We’re wired to believe the notion that ‘sleep is for the weak.’ Rather than sleeping, many of us opt to spend our time being productive and getting something done – remember all those all-nighter’s in school? I don’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer, but sleeping in on the weekends isn’t going to cut it. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night is key to maintaining good health. My favourite book talks about protecting the asset (hint: that asset is YOU!) – not only is sleep a priority, it leads to hours of productivity, enhances creativity and allows for greater mental contribution to your work and overall quality of life.
What is Insomnia
Insomnia can occur due to a number of reasons: hormones, caffeine and alcohol intake, poor sleep hygiene, anxiety, depression, etc. Women commonly experience insomnia due to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, postpartum and anxiety and depression.
Insomnia is classified as: the dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality, associated with one (or more) of the following symptoms:
- Trouble initiating sleep
- Trouble maintaining sleep, as seen by frequent awakenings or problems returning to sleep after awakenings.
- Early-morning awakening with difficulty returning to sleep.
Creating a Good Night’s Sleep
Like most health issues, getting to the root cause of insomnia is of the utmost importance. However, as we treat the root cause we also want to ensure a good night’s sleep in the interim. Here are some natural therapies that help with insomnia:
Melatonin: This is a neurohormone that is produced by the brain, and is released in the darkness. It’s shown to be moderately effective for insomnia and delayed sleep phase syndrome (ie. falling asleep 2 hours after getting into bed). Talk to your ND about how much melatonin you should be taking – it’s generally avoided in pregnancy prep and pregnancy, and taking too much may cause night terrors!
L-theanine: This is an amino acid that is commonly found in green tea. It helps the the nervous system relax, and can act as a sedative depending on how much you take. Pro-tip: Drink a cup of green tea after dinner to help the sleep process along.
Lavender: Lavender is one of my favourite herbs, I usually add it to my nebulizer and I’ll often drink it in a tea. Lavender works on the GABA receptors, to help induce a calm state.
Passionflower: This herb is used to help with restlessness, wakefulness from exhaustion, and insomnia from mental overwork and/or worry. Passionflower helps calm the nervous system and can act as a sedative.
Have I told you how much I love acupuncture? There was a time in my life where it literally took me 2 hours to fall asleep (sleep deprivation is just awful!), and after a few acupuncture sessions my sleep was fixed!
Although it’s difficult to study the effect of acupuncture within the body, it’s thought to increase the amount of serotonin with the brain which can help promote relaxation and sleep. Many studies have proven the benefits of acupuncture when it comes to insomnia – in fact there are 3 body points commonly used during treatments: Gv20, Sp6 and Ht7. There are also certain points on the ear (known as auricular acupuncture) that can help promote relaxation and sleep. They can be needled or seeds can be applied to these points.
Acupuncture treatments can range anywhere between 20-60mins in length and can be done on a weekly basis anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. Acupuncture has been shown to be beneficial for sleep onset and maintenance.
Before you go to sleep
Creating an optimal sleep environment helps promote sleep onset and improves sleep duration. Before you go to bed, ensure that your room is cool, dark and free of distraction. Bonus points if you have your nebulizer/diffuser running with some lavender essential oil.
Remember, just because you’re sleeping 12+ hours on the weekend this doesn’t erase your sleep debt. Sleeping in on the weekend can disrupt your circadian cycle and cause you to be more tired. Moreover, it can also mess up your regular sleep routine.
Are you ready to lock down your sleep routine, and want some help? Book a free meet and greet with me – I may not do any acupuncture during that visit but I will help you determine if Naturopathic Medicine is right for you!