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Give Insomnia The Slip And Slip Into Slumber

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Susan is a 38-year-old woman with increasing insomnia. She has two children, and her marriage is reportedly in fair condition. In this article I’ll explore underlying causes for insomnia and safe solutions to the problem. I’ll also reveal the cause of Susan’s insomnia.

Can’t Get To Sleep Or Stay Asleep

Trouble falling asleep is a serious health problem. It is an illness with a cause, even though my patients have difficulty pinpointing the reasons for their insomnia.

If sleeplessness arises from a temporary stress in your life, then taking a pill to get to sleep is a great idea. Or if it is from bothersome conditions such as arthritis, acid reflux, menstrual pains, headaches, sinus trouble, hot flashes or other illnesses, then treating those conditions should help.

Of course, daytime sleeping will keep you from being tired at bedtime, too.

Some tips for improved personal sleep habits:

  • Plan a specific, consistent bedtime and a time to wake.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and spicy or sugary foods four to six hours before bedtime.
  • Exercise during the day but not right before bedtime.
  • Sleep on comfortable bedding, keep the room temperature comfortable and eliminate disturbing noise.
  • Use your bed for sleep and sex, but not for eating, studying or watching TV.
  • Drink chamomile tea before bedtime.
  • Continue to dismiss negative thoughts as you are falling asleep; focus your mind on things in your life that feel good and on items you are thankful for.
  • Take a nice, hot bath.

Sleep Difficulties

What happens when you do all these things and you still can’t get your mind to drift off into sleep? That’s when you must consider that you are likely holding on to some ongoing worry or mental stress.

Mental stress plus insomnia perpetuate a high output of cortisol, the adrenal gland hormone that helps calm your mind and body when there is mental or physical stress. With ongoing mental and physical stress, cortisol becomes depleted because the adrenal gland cannot keep up with the demand. Adrenal fatigue ensues. Unless you make a major intervention by changing your perception of stress, rest your body or help your adrenal gland with supplements, you’ll suffer not only more insomnia but also many other miserable symptoms of adrenal fatigue (see my next week’s article about adrenal fatigue).

Furthermore, during this stage of ongoing stress and high cortisol output, your sleep hormone, melatonin, will be suppressed, adding to your insomnia. These disruptions in hormone balance directly affect your ability to turn off your mind and keep your body from the deep-sleep stages you need to restore your energy. If this is your problem, consider having your hormones tested by a physician who is familiar with saliva testing. I use the Access Medical Lab in Florida for this (http://www.accessmedlab.com/). Salivary cortisol and melatonin testing is easy, accurate and affordable.

What You Can Do

If you have trouble sleeping, it won’t hurt to simply supplement with melatonin. Start with a low dose of 0.5 to 1 mg at night. If needed, slowly increase the dose over the next two weeks to find what works, but don’t exceed 15 mg each night.

If melatonin does the trick, use it not more than five days out of each week. Additionally, you can drink chamomile tea before going to bed or use any of the other sleep herbs. These include valerian root, passion flower, lemon balm, coquelicot (a French wild corn poppy) and kava kava. They are usually found together as a blend of herbs at a health food store. L-theanine has a calming effect too.

Prescription sedatives that I prescribed most in years past include Ambien® (zolpidem), Desyrel® (trazadone) or, rarely, a benzodiazepine such as Valium® (diazepam) or Xanax® (alprazolam).

However, a better course is not to rely on herbs, other supplements or prescription drugs but to discover the root cause of your sleeplessness.

The Roots Of Sleeplessness

When you just cannot put a finger on why sleep eludes you, your mind races and the frustration continues, then it is time to look deeper into your way of thinking each day. Deep-seated worries are almost always the main cause of insomnia.

You may try to suppress worries; but if you don’t actually manage and deal with mental troubles, they will continue to live inside your mind.

Unfortunately, instead of working through worries, most people simply try to forget them or ignore them. However, they will likely continue to return over and over in your mind, like a tape that replays continuously and which you cannot seem to turn off. The best way to deal with this is to re-record the tape so that it plays ideas that are comforting to your body and mind.

There are many possible methods of re-recording your interior tape that plays back your stream of thoughts. Until you do, they will continue to be the very thoughts that cause sleeplessness. One excellent method has been created by Byron Katie (http://www.thework.com). You can visit her website and get started right there for free to “do the work” of reasoning that brings healing, peace of mind, healed relationships and more.

It takes consistent practice at thinking correctly until you believe things in a healthy manner. Beliefs are simply made by the thoughts you keep thinking.

Can you begin to see that a true master is one who masters the mind? Master your mind and you will be in bliss right here.

To feeling good for life,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
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