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Demystifying Detox - December 14, 2018 Your Breath - January 2019Cultivate Joy - June 2019Insomnia and Sleep DisturbancesOctober 2019by Elle Hutchins SNHS (Acupressure, Holistic Nutrition, Herbalism)What Is InsomniaInsomnia is common problem which encompasses problems falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up and not being able to go back to sleep.What Causes InsomniaInsomnia is a general term and this can be caused by a variety of things including·stress·medications·what you eat and drink like eating too late at night, food intolerance and food allergies, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine·screen time·medical problems like GERD, Sleep Apnea, etc·physical problems like Pain, hormone fluctuations, perimenopause, menopause·travel·Anxiety, depression·Aging·Changes in health, activity, circadian rhythm, bladder etcSimple things you can doDetermining what is causing the problem will make a big difference in affecting change. Make an appointment with your health care provider to rule out or to treat problems like GERD, medication imbalances, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, sleep apnea, diabetic complications, thyroid conditions, heart conditions or other problems. Make sure there is not something else going on!While you are working with your health care provider try these.·Practice Good Sleep Hygiene Just like washing your hands prevents illness and spreading germs, good sleep hygiene helps set the stage literally and mentally for good sleep. Just like the delicious smell from a bakery or restaurant suddenly reminds you of how hungry you are (or just makes you hungry for whatever is cooking), setting your space for sleep sets up your mind to be ready for sleep.·keep the place you sleep uncluttered·get the temperature right for you which could be a combination of a fan, blankets, pillows and mattress. If heat is an issue, there are memory foam mattresses and pillows that help to keep you, or consider using a blanket warmer to warm your bed up.·Limit screen time before bed. Half an hour to an hour before sleep, turn off the tv, cell phone, or any other back lit electronics. The light triggers your eyes to tell your brain that it is not time for sleep. For some people this can take your brain 20 minutes to 2 hours to turn off that switch. Instead of late night TV or reading on your kindle, read a book or magazine, create a quiet, calm place where the outside world is shut off, and you connect with your family, your partner, or yourself.·Try to drink all your liquids at least 2 hours before bed so you don’t feel the need to wake up to use the restroom as much.·Stop eating snacks after 8pm. Some have suggested that weight gain and lack of sleep go hand in hand, partly because of the way our body digests food. When we sleep, blood leaves our core and spreads through our body evenly, but eating pulls the blood from our extremities, concentrating it in the core. Since these are opposing tendencies, it makes sense to eat and digest sometime other than when it is time to sleep. Another benefit of stopping food consumption at least 4 hours before bed is that those suffering from GERD, Acid Reflux, and other digestive problems will reduce the symptoms of discomfort.·Relax, Breathe Stress and Anxiety and an overactive mind are powerful motivators to stay awake. Over thinking or obsessive thinking, not being able to push anxiety thoughts away, the experience of anxiety itself and stress cause the stress hormones to pump into our body. These stress hormones then tell our body that something is very wrong. The stress hormones move all available energy to our muscles so we can fight or run, so we can survive. The stress hormones, the cortisols, stop our body from healing, prevent our core from being nourished, stop or slow digestion and ask us to hyper-focus on what feels like life or death problems. Our bodies are not designed to sleep deeply and peacefully if there is a lion in the room! ·Deep belly breathing can help your body metabolize these stress hormones and help you relax·CBT Cognitive Behavior Therapy can help you learn to manage your thoughts and determine good ways to manage your stress.·Meditation - Meditation means thinking. Learning to control your mind gives you a profound power over yourself to help you come to a place where you can regulate how you think and feel . There are so many types of meditation, if one did not work for you, try another. Mindfulness, Compassion Meditation, Taoist Meditation, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Western Meditation, Walking Meditation, as well as meditation traditions rooted in Christianity, Islam and most every other faith.·Write down everything that is bothering you, then set it aside. Since you have written it down, you can pick it up again whenever you like. The things you worry about will still be there later, so give yourself the space to rest.