Natural therapies for insomnia

During stressful periods in our lives it’s not uncommon to experience sleeping difficulties or insomnia. In most cases, sleep difficulty is due to stress and provides an indication that your work or lifestyle habits need assessment.

Sleep is essential. for tissue repair; rest and the restoration of vital organs and body systems occur during sleep. Periods of insomnia can impede these processes, leaving you feeling unrefreshed mentally and below your peak physically. During times of stress and emotional difficulty, more strain is put on the physical and emotional reserves, increasing the need for proper sleep. It’s during these times, when sleep is most likely to be disrupted, that you may need some assistance to ensure a healthful night’s rest. There are some natural therapies that can aid stress relief and help remedy sleeping problems.

What is insomnia?
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or to remain asleep for the required length of time, leaving the affected person almost permanently tired during the day. Sleep difficulties are most often caused by stress or worry but in some cases are associated with disease or certain medications. Insomnia falls into three sub categories:

Initial insomnia Difficulty in falling asleep, most commonly due to emotional disturbances such as anxiety, stress, depression, illness and pain. Sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnoea fall under this category.

Middle insomnia: Waking during the night, again usually due to emotional disturbances such as anxiety or depression. This may also be associated with pain.

Early-morning awakening: Falling asleep occurs normally, but the sufferer wakes early and cannot sleep again or falls into a restless sleep.

Natural therapies for insomnia
There are several natural therapies that can assist with insomnia.

Herbal medicine
Herbal teas are very useful because of the overall calming effect a cup of warm tea brings. In addition to teas, herbal tinctures are potent liquid extracts that are prescribed according to the individual. Here is a list of herbal sedatives and nervous system tonics. A naturopath or herbalist will be able to prescribe herbal medicine to treat insomnia.

  • Passionflower
  • Lemon balm
  • Chamomile
  • Hops
  • Lime blossom
  • Skullcap
  • Valerian
  • St John’s wort
  • Vervain

Always consult a qualified naturopath or herbalist before taking herbal medicines. Some herbs are unsuitable for people with certain medical conditions, those taking particular medications or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Homœopathy
Like herbal medicines, homœopathics are selected carefully according to personal requirements. Common homœopathic remedies for insomnia include Kali phos., Coffea, Ignatia, Nux vomica and Muriatic acid where the person is tired but cannot sleep and feels restless and irritable.

Exercise
Regular aerobic exercise that raises the heart rate and causes you to sweat can be beneficial for insomnia. Exercise releases endorphins that encourage feelings of wellbeing and mental relaxation. It causes the body to become physically fatigued and therefore encourages sleep and allows you to get out of your head physically and work out the frustrations that may be keeping you up at night.

Stress relief with natural therapies

Mental relaxation
There are various tools you can try to help relax you mind and facilitate sleep. Natural therapies that aid with stress relief include:

  • Guided meditation
  • Creative visualisation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Mantras

Relieving tension
Massage therapy is beneficial addition to a holistic approach to insomnia. If you find that stress and muscular tension are contributing to your difficulty sleeping, consider allowing yourself to indulge in a professional relaxation massage.

Find a natural therapist that can assist with insomnia in WellBeing’s practitioner directory
 

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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Natural therapies for insomnia

During stressful periods in our lives it’s not uncommon to experience sleeping difficulties or insomnia. In most cases, sleep difficulty is due to stress and provides an indication that your work or lifestyle habits need assessment.

Sleep is essential. for tissue repair; rest and the restoration of vital organs and body systems occur during sleep. Periods of insomnia can impede these processes, leaving you feeling unrefreshed mentally and below your peak physically. During times of stress and emotional difficulty, more strain is put on the physical and emotional reserves, increasing the need for proper sleep. It’s during these times, when sleep is most likely to be disrupted, that you may need some assistance to ensure a healthful night’s rest. There are some natural therapies that can aid stress relief and help remedy sleeping problems.

