Helpful Insomnia Ideas
Right now it’s spring. With daylight hours increasing and everyone becoming more active, it’s a good time to remember good habits for sleep. So many people are having trouble with insomnia. One in 3 Americans suffer from some form of insomnia. There are 80 different sleep disorders identified in the medical world. I get asked all the time if acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help. Acupuncture resets the nervous system on a deep level and herbs help restore balance to internal organ function and hormones. Herbs combined with acupuncture reset the body’s internal clock to be tired at night and awake during the day. Many people find acupuncture with herbs very helpful for insomnia. They find it works much better than medications, without the side effects. Until you can get in to see an acupuncturist there are some helpful insomnia ideas, tips, and tricks you can easily do at home that might help.
- Start your day with a good breakfast. A good breakfast triggers cortisol levels to increase in the morning, and helps to regulate cortisol throughout the day causing it to drop at night. This nighttime drop is what promotes restful sleep.
- For breakfast you need to have protein and warm water within ½ an hour upon waking. Try warm water with fresh lemon, this will stimulate the adrenal glands. Once you start this routine it takes about 30 consecutive days to regulate your cortisol level.
- Do some meditation in the morning for 5 minutes or more. It helps to bring awareness into the body.
- Stop eating or drinking anything with caffeine by noon. The half-life of caffeine in the body is 6 hours, so it takes 6 hours for its effects to be decreased by half. Some people have a defective gene that makes them very sensitive to caffeine. These people will need to give it up completely. Consume no more than 2 cups of coffee a day, or switch to green tea. Green tea contains more antioxidants and is more supportive of metabolism than coffee.
- Limit naps in the afternoon to ½ an hour or less. Keep them between 12:00 and 3:00 PM.
- Exercise before 5 or 6 PM and don’t overdo it. Moderate exercise helps with insomnia. Vigorous exercise can create it. If you have been overdoing it, try walking and/or a yin yoga practice for 1-2 months to help get your cortisol levels regulated again. Don’t do hot yoga too close to bed time.
- Don’t have that alcoholic beverage late at night. Alcohol has a rebound effect. It may help you fall asleep, but then it causes you to wake about 3-4 hours after consumption. It also causes restless sleep.
- Remove all devices like phones, pads, TVs, etc. from the bedroom. Cover any bright digital clocks with a cloth. Clean up your room. Clutter creates stagnation and can make sleep more difficult.
- One hour before sleep put all electronics away, no TV either. Blue light from devices makes the brain think it is still daytime.
- When it is time for sleep drop the room temperature to 60-68 degrees. Then, warm your hands and feet. Maybe take a shower or bath, but keep the water temperature cooler, not too hot. Try adding essential oils. Helpful ones are: Lavender, Marjoram, Chamomile, Nutmeg, Benzoin, Clary-Sage, Vetiver, Hops, and Valerian. A good blend would be: 3 drops of Clary-sage, 2 drops of Vetiver, 1 drop of Valerian, and 2 drops of Lavender. Add 3 drops of this blend to a bath, or to 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and rub into your hands and feet.
- Get a journal and give yourself 15 minutes of worry time right before bed. Write down everything on your mind. Then, write solutions you can think of and put it away. You can worry about that stuff tomorrow.
- Get up in the morning at the same time each day. Go to bed when you are sleepy.
- For some with seasonal insomnia. A specific spectrum light may help. Sit under it in the morning.
- If you do wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep. Rather than allowing anxiety or fear to take over, get up and go to a different room. Meditate or read a book with a blanket over you. Then try to go back to bed after about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Ambien is only approved by the FDA for short-term use, about 12 weeks. It’s not meant to be taken long term. After awhile it can cause insomnia instead of help with it. There are also many other medications that can interfere with sleep, check with your doctor or pharmacist about which ones.
- Melatonin supplements help some people, but for most Melatonin works better for jet lag than insomnia.
- Valerian and Passion Flower are helpful for insomnia. Magnesium and B vitamins can also be helpful if your levels are low. Check with a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) for doses that are safe.
Remember it’s not about how many hours you sleep, it’s about how rested you feel in the morning. Little improvements mean a lot. Don’t get discouraged, it may take some time to get your sleep regulated. Multiple solutions are available to you.
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- Damiana Corca DOM, Sleep Specialist.
- Murray, Michael ND; Pizzorno, Joseph ND “Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine Revised 2nd” Three Rivers Press. New York, NY. 1998. Pp. 602-608.
- Worwood, Valerie Ann. “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy.” New World Library. Novato, CA. 1991. Pp. 285.