WHAT IS INSOMNIA
Insomnia is the inability to sleep during a period in which sleep should normally occur. Sufficient and restful sleep is a human necessity. The average adult needs slightly more than eight hours of sleep per day.
People with insomnia tend to experience one or more of the following sleep disturbances:
TYPES OF INSOMNIA
While occasional restless nights are often normal, prolonged insomnia can interfere with daytime function, and may impair concentration, diminish memory, and increase the risk of substance abuse, motor vehicle accidents, headaches, and depression
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Insomnia is occasionally a symptom of an underlying medical or psychological condition, but it may also be caused by stress (from work, school, or family) or lifestyle choices, such as excessive coffee and alcohol consumption. About 50% of insomnia cases have no identifiable cause. Some conditions or situations that commonly lead to insomnia include:
The following factors may increase an individual's risk for insomnia:
DIAGNOSIS AT OUR CLINIC REGARDING INSOMNIA / SLEEPING DISORDERS
Our assessments for insomnia are oriented towards determining what is impeding your body's ability to function normally and how this is affecting your sleep, and then establishing a treatment strategy specific to your health needs. This assessment includes:
THE NATUROPATHIC TREATMENT APPROACH
Naturopathic treatments are based on correcting the root cause of the problem rather than just fixing the problem with a band aid solution. Insomnia, as mentioned earlier, may be caused by various lifestyle factors and hence treatment should be based on correcting behaviours, patterns or factors that are causing the sleeping disorder so that sleep maybe restored naturally without the use and dependency of addictive sleeping pills. Once we determine what exactly caused insomnia, we treat and prevent it with various natural modalities such as:
A variety of behavioural techniques have proved helpful in treating insomnia. These include:Relaxation Training Techniques
Progressive relaxation, meditation, yoga, guided imagery, hypnosis, or biofeedback can break the vicious cycle of sleeplessness by decreasing feelings of anxiety about not being asleep. Studies indicate that these therapies significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, increase total sleep time, and decrease the number of nightly awakenings.Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy
This therapy is intended to re-establish healthy sleep patterns by helping an individual cope with his or her sleep problem. One cognitive-behavioural approach, called paradoxical intention, helps to retrain an individual's fears of sleep by doing the opposite of what is causing the anxiety. For example, a person with insomnia worries long before going to bed about not being able to sleep and the difficulty he or she will have at bedtime. Rather than preparing to go to sleep, therefore, the person prepares to stay awake.
Another cognitive-behavioural technique, called thought stopping, allows a person with insomnia a certain period of time to repeatedly and continuously think about going to bed. This technique helps "wear out" the anxiety associated with going to bed, and decreases the likelihood that he or she will obsess about falling asleep at other times.Sleep Diary
Keeping a daily/nightly record of sleep habits (including the amount of sleep, how long it takes to fall asleep, the quality of sleep, the number of awakenings throughout the night, any disruption of daytime behaviours, attempted treatments and how well they worked, mood, and stress level) can help a person understand and, consequently overcome his or her insomnia.Lifestyle
Studies reveal that healthy sleep habits are essential for treating insomnia. The following healthy sleep habits may help treat the condition:
Quite often an inadequate intake / deficiency of certain nutrients and proteins may affect the quality of sleep. A carbohydrate snack of cereal or crackers with milk before bed may help because foods rich in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat may boost the production of serotonin and melatonin, brain chemicals thought to promote sleep. Intake of alcohol and coffee a few hours before bedtime may significantly impact the quality of sleep as well.Dietary Supplements, herbs and homeopathic medicines
Various dietary supplements, herbs, herbal teas and homeopathic medicines are used short term to treat insomnia. Once the cause of insomnia is determined, your health care provider /naturopath may decide to use certain dietary supplements in conjunction with other therapies. In my naturopathic experience, in treating patients with insomnia and sleeping issues, I have found that dietary supplements, herbs and homeopathic medicines usually help with sleep temporarily, but do not necessarily treat the underlying cause of insomnia. Its is pertinent to establish the root cause of the insomnia before treating it.Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture
Many methods have been used historically in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat insomnia including herbal remedies, acupuncture, Chinese massage, and qi gong. Acupuncture has been shown to be quite effective in treating insomnia as well as stress related sleeping issues such as difficulty falling asleep, unable to stay asleep for prolonged periods of time and having an overactive mind during the night. Through a complex series of signals to the brain, acupuncture increases the amount of certain substances in the brain, such as serotonin, which promote relaxation and sleep. Our naturopathic doctor may recommend acupuncture in conjunction with other therapies once she completes your assessment and if it is indicated for you.Warnings and Precautions with regards to substance use and insomnia
Alcohol should be avoided in those who are taking prescription medications or OTC sleeping pills. Discontinuing prescription medications or OTC sleeping pills can lead to rebound insomnia.Prognosis and Complications
Most people who have insomnia with no underlying medical conditions tend to recover within a few weeks. For those who develop insomnia from a traumatic event (such as those with posttraumatic stress disorder), sleep disruptions can continue indefinitely. People who become dependent on sleeping pills and prescription medication for sleep often have the most difficulty overcoming insomnia.
Please ask your doctor or naturopath before starting on any supplements. Its is better to first identify the cause and then treat it with the right remedies, even though those mentioned above have minimal side effects.
The information on this article is the property of Toronto Naturopath SUSHMA SHAH, and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease. For any questions, or concerns, or to schedule an initial naturopathic appointment, please contact us at 416 913 4325 (HEAL) or email us at email@example.com