What is insomnia?
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or to remain asleep for the required length of time, leaving the affected person almost permanently tired during the day. Sleep difficulties are most often caused by stress or worry but in some cases are associated with disease or certain medications. Insomnia falls into three sub categories:

Initial insomnia Difficulty in falling asleep, most commonly due to emotional disturbances such as anxiety, stress, depression, illness and pain. Sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnoea fall under this category.

Middle insomnia: Waking during the night, again usually due to emotional disturbances such as anxiety or depression. This may also be associated with pain.

Early-morning awakening: Falling asleep occurs normally, but the sufferer wakes early and cannot sleep again or falls into a restless sleep.

Natural therapies for insomnia
There are several natural therapies that can assist with insomnia.

Herbal medicine
Herbal teas are very useful because of the overall calming effect a cup of warm tea brings. In addition to teas, herbal tinctures are potent liquid extracts that are prescribed according to the individual. Here is a list of herbal sedatives and nervous system tonics. A naturopath or herbalist will be able to prescribe herbal medicine to treat insomnia.

  • Passionflower
  • Lemon balm
  • Chamomile
  • Hops
  • Lime blossom
  • Skullcap
  • Valerian
  • St John’s wort
  • Vervain

Always consult a qualified naturopath or herbalist before taking herbal medicines. Some herbs are unsuitable for people with certain medical conditions, those taking particular medications or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Homœopathy
Like herbal medicines, homœopathics are selected carefully according to personal requirements. Common homœopathic remedies for insomnia include Kali phos., Coffea, Ignatia, Nux vomica and Muriatic acid where the person is tired but cannot sleep and feels restless and irritable.

Exercise
Regular aerobic exercise that raises the heart rate and causes you to sweat can be beneficial for insomnia. Exercise releases endorphins that encourage feelings of wellbeing and mental relaxation. It causes the body to become physically fatigued and therefore encourages sleep and allows you to get out of your head physically and work out the frustrations that may be keeping you up at night.

Stress relief with natural therapies

Mental relaxation
There are various tools you can try to help relax you mind and facilitate sleep. Natural therapies that aid with stress relief include:

  • Guided meditation
  • Creative visualisation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Mantras

Relieving tension
Massage therapy is beneficial addition to a holistic approach to insomnia. If you find that stress and muscular tension are contributing to your difficulty sleeping, consider allowing yourself to indulge in a professional relaxation massage.

Find a natural therapist that can assist with insomnia in WellBeing’s practitioner directory
 

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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Australian Natural Therapists 1001x667

Join the Australian Natural Therapists Association today!

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Natural therapies for insomnia

The inability to either get to sleep or stay asleep, commonly known as insomnia, is second from the top of the list of medical complaints in Australia. Each year up to 40 percent of people in Australia report some trouble sleeping. In fact insomnia has become a more common in modern day society, costing Australia over half a billion dollars every year in medical expenses in addition to the priceless expense of each sufferer’s health. A survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that insomnia is the most common reason for using hypnotics and sedatives. As such medications can be harmful to our health and well being, we need to look at alternative ways of dealing with insomnia. Whilst we still have far to go, the use of herbal and natural preparations is gaining in popularity as the trend towards complementary forms of medicine and health-related treatment continues.

How great do you feel when you are well rested and full of energy? Now how do you feel when you are deprived of your sleep? Proper sleep is a vital source of energy for you, allowing time in which your body and mind can rest completely in order that you are refreshed and rejuvenated, able to live your life as fully and joyously as you can.

What causes insomnia?

There are a number of factors that can contribute to insomnia – stress, physical pain, lack of physical or social activity, medications such as blood pressure tablets or asthma medication, certain foods, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, or a sleeping disorder. Medical conditions such as asthma or respiratory problems may cause insomnia, whilst psychological conditions such as depression or anxiety have been shown to commonly occur with insomnia.

