatures of habit and our hormones operate in cycles that need to be supported by our schedules.
3) Food and Hydration: Make sure you eat regular healthy meals and snacks during the day to ensure balanced blood sugar levels. Consider having a light protein snack a couple hours before bed. Stay well hydrated throughout the day, but stop drinking a couple hours before bed if you find that you are waking to pee during the night.
4) The bedroom is for sleeping: no TV, no computers, no homework, no eating, no laundry… you get the picture.
5) Avoid caffeine, alcohol, smoking, sugar and stimulants: obvious, right?
6) Have a wind-down period: finish all internet use, work, homework, exercise and solving of the world’s problems at least 1 hour before bed. Read an easy book, listen to relaxing music, do some meditation or gentle yoga, have a hot bath.
Additional treatments that I have found useful in treating sleep problems include aroma therapy (an eye pillow or mask with lavender oil can do wonders!), Acupuncture, Bowen therapy, infra-red sauna, massage, craniosacral therapy and homeopathy. Regular exercise is also key.
I have many more tricks up my sleeve to improve sleep, but I want to know: what are you doing to get a good night’s rest?
– Originally posted on the Semperviva Yoga blog