By Dana Ullman MPH
(Excerpted from The One Minute or So Healer, North Atlantic Books)
This book does not primarily focus on how to use homeopathic medicines but instead provides information on various natural health strategies to treat common ailments.
WARNING: This book is a lighthearted practical health guide. Laughter may be a side effect.
“I hate when my foot falls asleep during the day because I know it’s going to be up all night.”
Falling asleep can be so easy and yet at times be so hard. When insomniacs meet with nacroleptics (people who have an uncontrollable tendency to fall asleep throughout the day), each is inevitably jealous of the other’s condition.
The zen solution for people having difficulty falling asleep is to avoid trying so hard. However, telling an insomniac to not try to fall asleep is like telling someone who is starving to try to fast when sitting at a dinner table.
It may be reassuring to know that 15-25% of all adults suffer regularly from insomnia. Somehow, though, this awareness usually doesn’t make falling asleep any easier. In fact, there are probably readers who will now stay up nights trying to organize meetings of Insomniacs Anonymous.
- While some insomniacs have difficulty falling asleep, others wake frequently and have problems staying asleep. Whichever problem you are experiencing, this is one situation whose solution can’t be found by sleeping on it.
The good news is that not everyone necessarily needs eight hours of sleep a night. Some people define themselves as insomniacs, because they regularly sleep only five or six hours. Actually, they should think of themselves as high-energy people who don’t need a lot of sleep. Some people’s body rhythms are such that their highest and most creative energy periodoccurs late at night. The wakeful state that these people experience is not a sign of illness, it may simply be a signal– sometimes an annoyingly loud signal–that the person should use this alert time to do some creative work.
- Perhaps the best way to determine if you’re getting enough sleep at night is if you feel rested and refreshed upon waking. If you don’t feel rested and need some help, read the next set of strategies. Soon you may be getting sleepy, very sleepy, very very sleepy….
Strategy #1: Relaxation trick #1. Hypnotize yourself. Feel total relaxation in your feet, then slowly feel the relaxation move up your body. Tell yourself: I am falling asleep. Use diaphramatic breathing which will help relax you further (see Strategy #8 in the Asthma section for instructions).
Strategy #2: Relaxation trick #2. Massage the soles of your feet, or preferably, have them massaged for you. This can be very relaxing.
Strategy #3: Relaxation trick #3: Don’t sleep tight: . Take a warm bath in which you add a couple of drops of one or more essential oils such as orange blossom, meadowsweet, or hops.
Strategy #4: Hops to it. Hops is the herb that is used to make beer, and it is also used by herbalists to help people go to sleep. Some people brew a tea of it; others purchase the hops leaves and insert them into a pillow. You could also buy a dream pillows; these are small pillows filled with various sweet-smelling herbs which help you to think sweet thoughts and dream sweet dreams.
Strategy #5: Herbal sedatives. Steep one teaspoon each of valerian root, scullcap, and catnip for 20 minutes. One cup of this tea will relax the body and calm the mind. Another good combination of herbs is chamomile, passion flower, and hops. These herbs are available in capsule form too, though drinking a warm tea of them has an additional relaxing effect.
Strategy #6: Don’t count sheep, count on sheeps’ wool. Wool blankets are better able to regulate skin and body temperature than synthetic blankets. This comfortable comforter may help you sleep better.
Strategy #7: Caffeine and other stimulants lurk in unsuspecting places. Avoid caffeinated products, including colas, aspirin, diet pills, black tea, and of course, coffee. Nicotine in cigarettes is also a stimulant which will keep you up at night.
Strategy #8: Warm milk rarely works. Despite folklore that has long suggested that warm milk helps people to sleep, research has shown that it is rarely helpful. In fact, non-fat and low-fat milk can actually stimulate the brain’s activity.
Strategy #9: Avoid cat naps. Day naps should be avoided if you have problems with insomnia. Save your best forty winks for nighttime.
Strategy #10: Exercise earlier in the day and avoid it at night. A well-exercised body is less likely to experience insomnia, except when exercise is done within two hours of bedtime. Late-night aerobic activity can generate too much energy to fall asleep easily.
Strategy #11: Bedrooms are for sleeping. Avoid using your bedroom for stressful activities such as paying bills or doing work. Let your bedroom be a soothing, quiet, and relaxing place to be at all times.
Strategy #12: Create a sleep ritual. When it’s time for sleep, close the shades, get into your special bed clothes, brush your teeth, turn off the lights, and fluff the pillow. Mentally scan your body and sense where you feel tension. Tighten this place and then relax it. Take a couple of slow, deep breaths. You may also want to make certain that you are getting adequate but not too much ventilation. Do whatever other activities make you feel comfortable, secure, and relaxed.
Strategy #13: Unmedicate yourself. Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including decongestents and aspirin, can disturb sleep. Talk with your doctor to see if you can reduce the dosage or change the prescription.
Strategy #14: Rest assured, sedatives disrupt sleep. Besides being addictive, sedatives disturb deep sleep, leading you to wake unrefreshed. Occasional use of sedatives may be worthwhile, but avoid regular use.
Strategy #15: Don’t drink your sleep away. Alcohol may make you drowsy, but it disrupts sleep patterns and creates unrefreshing sleep.
Strategy #16: Try sex. While making love can be very energizing at times, it can also be extremely relaxing, thus helping to get the sandman’s attention. (Don’t try this if it causes anxiety instead.)
Strategy #17: Eight hours isn’t necessary. Research has suggested that insomniacs actually need less sleep than others. Don’t feel pressured to get a full eight hours every night; you may experience less anxiety about yourself and may be able to sleep better, even if you do sleep less.
Strategy #18: Coffee as a sedative? Homeopathic doses of coffee (Coffea) actually helps to relax the mind and body. Take Coffea 6 or 30 thirty minutes before bedtime and then again as you get into bed. This is particularly effective if you’re physically as well as mentally restless.
Strategy #19: Sweet dreams with passion flower. Passiflora 3 (passion flower) is perhaps the closest to a generic homeopathic medicine for insomnia in children or the elderly as well as those with a hyperactive mind (too many ideas and anxieties crowding in on you).
Strategy #20: Take two mantras and call me in the morning. A mantra is usually a one or two syllable word that you repeat over and over and over again. You use it as a way to calm the mind, though it can also clear the mind and encourage sleep. You don’t have to use Sanskrit words as a mantra; you can use what you like: “one,” “God,” “love,” or even “sleep.”
Strategy #21: Talk out loud. By vocally releasing the things that are bothering you, you are letting go of them. Acknowledge your anxieties, insecurities, and fears out loud. Get these emotions out and they may let you sleep. Keeping a journal can also be very cathartic.