I have always suffered from sleep problems and am constantly tired. Sometimes I can't get to sleep, other times I wake in the early hours. I don't drink coffee and I keep bed times relaxed and regular. What can I do to improve my sleep pattern?
Recent article in the Archives of Women's Mental Health journal suggests that insomnia is an overlooked epidemic among women. One person in five takes some kind of remedy for sleep problems, and the number of sufferers is undoubtedly increasing. If anyone has more than three nights of disturbed sleep a week something needs to be done about it complications from lack of sleep include fatigue, headache, irritability, anxiety, poor skin quality and reduced daytime performance. Researchers at Harvard Medical School are currently reviewing evidence suggesting that sleep is vial for memory and brain function, and many scientists believe that insomnia can lead to an increase in chronic disease.
The term insomnia embraces any disturbance of the sleep-wake cycle. Other sleep disorders include nightmares, sleepwalking and bed-wetting.
The causes of sleep problems are many and wide-ranging. Caffeine, alcohol, smoking and dehydration are common factors. Environmental factors, such as electrical gadgets and geopathic stress (which can occur where there are overhead power lines, electrical cables in a congested city and underground rivers, for example), may be involved. A lack of fresh air and an overheated bedroom can cause problems. Your body's air-conditioning system switches off during sleep, so you may become too hot, and your heart and breathing rates could increase. Aches and pains, arthritis, fibromyalgia, menopause, restless-legs syndrome, sleep apnoea, ME/chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis and cancer can all lead to insomnia.
The mind is a powerful disturber of peaceful nights. Stress, anxiety, bereavement and other emotional upsets can stop you dropping off and/or cause frequent waking between 3am and 4am. This early waking is due to the nervous system being hypersensitive to the production of daytime hormones (cortisol and adrenalin) at around this time, replacing the night-time hormones (melatonin and serotonin).
Insomnia can also accompany psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia, manic depression or paranoia.
In my experience, most people with insomnia have reversed day-night cycles. They toss and turn, their minds fully alert worrying about not being able to sleep. How much sleep you need is individual. Some people can feel refreshed after just a few hours. you need to adjust to your own rhythm: if you sleep less at night take a nap during the day. Even a few minutes of sleep or meditation can refresh the brain.
Here are my suggestions:
* Avoid food and drink that agitates the mind: caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and cola: more than one unit of alcohol daily, salty crisps and snacks, and anything containing monosodium glutamate (MSG).
* Eat your evening med early, by 8pm if you want to go to sleep at 1pm. Avoid rich, heavy food, such as curries, cream sauces, fried foods, lots of bread, mushrooms, citrus
fruit juices, fizzy water and beer. These cause a build-up of gas in the abdomen and need at least four hours to digest.
* Don't eat sweets at night as sugar activates the brain.
* After your meal, go for a gentle ten-minute walk
* Establish a pattern of winding down and preparing for bed at a similar time. Try not to stay up too late (beyond 10pm), as the body and brain become overtired and need much more sleep to feel restored.
* Don't have too hot a bath before bed as it may increase your heart rate and agitate the mind.
* Take one Calm Down capsule at bedtime for one month.
* Drink two glasses of still, room temperature water before going to bed, and go to the lavatory just before you sleep.
* If you wake in the night, sip some water and suck two tablets of the homoeopathic remedy nux vomica 30, then two tablets of belladonna 30. Do this for one month.
* Remove electrical gadgets (TV, music systems and computers) from the bedroom because electromagnetic waves alert the brain. Some researchers recommend positioning your bed, head away from power sources.
* Keep your bedroom window slightly open, if possible.
* Listen to a relaxation CD, or try chanting. This helps you to and body to calm down.
* Massage your neck and jaw - or ask your partner to do this for you - for ten minutes before going to sleep to help relieve tension by increasing blood flow to the brain.