By: Dr. Nicole Sandilands ND
Sleep is one of those things that we sometimes take for granted. Being able to fall asleep easily and stay asleep unfortunately isn’t something that comes easy to everyone. It is estimated that as many as one third to one half of the population have some troubles with sleep at some point in their lives. Insomnia is defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep. It can affect anyone at any age, however it appears to be slightly more common in women than in men. Shift workers, post-menopausal women as well as travelers seem to be at the greater risk for insomnia. There are many different possible causes or possible contributing factors that may predispose one to experience either short term or chronic insomnia. Anxiety and/or depression have been associated with insomnia as well as stress and pain syndromes. Despite the cause or possible contributing factors, many people who have trouble sleeping are left feeling groggy and lethargic the day after a poor night’s sleep. So what can be done to help? Many people will turn to prescription sleeping pills, however these can be addictive and can cause significant grogginess in the morning leading many people to look for natural alternatives. There are many sedating herbs that work very nicely to calm the mind and body and help to ease one into a restful sleep. Valerian and passionflower are two of the most commonly used herbs. They both contain natural chemicals that act on the central nervous system and help to sedate the body without the grogginess the next morning. Another great option is a magnesium supplement. Magnesium is a mineral that has been shown to decrease cortisol levels in the body. When cortisol levels are elevated, particularly at night, this can significantly impact both the quality and quantity of our sleep.
Another one of my favourite treatments for insomnia is acupuncture. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help treat many different conditions. We often think of acupuncture for pain; however it has shown benefits for many other health concerns. For insomnia, acupuncture has been shown to have a marked benefit in helping to regulate the sleep cycle and improve both the quantity and the quality of sleep. A typical treatment plan for acupuncture would consist of 6-12 sessions performed either once or twice a week. Acupuncture points are carefully selected to work on the points on the body that help to relax the body and mind. The treatments can be a very nice way to relax and unwind from our busy day to day lives and can be a great way to help our body to better deal with stress, a significant disruptor of sleep. If you experience troubles with your sleep, you may want to consider adding acupuncture as a part of your routine. Click here to read more about acupuncture.