·Invest in yourself. Reflexology has been shown to be a very powerful means of treating insomnia, regardless of the underlying reason. Massage Therapy, Acupressure, Acupuncture, and Hypnosis are all very good ways of helping yourself treat Insomnia without adding chemicals to your body like drugs and herbs (or essential oils, which are also chemically active. It is the chemicals in the oil that are help you sleep).·See a trained herbalist who can help you determine if the essential oils you want to take will interact with your prescription mediation and if there are herbs that could help you without causing side effects or interfering with your medications.When the problem is MenopauseWhen the problem is menopause, you can certainly, on your doctor’s advice add phytoestrogens to your diet such as soy, wild yam, black cohosh, chia seeds, flax seeds, Red clover, Alfalfa, but they are estrogens similar to HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and there is a reason HRT is falling out of favor in mainstream medicine. See your doctor or naturopath about what is a good option for you and in the mean time you can treat yourself effectively using Reflexology points on your hands, feet, ears or scalp to stimulate your endocrine system, your solar plexus region, your adrenals and your organ points. Additionally stimulating the following acupressure points has been found to be helpful. SP 6, P 6, Ht 7. When the problem is PainWhen the problem is pain, finding relief and good sleep is essential, because sleep is when the body heals itself. See your doctor to make sure that your medication is not exacerbating the problem, and if you have insurance, asking for a referral for physical therapy to strengthen the related structures (agonists and antagonist muscles) could be very helpful. ·If the problem is in the bones or the joints, try acupressure or acupuncture. Generally the points to be stimulated would be the points controlling pain in the region of your body. Your acupressurist or acupuncturist can show you those governing points and can show you how to effectively stimulate those points between treatments ·If the problem is in the muscles, try a hot or a cold pack, gentle yoga, stretching, trigger point therapy, massage therapy and acupressure and acupuncture are all effective treatments to help you naturally control your pain. Additionally you can use topical oils (make sure to consult your doctor, pharmacist or herbalist to be certain that there are no contraindications. Oils and herbs work because they have active chemicals that affect the body the same way that pharmaceuticals do). Oils like frankincense (do not take internally), marjoram, ylang ylang, mint, lemon grass, eucalyptus, and cinnamon can all relieve pain. ·Chronic pain can also be treated effectively with hypnosis, which can also address the insomnia. Reflexology has been shown in clinical trials to reduce some types of pain, as has acupuncture, acupressure, Reiki and many forms of bodywork.When the problem is Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Worry Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Worry, feeling overwhelmed, stressed, unhappy and just unbalanced is and uncomfortable, untenable space to find yourself in. Find someone to talk to, but be picky. Whether it you chose to confide in an professional, or a friend, it should be someone who can just listen, and who offers advice only when you ask for it. You should be able to talk freely, and feel you are not being judged.Many people choose a counselor, mental health provider, or a spiritual counselor, and whether you choose a group individual setting, or online, this can be a very powerful tool to help you unpack the things that bother you and give you the space to grow and heal.Depression, unresolved trauma, and even just chronic stress is a problem because it impacts your body. When you cannot sleep, your body has trouble healing, emotionally regulating, your immune system suffers, your pain levels increase, and your body tries to compensate for the energy not going to your muscles by trigging you to eat more. Your mind is a part of your body, not separate from it. So what you can do in addition to finding a friend to talk to, which has been shown to help:·make social connections like volunteer in your community. This has been shown over and over again to help people improve their sense of self and sense of place in the community.