Endless nights of tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling, checking the time – suddenly it\’s morning and you feel as if you\’ve barely slept a wink. Unfortunately, one in seven Canadians experience insomnia, according to a 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey.
Endless nights of tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling, checking the time—suddenly it’s morning and you feel as if you’ve barely slept a wink. Unfortunately, one in seven Canadians experience insomnia, according to a 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey.
Generally speaking, insomnia means inadequate or insufficient sleep. A person with insomnia may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, may wake frequently or too early in the morning, or simply lack enough refreshing sleep.
No matter what the cause or how it presents, insomnia results in daytime fatigue, poor concentration, a lack of energy and motivation, irritability, compromised immunity, and accelerated aging. Besides leaving you feeling less than your best, poor sleep interferes with hormonal balance, appetite control, and fat loss, even when dietary and exercise routines are right on track.
The stress of work deadlines, family issues, strained finances, or other life upsets can cause the occasional sleepless night for most of us. Intermittent insomnia may not require treatment since it typically lasts only a few days. Improving sleep habits or removing irritating factors is often enough to provide relief.
But if you experience recurrent insomnia, seek help from your natural health practitioner.
Try these lifestyle modifications for two weeks.
- Skip caffeine, especially late in the day.
- Don’t eat or drink too close to bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine, especially before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly during the day.
- Practise yoga and meditation to help you relax and fall asleep.
- Don’t exercise within three hours of bedtime.
- Establish a regular wake-up and bedtime schedule that’s the same each day.
- Create a dark, cool, quiet, comfortable sleep environment.
- Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only.
Natural sleep aids
If you have modified your lifestyle for two weeks without improvement, natural sleep aids are the next best course of treatment.
GABA: Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a calming brain chemical. It’s well suited for individuals who experience anxiety, muscle tension, or pain. Take 500 to 1,000 mg before bed.
5-HTP: 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) has been found to be effective in sleep loss related to depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia. 5-HTP appears to increase REM sleep. It also decreases the amount of time required to fall asleep and the number of nighttime awakenings. Take 50 to 400 mg a day.
Melatonin: Melatonin in our bodies decreases as we age, as well as during times of stress and depression. At bedtime, take 0.5 to 3 mg under your tongue for faster absorption.
L-Theanine: L-Theanine is a calming amino acid naturally found in green tea; it’s known to support relaxation without causing drowsiness throughout the day. Take 50 to 200 mg per day.
Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is a tonifying herb that can be taken for insomnia, restlessness, or when feeling overworked or stressed. The typical dosage is 500 to 1,000 mg twice daily.
Relora: This natural herbal sleep aid is my favourite choice for patients who tend to wake up during the night, for highly stressed individuals, or for menopausal women who experience hot flashes that cause sleep disruption. Take two 250 mg capsules at bedtime and one capsule upon rising.
Passion flower: Passion flower aids the transition to a restful sleep without the narcotic hangover sometimes associated with sleep medications. As an antispasmodic, it is helpful in treating tension and stress, and has the potential to decrease anxiety and prolong sleep time. Take 100 mg twice daily.
Calcium/magnesium: My favourite remedy is two tablets of a calcium/magnesium combination in a citrate base (about 300 to 500 mg of each) and two capsules of magnolia bark extract at bedtime. It’s the perfect solution for the most common cause of sleep disruption—stress.