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Can’t Sleep?

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on October 7, 2009 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Blog

Don’t fret, you are not alone! More than 40 million Americans suffer from insomnia and other types of sleep disorders. Doctors have conducted studies in which they found that people who suffered from insomnia usually also had hearts the beat faster, with higher temperatures, and an elevated cortisol level, which is commonly referred to as the stress hormone. These people have been termed as having a hyperarousal.

And, while medical doctors still do not know how to properly treat the root of the problem, let alone the insomnia itself, there are a few things that you do for yourself that might actually help you to get a good night’s rest.

For the majority of insomniacs, the main reason why they cannot sleep is because they are continually worried about something or have high anxiety. Approaching a holistic practitioner who specializes in anxiety, can teach you techniques such as yoga or meditations to help you overcome your anxiety and quiet your mind so that you can fall asleep.

A holistic practitioner can also suggest certain aromatherapies to help you relax as well as herbal supplements if you have any nutritional deficiencies.

Please remember that what might work for someone else may not necessarily work for you. You will have to test out every method before finding the one that works the best for you. Oftentimes, it is the integration of myriad of different therapies that prove to work best for most insomniacs. So be sure to consult with a holistic practitioner such as a homeopath, acupuncturist, Yoga instructor, herbalist or Ayurvedic doctor.

Change Your Diet

One of the best, and most simple, ways to get a good night’s rest is to change your diet.

* Be sure to eat foods that are high in magnesium, calcium, and essential fatty acids.

* Eating protein a few hours before bedtime can help keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the night. Turkey is a great protein to consume as it contains tryptophan, which helps you fall asleep by triggering the production of serotonin.

* Avoid eating large or spicy meals at least three hours before bedtime. The digestion process will keep you up!

* Drink a cup of warm milk or Chamomile Tea before bed as they both contain sedating properties.

* Avoid caffeine.

Change Your Routine

Bedtime should a relaxing experience for you so that you can quickly fall asleep.

* Learn to relax. Although it is easier said than done, listening to a meditation or relaxation CD in bed might just do the trick in helping you ‘switch off your mind’ so that you can fall asleep. Just make sure it plays using the same frequency as delta waves, which are the brain waves that we produce whilst falling asleep. Another option is a sound machine that plays the sound of waves crashing on a beach, for example. This background noise will drown out any other noises so that you can sleep peacefully.

* Practice Yoga or Tai Chi a few hours before bedtime as these exercises will help both your mind and your body to relax by releasing any pent-up tension in your body.

* Regular exercise can also help your body to become naturally tired. It can be as little as 20 minutes of exercise as long as it gets your body moving and breathing deeply.

* Do not exercise less than three hours before bedtime as your endorphins will still be working overtime, which can cause you to be wide awake.

* Make a ritual out of bedtime! Each night take a lavender infused bath, drink a cup of hot milk and/or practice some Yoga. Doing these things every night will quickly teach your mind and body that bedtime is approaching and that it is time to unwind and go to sleep.

* Prepare for bedtime at least one hour beforehand. This timeframe allows for your thoughts and feelings about the day’s events to surface so that you can deal with them before falling asleep. This way they cannot plague you and cause you to miss out on a good night’s sleep.

* Remove stimulants from your bedroom, such as your laptop and television. The hour before bed should be spent quietly contemplating the day or even reading a good book to take your mind off of your worries.

Natural Sleep Aids

Herbs have been widely accepted and used as natural sleep aids for centuries.

Valerian Root – Taking 400 to 500 mg every night before bed over a few weeks will help you relax at bedtime.

St John’s Wort – For most Insomniacs, depression is their most common complaint. This herb helps treat depression without consuming any chemicals found in anti-depressants.

Melatonin – The pineal gland produces this hormone which aids in quieting the mind.

Photo Credit: psd

Read also: Five Common Causes of Hair Loss in Women, Part 3: Hypothyroid

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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