Whatever the cause, most people have had trouble sleeping at some stage in their lives. Often irregular sleeping patterns, that is frequent changes in the times at which you go to sleep and wake up, can affect the quality of ones sleep and cause insomnia. What happens when we experience jetlag, for example? As the natural rhythm of our body’s normal sleeping pattern is disrupted, we become disorientated, anxious and emotionally fragile. It can take up to four days for the body to regain its balance.

Insomnia is not just a repetition of sleepless nights, it has a significant affect on the everyday functioning of a person’s life. Side effects are numerous and can include excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, memory lapses, irritability, general lethargy, disorientation, personality changes, sexual dysfunction and obesity. Whilst almost everyone experiences sleepless nights from time to time, if this goes on for more than a few weeks help should be sought.

We spend nearly a third of our life sleeping; surely this is reason enough to give our sleeping habits some attention. Everyone differs in their need for sleep and in their sleeping habit and these habits change as we age. Infants need around 18 hours of sleep, adolescents need nine hours, adults require seven to eight hours and the elderly need only six hours of sleep. Whatever your pattern may be, you will know that poor sleep will impact on your ability to enjoy life on a daily basis. So what can you do, whether you want to be free from insomnia or whether you just wish to improve the quality of your sleep?

Ayurveda

Returning to the ways of nature, the Ancient Indian Science of Life, Ayurveda, looks at curing insomnia through removing the cause and rebalancing the body. Ayurveda connects insomnia to an imbalance of vata (air) in the body and so many of the suggested practices are to reduce this element.

Here are some recommended and rather interesting practices given by Indian Healers for those experiencing periodic difficulty in sleeping. Although some of these points are mostly nothing more than common sense, they are often neglected in the hustle and bustle of modern life.

  • Sleep on the right side of the body.
  • Sleep with your head facing the east and your feet pointing to the west to promote meditative sleep.
  • Remove mirrors that are found at the end of your bed.
  • Wash your hands, feet and face, massage your feet with oil and meditate before sleeping.
  • Go to bed to sleep, not to write, read, watch television or think.
  • Wake up before dawn.
  • Get up as soon as you wake up.
  • Generally speaking you should not need more than 8 hours of sleep a night. Through experimentation, find out what amount of sleep is best for you.
  • Never sleep during the day unless you are tired from travel, exhausted from emotional trauma or sex or you are sick.
  • Keep a regular sleeping pattern.

Yoga

The following yogic practices are recommended for people suffering from insomnia. They are also helpful in calming a mind that has been overactive during the day and for inducing a peaceful state of being: –

Trakata

Begin by lighting a candle and placing it on a table in front of you so that the flame is directly in line with your eyes whilst you are in any comfortable sitting position. Make sure that the candle is one arm’s length away from you and that there is no draught blowing the candle. Sitting still, keep your spine erect and close your eyes. Relax your whole body, especially your eyes. Keep your body still throughout the practice of Trataka. After a few minutes of sitting with your eyes closed, gently open your eyes and focus your gaze at the tip of the candle wick. Whilst the flame may flicker, the wick will remain steady. Make a concerted effort not to blink the eyes or move the eyeballs. Do not strain. Relax the eyes. As your awareness becomes so focused on the wick of the candle, body awareness lessens. After a minute or two, when the eyes become too tired, gently close them once again.

With your eyes closed you will now be able to see the image of the candle’s flame in the space in front of your closed eyes. Stabilise this image if it starts to shift in any direction. If the image fades, try to bring it back. When the image vanishes completely then gently open your eyes and gaze again at the wick. Continue in this way for three or four rounds. If you are practicing trataka for your first time, start by gazing for one or two minutes and slowly build up to ten minutes. This practice is best done either at dawn or dusk on an empty stomach and after yogic asanas (positions). For people who suffer from insomnia, trakata can be practice for ten to 15 minutes before going to sleep.

