Dealing with insomnia can be an incredibly stressful experience. Most of us have had a time when we're lying in bed wishing we could sleep. No matter how much we want to doze off, our bodies and minds just don't seem to cooperate. The way losing sleep adds to the already existent anxiety about not being able to sleep creates the perfect storm. The ripple effect of losing a night of sleep shows up in our mood, our ability to concentrate, and a lowered immune system. This can be especially troublesome if it becomes frequent or chronic.
According to an energetic understanding, insomnia can be due to a variety of factors. Systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine recognize that there are many causes of insomnia or a restless sleep. The deeper imbalance can be due to an underlying deficiency or excess condition, or a disturbance of the spirit due to stress and other factors.
I've found acupuncture to be incredibly helpful when addressing sleeping disorders. During the intake process your acupuncturist will determine which of the above factors is causing you to have trouble sleeping and base their acupoint choices on this diagnosis. In addition, acupuncture helps to harmonize the body overall and creates a calm and peaceful mind.
Here are a few more tips to help get a good nights sleep:
Tips for Insomnia:
1) Avoid Classic Triggers
- Computer use/activity
- Eating before bed
- Alcohol, cheese, sugar, spicy foods, and stimulants (coffee, black/green tea, chocolate)
- Avoid the following foods close to bedtime (they contain tyramine which increases brain stimulation): eggplant, potato, tomato, spinach, sauerkraut, bacon and ham
2) Choose Foods to Support Sleep
- Grounding food can help us to move out of our heads and into out bodies. Eat lightly cooked root vegetables, oats, brown rice and whole wheat
- Cucumber, celery, lettuce, basil and dill
- Foods high in tryptophan (promotes sleep) like turkey, tuna, dates, and figs
- You may want to supplement with calcium and magnesium (take after mealtime and before bed) and B complex. These help with calming the body and reducing the effects of stress on sleep patterns.
4) Aromatherapy (essential oils):
- Use chamomile, jasmine, rose, lavender, and melissa (lemon balm) essential oils. These oils have calming and sedative effects. Use a few drops on hands (rub together and breath in for a few minutes), use a diffuser, or mix a few drops in some water and spray on your pillow case.
5) Herbal Medicine:
- Herbs such as chamomile, skullcap, passionflower, and reishi help to calm the spirit and mind.
- Valarian before bed may also help but do no take if pregnant or taking antidepressants or sedatives. Consult a health care practitioner if taking more than occasionally.
- Practice a short meditation before bed
- Daily moderate exercise will help to soothe the physical and mental bodies.
- Take the time before bed as sacred. Create rituals that encourage slowing down before sleep.
7) Yoga Posture:
- Do "legs up the wall" (viparita karani) before bed: lay on your back with your hips against a wall and swing your legs up against the wall so they are gently resting. Breath slowly and deeply. This posture calms the nervous system and prepares the body for sleep.