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Insomnia & Sleep Disorders
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. People who have insomnia may experience difficulty with falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. As a result they wake tired because of too little sleep, poor-quality sleep or both. Chronic insomnia is defined as insomnia that lasts for a month or longer. Most cases are secondary, which means they are the symptom or side effect of some other problem. Certain medical conditions, medicines, sleep disorders, and recreational drugs can cause secondary insomnia. Emotional factors that can cause this type of insomnia include depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease are also common causes. Ongoing pain, breathing difficulties from sleep apnoea (a sleep disorder), asthma, heart failure, overactive thyroid and the menopause are all underlying conditions that will have a detrimental effect on sleep patterns.
Acute or primary insomnia is common and lasts for a shorter time. This may lead to poor sleep practices. But there is never an underlying medical event or condition for primary insomnia. Any stressful event can be the trigger. Constant travel that interferes with body clock mechanisms, or disrupted work schedules such those experienced by night shift workers can also be causes.
Insomnia can cause daytime sleepiness and a lack of energy. It can also make you feel anxious, depressed, or irritable. You may have trouble focusing on tasks, paying attention, learning, and remembering. This creates problems at work or school. Insomnia is also a serious health risk. It is estimated that 30 percent of major road accidents happen because of tiredness. Many global events such as the nuclear reactor meltdown at Chernobyl, the oil spill in Alaska from Exxon Cadiz and the NASA space ship Challenger accident were all caused in part through exhaustion and sleep deprivation. There is also excellent evidence that there are significant long term negative effects for individual health. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, hypertension and reduced immunity are all more likely to occur when there is long term insomnia.
If insomnia is affecting your daily activities talk with your doctor. He or she will need to check that there is no underlying medical condition (secondary insomnia) and will help you evaluate any ongoing risk. Your doctor will also check that prescribed and over-the-counter medications are not adding to the problems.
- Caffeine, tobacco, and other stimulants prevent sleep. The effects of these substances can last as long as 8 hours so stop at midday.
- Certain over-the-counter and prescription medicines disrupt sleep (for example, some cold and allergy medicines).
- Alcohol: a single small alcoholic drink before bedtime might make it easier for you to fall asleep but it does mean that sleep is lighter than normal, so it is more likely that you will wake up during the night. Alcohol levels beyond this are stimulant and will prevent deep sleep from establishing.
- Try to adopt bedtime habits that make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Follow a routine that helps you wind down and relax before bed. For example, read a book, listen to soothing music, or take a hot bath.
- Try to schedule your daily exercise at least 5 to 6 hours before going to bed.
- Don't eat a heavy meal before bedtime and minimise fluid intake in the evening so that you are not woken by the need to use the bathroom. Calcium and magnesium may deepen sleep so night time is the perfect time to drink Superfood Plus, which is high in absorbable plant minerals.
- Make your bedroom sleep-friendly. Avoid bright lighting while winding down. Try to limit possible distractions, such as a TV, computer, or pet. Make sure the temperature of your bedroom is cool and comfortable. Your bedroom should also be dark and quiet.
- Go to sleep around the same time each night and wake up around the same time each morning, even on weekends. If you can, avoid night shifts, alternating schedules, or other things that may disrupt your sleep schedule.
- Speak to your doctor about a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that may be available free of charge through your group practice. CBT works as well as prescription medicine for many people who have chronic insomnia.
Foods & herbs for the home
- Avoid all dietary stimulants such as coffee and tea and soda drinks that contain caffeine (such as cola and Red Bull).
- Instead drink supportive herbal teas that are naturally free from caffeine and help the nervous system balance such as Evening Peace Herbal Tea.
- Stop alcohol and monitor the effect on your sleep pattern.
- Remove wheat from the diet for 3 months. Wheat contains compounds that block the body’s production of tryptophan. Tryptophan is the precursor of serotonin and we need good levels of serotonin to feel happy and positive, as well as for good sleep.
- Foods that are rich in B vitamins, magnesium and calcium will feed and soothe the nervous system. Superfood Plus has very high levels of all these nutrients.
- St. John’s wort has an established reputation for supporting mood; you can download Jill Davies' book "St John’s Wort" to learn more.
- Stress and lack of sleep create higher than normal levels of circulating cortisol in the blood. Produced by the adrenal glands, this hormone is involved in the stimulant stage of the “fight and flight” reflex. Switching it off is important for sleep, so support the adrenal glands. Ask for a sample of EnergiRevive Powder to be sent to you.
- Our Product Advice Line will be able to advise for individual conditions that may underlie your form of insomnia, and is a free service – see details below.
- Practise barefoot walking on grass, sand or pebbles. This will ground and discharge excess static electricity. It really does work!
- Participate in relaxation techniques such as meditation, and try biofeedback mechanisms that help you monitor your success in reducing anxiety.
- Take catnaps during the day especially between 3 and 4pm when the body naturally sends hormonal signals to do so.
- Bipolar sleepers naturally respond to pre-industrial rhythms of sleep. They go to bed earlier than usual (around 9pm) and have about 4 hours of deep sleep then they wake up for several hours. Some use the time to do creative but non-stimulating work while others simply relax and read a light book. They then sleep for another few hours of deep sleep. While modern culture may make this appear odd, a bipolar sleeper is not sleep-deprived but wakes deeply refreshed. It may be that you are such a sleeper.
- Use relaxation products before going to bed such as Lavender Essential Oil. Put a few drops on your pillow.
Additional help is available by phoning the free product advice line at Herbs Hands Healing between the hours of 9.00am to 1.00pm. Tel: 01379 608201.
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Learn more about Dr. Richard Schulze’s Superfood Plus and why we believe this is such a wonderful food by following this link on our website, where extensive information is available. Also please visit our Superfood Plus facebook page for articles and current news.
To learn more about natural healing for this and other ailments, visit Dr Schulze's blog.
If you would like to see videos of Jill Davies showing you plants growing in their natural settings and discussing their medicinal attributes then visit us on facebook. You can also explore additional herbs and their traditional uses by linking to Herbs Info & Photo Gallery and Herb Profiles. Useful additional information can also be found at the Herbs Hands Healing information pages on Detox & Cleansing and Natural Healing.