Insomnia: One Sheep, Two Sheep, Three…

Insomnia.

It affects our lives. We need sleep for our minds and bodies to function at their best. Lack of sleep can affect our moods too. I know when I am tired EVERYTHING irritates me!

In my last blog, I discussed potential causes of insomnia and the effect it has on our body.

So, what can we do?

Of course, first speak with your doctor, health care provider and or Naturopath Practitioner (ND) about your sleep pattern concerns.

I do recommend if on prescription medication, or under medical treatment with a physician, that you check with your prescribing MD and get medical clearance before starting any botanicals, herbs, or supplements due to the fact they may be counter-indicated.

The most common type of sleep disorders is sleep apnea.  Approximately 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea.  So, you may be wondering, “what is sleep apnea and why is it a big deal?”.

The concern is that when you are sleeping, you have episodes where there is a brief interruption of breathing. That means no breathing for a pause. Snoring occurs between the apnea episodes. With all the frequent interruptions in breathing, it prevents your body from going into that much needed deep, restorative sleep. As a result, you may have excess fatigue in the daytime, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and at a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and memory loss.

I just learned I have been breathing wrong for 51 years! I wonder if it is because women, since the beginning of time, have been told to hold in their stomachs with either corsets, girdles or Spanx.

This is a very serious condition and must be diagnosed by a doctor in a sleep lab. The most common treatment of sleep apnea is the use of a CPAP mask over your nose while sleeping. Other recommendations include weight loss if overweight, removing alcohol from the diet, and stopping sleeping pills.  Sleeping pills and alcohol actually increase the frequency and duration of the breathing pauses.

Other therapeutic considerations include: 20 minutes of exercise either in morning or early evening; Tai Chi or Yoga; working on learning to be aware when your muscles are tense and then purposely relaxing them; relaxation techniques;  if you are diabetic, make sure you do not have a low blood glucose level; and getting into a routine so that your body will be more regular.

Same bedtime routine. Same time lights go out. Same time you wake up.

Under the direction of a Naturopath Practitioner, ND, or Nutritional Consultant, the following supplements could be determined if they would benefit you: L-Tryptophan; 5HTP; Vitamins B6; Niacin; Calcium; Magnesium and Melatonin. When using supplements, it is extremely important that you are not doing “fractionated nutrition”. Fractionated nutrition is when you take one supplement but do not include its co-factor. Our vitamins and minerals need certain co-factors to function correctly.

In addition, your Naturopath Practioner, ND, or Nutritional Consultant can offer botanicals that have a sedative effect. Chamomile tea has a mild sedative effect and is effective for children. For adults brew as many as 7 teaspoons of Chamomile per cup of water. Herbs that also help with sleeping are Valerian, Passionflower, Hops, and Skullcap. You can use any of the herbs alone or in combination with a strong tea. Capsules and tinctures are available in health food stores.

I do recommend if on prescription medication, or under medical treatment with a physician, that you check with your prescribing MD and get medical clearance before starting any botanicals, herbs, or supplements due to the fact they may be counter-indicated. Most MD’s are not familiar with the use of naturopath treatments due to the fact it is not part of their medical training.  Naturopath Practitioners, ND, and Nutritional Consultants would be able to help you determine what supplements, herbs and botanicals would be best for you in your plan of care.

Other treatment options are a warm, not hot bath before bedtime with Epsom salts, foot massage utilizing reflexology pressure points, and acupuncture.

And finally, breathe!

Are you ready? Slowly take in a deep breath through your nose with your stomach rising and expanding. Hold your breath for 3 seconds, slowly exhale through your mouth and repeat.  I just learned I have been breathing wrong for 51 years! I wonder if it is because women, since the beginning of time, have been told to hold in their stomachs with either corsets, girdles or Spanx.

Instead of counting sheep, I will be counting my slow deep breaths. One, two, Three.

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Golan M.D., Ralph. Optimal Wellness Balentine Books 1995

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