I am blessed to be a very good sleeper, but many of my clients and friends are not so fortunate. As a mother, I can empathise with them. However, I remember well the feeling of being on auto-pilot during the first years of my son’s life as broken sleep seemed to eat away at my brain power! At least my experience had a tangible cause, and a very happy one, so I could carry on as normal without too much worry.
That’s not the case for insomnia sufferers. They simply don’t know why they can’t sleep. It’s frustrating and exhausting for them. Unfortunately, although not sleeping can become your normal, it’s easy to underestimate the effects it can have. I have a family member who developed serious mental illness from lack of sleep and who could not recognise that it was gradually changing their brain chemistry. A whopping 90% of people who suffer from depression also suffer from insomnia, which shows sleep is a very important part of our mental as well as physical well-being. Statistics also tell us one in three people will struggle with insomnia at some point in their lifetime. A large number of people are at risk of developing further health problems if they can’t get relief.
I’ve found in my practice that many clients have a wonderfully deep sleep after their healing session. This may be because they finally had an opportunity to have deep relaxation, causing the parasympathetic nervous system to reset from stress mode to growth and nurture mode.But they often hadn’t identified that sleep was a problem until the pattern was broken.
In Chinese medicinal philosophy, your Wei Qi (way chee), or protective and vital energy, also has a synthesizing function that works in stages. The last stage takes place in sleep. This is where we sift and sort through all the experiences, stimuli and information we’ve taken in during the day and integrate it, discarding what is not relevant. It’s a little like rebooting or restarting your computer. When people are not synthesizing properly, it’s like they never catch up with themselves, and never feel like they wake refreshed each day. This comes up remarkably often these days in my BodyTalk sessions, perhaps because we are constantly bombarded with stimuli and information. But it’s also because we are out of sync with natural cycles and rhythms.
So what can you do at home to give yourself every possible chance of good sleep?
- Turn off modems and computers if possible, especially those in your bedroom. Quite literally log off!
- Separate work areas from sleeping areas, with a screen or curtain at least.
- Stop watching TV, listening to the radio, etc. an hour before going to bed.
- Turn lighting down low some time before going to bed so unnatural light does not confuse the pineal gland. It releases the hormone melatonin in response to the daily cycles of light and dark that signal your brain to go into sleep mode.
- Herbal teas or tinctures such as valerian, chamomile, and passionflower can help as well. If you have a tendency to wake up because you need to go to the toilet, a tincture would be better than a tea.
- Try a little aromatherapy at home. A warm bath with essential oils of lavender or chamomile may help you sleep, but will definitely help you relax.
- Write down everything you want to get done tomorrow, and put it aside so you don’t lay awake thinking about everything you need to remember!
- Try a recorded meditation. I’d especially recommend Yoga Nidra (psychic sleep). Although the idea is to try staying awake, it’s so deeply relaxing that it’s quite hard to do so! And if you don’t fall asleep, at least you have had all the other benefits, calming the mind and benefiting the nervous system.
- Have enjoyable, quiet things ready to do if you are awake: a book to read, a journal (especially a dream journal) or drawing. There’s no point getting frustrated if you can’t get back to sleep, and a quiet activity may help you wind down again.
- Many indigenous cultures acknowledge the hours before sunrise as a time when the veil is thin, as hours of power. If you are being woken up consistently at this time, you may be having an activation, not a problem. You’ll know if you feel out of balance, and by writing or meditating may tune into some great insights while the world is quieter. Pay attention to your dreams and see what messages they hold for you.
If none of these natural remedies work for you, then please seek professional help.
- A sleep clinic may be able to help you identify exactly what kind of disruptions are happening by recording your brain waves, eye movement, muscle tension and breathing patterns.
- Sufferers of sleep apnea, where a person stops breathing periodically while asleep, can be helped with a special dental or oral mouth piece.
- If necessary a short course of sleeping medications can be prescribed by a doctor. They often leave people feeling drowsy during the day, but if they can break the cycle then it may well be worth trying until a better sleeping pattern is re-established. Of course, there is a risk of becoming dependent on medications so they are not a good long term solution.
- Get some Reiki or BodyTalk, or other natural health treatments that will balance your body holistically, and may uncover deeper issues. Even a massage may help to just give you a period of time to unwind, and any healing you do will bring you some benefit in the long term.