Crocodile Pose

Lie down on your stomach. Move your feet so that they are almost one metre apart. Keep the heels of your feet facing each other and your toes pointing outwards. Cross your arms with your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on your right shoulder. Rest your chin on the point where your arms cross. Close your eyes. Relax completely. Imagine and feel that your body is becoming heavier and heavier. Focus your attention on your breath, just observing the breath. Stay in this position for five to ten minutes and then roll onto your right hand side to sleep.

The Crocodile pose is a great asana for when you are tired, tense or suffering from sleep disorders, insomnia or hypertension.

Camel Pose and Child’s Pose

Sit on your heels. Open your legs slightly so that you can sit between them. Reach back and take hold of your ankles. Slowly begin to arch your back and push your hips forwards. Gently allow the head to drop back so that the neck is relaxed and the head is heavy and loose. Breathe deeply in this position for 30 seconds. Slowly move out of camel pose, moving the top half of your body forward until your head comes to rest on the ground in front of you in Child’s Pose. Stretch your arms out on the ground in front of you and keep the palms of your hands flat on the floor. Resting your forehead on the ground, relax the body as much as you can, breathing gently. If you can, hold for ten minutes, relaxing as much as you can. Otherwise, hold for as long as is comfortable for you.

Whilst the Child’s Pose is great for insomnia, relaxing the mind and inducing an overall state of calm, the Camel Pose is especially good for insomnia as it uses the acupressure points around the ankles and heels that are excellent for inducing deeper sleep.Massaging or pressing the points around the Achilles tendon will also help the body to relax before sleeping.

Yoga Nidra

Lie down on your back in corpse pose, legs apart, arms by the side of your body with the palms facing the sky and close your eyes. Relax your body completely, section by section. Start from the tips of your toes, moving gradually to your ankles, calf muscles, knees, systematically progressing all the way up to your head and face. Either you can clench or contract the muscle group, hold for ten seconds, and then relax or you can just take your attention to that area. When you reach the face, really take your time with every part of the face -your forehead, eyebrows, eyelids, eyeballs, nose, lips, cheeks, jaw and finally, the skin on your face. Imagine that your skin is so loose it is sliding off your face. Allow everything to be soft and heavy.

Food

Eating habit and the type of food you eat has a significant affect on your body, mind and emotions. Ayurveda give specific guidelines for eating habits which help to combat insomnia: –

  • Eat your meals at regular times each day.
  • Late night dinners and heavy, fatty foods should be avoided.
  • Eat a good meal before sunset. Take a bath in luke warm water two hours after the meal and then go to bed after your bath, listening to either drone instruments or to the sound of rustling leaves.
  • Minimise the consumption of black tea, coffee or caffeine drinks. Do not drink these any later than 2pm.
  • Avoid salty and dried foods.
  • Add hot, sweetened milk to boiled rice and eat whilst hot.

Drinks

Certain herbs, herbal teas and mixed ingredients can help to induce sleep. The following drinks and herbs are not capable of curing insomnia on their own, but may help to relax the body and mind: –

  • Linden tea

  • Chamomile tea
  • A glass of warm milk with a pinch of saffron
  • Nervine herbs such as valerian

Body Care

If you suffer from chronic insomnia, Ayurveda recommends the following practices that work to draw excess heat out of your body in order to restore the natural balance.

  • Drink two to three litres of lukewarm water a day.

  • Liberally cover your forehead, earlobes, the crown of your head, nipples and navel with sandalwood paste.
  • Take an enema and a massage from time to time.
  • Rinse your eyes with rosewater before putting a drop of ghee (clarified butter) into each eye. Once this is done, keep your eyes closed and go to sleep.
  • Comb your hair before going to sleep.

  • Massage your feet, calves; neck and shoulders before sleeping.

If you are still unable to sleep, you may wish to try the following remedy: place one drop of a nursing mother’s milk into each of your nostrils. Apparently this is said to bring immediate sleep! As we are all individual, some of the remedies recommended may work for you whilst having little or no affect on someone else. You will have to try them to discover on an experiential level what is best for you. Wishing you restful nights of deep sleep.

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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