PEAS Health

Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Health

Signs and symptoms of Insomnia Dealing with Sleeplessness

can't go to sleep

Mention insomnia and most people will immediately think of someone who can’t go to sleep.
And they’d be right, but it’s not confined to just not being able to drop off in the first place.
I myself am an insomniac, although for me, thankfully, I go through phases where I will sleep like a baby for weeks on end, and then be hit with an insomnia stage which completely floors me.

I would rather go without food than sleep, and that is saying something – I’m a complete foodie!
Somebody suffering from insomnia may experience one, some or all of the following:

•    Being unable to fall asleep at night
•    Falling asleep but waking up during the night
•    Waking early in the morning and being unable to go back to sleep
•    Being constantly tired during the day
•    Being clumsy
•    Having an upset stomach
•    Irritability

It’s soul destroying – unless someone has actually been through it they can’t really understand how bad it is.

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The dangers of insomnia can be far reaching and sometimes fatal:

•    Slower reaction times can mean driving is dangerous and can result in an accident.
•    Sleep deprivation is a real risk factor in psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety.
•    Irritability can cause problems in professional or personal relationships.
•    It can put you at a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
•    Insomnia can also increase the risk of obesity.

The causes of insomnia are as varied as the effects, but some are well known.

•    Stress and worry – almost always guaranteed to keep you awake at night as your brain struggles to stop mulling things over.
•    Pain – many people suffer from chronic pain disorders such as arthritis, fibromyalgia or heartburn to name a few.
•    Caffeine – drinking too much tea, coffee and cola can affect your sleep as caffeine, which is present in these products, is a stimulant and not a relaxant.
•    Smoking – Nicotine is also a stimulant and can affect sleep.
•    Late night eating – trying to sleep on a full stomach is very difficult as it can make it uncomfortable to lie down.

Fortunately there are things you can do to help yourself break the cycle, without resorting to pharmaceuticals.

Have a bedtime schedule and stick to it

natural treatmentWe are creatures of habit, so it makes sense that having a sleep routine will help. Take a warm bath with essential oils (more on that later) at the same time every evening.

Drinking something warm and soothing in the evening is a good signal to your body that it is now ‘wind-down’ time – drinks such as valerian or chamomile tea, or warm milk, are a good choice.

Read a chapter of a book every night before bed – no more and no less.

Practice good sleep hygiene

No, this has nothing to do with cleanliness!

It is the practice of having things ‘just right’ in your bedroom.

Your bedroom should be dark, cool and quiet. Noises can disrupt you while you are trying to sleep, as can lights.

Temperature is very important – I know if I get too hot at night time that sleep is off the cards – it just doesn’t happen, so a cool room is paramount.

Interestingly, while noise is discouraged in a bedroom, white noise is said to be helpful, so if your room is too warm invest in a fan. The coolness together with the white noise is a powerful combination.

Also equally important is comfortable bedding – make sure your pillows and mattress are right for you, and change your bedcovers to match the seasons.

Make a Hops Pillow*

Hops has a soporific smell, which means it can induce sleepiness in whoever smells it.
In fact, workers who pick hops for a living will often feel drowsy during their working day because of its effect.

Find (or make) a small cloth bag and fill it with good quality dried hops. You can buy them at herbal stockists but makes sure they are more green than brown – this helps ensure you have better quality, fresher stock.

Tie the bag tightly to makes sure the hops can’t escape, and place it where you can smell it in bed.

(A good tip is to squeeze the hops several times to release the aroma).

Use Lavender

Lavender is well known for its ability to relax the user. Sprinkle lavender essential oil on the edges of your pillow, your sheets, your nightclothes…wherever you feel you will be able to smell it the most.

You can also mix lavender essential oil with water and spritz it into the air, or use it in an oil burner.**

Keep your bedroom for sleep and sex

Remove televisions, IPads and any other ‘screen’ item from your room, and put your mobile phone out of reach.

It is thought that blue light, from electrical appliances, can inhibit the production of melatonin, the hormone which is responsible for sleep.

Removing these objects from your bedroom also send the brain a message that the bedroom is for sleeping, which helps with the winding down process.

If insomnia is chronic you should see your doctor. He may be able to refer you to a sleep clinic, or find other ways to help. Insomnia can be severely detrimental to your health and should never be ignored.

However, when it is occasional, one of the remedies I have discussed above should help you to break the cycle and fall back into a regular sleeping pattern.

After all, everything looks better after a good night’s sleep.

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*Hops is associated with contraindications in depression. If your insomnia is due to depression, or if you suspect it might be, then use one of the other methods mentioned. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry.

**When using candles never leave them unattended and always extinguish before going to sleep.

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