·move around. Exercise is a loaded word, but doing activities you enjoy, or used to enjoy, helps your body by metabolizing stress hormones, making your body tired, and physical activity, even if it is walking, gardening cleaning house, arranging flowers, practicing tai chi, taking pictures in the park, or window shopping is good for your body and your mind. According to Taoist Wellness philosophy, all health is based on the key concept that human beings need a balance between stillness, tranquility and peace and movement. One cannot be healthy without movement. ·Practice Compassion Meditation with a focus on meditation for yourself. We know that our mind works by creating roads or paths by which we think. Some people call these ruts. When you find your mind wants to respond by being anxious, when you find you experience being overwhelmed more often than not, or you are irritable, unhappy, upset, creating a new mental rut can be very powerful. When you are trying to sleep, choose to relax your body, going through yourself relaxing your feet, your legs, progressively until you get to your head. Then when your body is relaxed, think about something or someone that makes you feel love and joy and compassion, for example a baby or a soft fuzzy kitten or puppy, a parent, grandparent, child, sibling. What is important is feeling that feeling of love and compassion. Sit with this feeling, concentrating on this feelinguntil you experience this feeling. As you practice this over the next several days, pull up that feeling and expand it to yourself. Expand that feeling of love and compassion to encompass yourself, your family and grow that feeling until it is big enough to cover you, your life, your circumstances, your world. This has a two fold effect. First, it helps to reduce some of your experiences of anxiety, stress and greif by creating a new mental habit. Secondly, it helps your body physically relax, so you can more easily set those thoughts and feeling aside and sleep.·Establish a sleep routine. This will be a subtle cue for your brain to get in the habit of falling asleep and waking up at the same time·Take time for gratitude. After you have turned off the electronics and the television, and after you have begun the ritual of going to bed, think about the things that you are grateful for, the things that went well. Focusing on the positive instead of the negative forces that internal narrative to change, it forces you to change your attitude and puts your body in a greater state of peace and acceptance. Facts do not change, but how we react and respond to them can change.·Get your heart rate going. If you are too worried to sleep, try exercising until you are tired, then trying to sleep.·Your body needs to drop a few degrees in temperature, so try taking a hot shower before bed.·Try some bodywork like acupressure for anxiety or reflexology for anxiety. Some points that could be especially useful are stimulating the head and brain reflex, the endocrine system, the solar plexus, the GI tract (more seratonin is found in the gut than in the brain), as well as H 7, P 6, SI 3, L 9.·Journaling, Taking Time Out, Down Time, These are neither frivolous nor luxuries. Taking time to just be in your own skin is as crucial as brushing your teeth. Taking a vacation or taking time for you, taking time for self care is so important. Doing things you like to do, even if you don’t feeling like doing them in the moment can make a huge difference, because then you are not relying on your sleep to be the only way you vent your frustrations, emotions. That is why sleep does help, because we vent our daily bumps and frustrations, but if you are not sleeping already, your ability to vent via sleep is diminished, making it harder to go to sleep. It becomes a vicious cycle.Dietary ChangesThere is literature to suggest nutritional deficiencies can cause a person to wake up at night, specifically a lack of calcium and magnesium. Incidentally, a magnesium deficiency can cause or exacerbate restless leg syndrome. Copper is a heavy metal and can build up in your system, but a deficiency has been shown to cause sleeplessness as well. Not sure, visit a dietitian, a nutritionist or discuss this with your naturopath. You can muscle test, take a hair or tissue sample t o determine what your body needs. Getting a wide variety of nutrients that your body needs from foods, not pills, is ta good place to start.Natural TreatmentsNatural, no chemical options to treat your insomnia, that are effective include Reflexology, Acupressure, and Bodywork like Massage Therapy, Thai Massage. Herbs that can help include: Valerian root (may cause intense dreams and is where Valium comes from), Linden Tea, Chamomile, Hops, and Lavender, kava kava, lemon balm, passion flower, and catnip.Essential Oils to diffuse include Clary sage, frankincense, lavender, chamomile and of course all the leading essential oil distributors also have propitiatory blends to prote rest and relaxation.Supplements and Nutrients to consider include: Melatonin, calcium, magnesium, 5 Hydroxy L Triptophan, and 3 hours or more before bed bananas, dates, tuna, yogurt, whole grains, nut butter or turkeySummaryInsomnia is a difficult thing to live with because so many things impact our sleep, and sleep impacts all of our body’s systems. If you develop insomnia out of the blue, see your healthcare professional because their might be something else going on, but even if it isn’t, paying attention to your sleep hygiene, keeping a sleep schedule, being more active, treating yourself and your mental state gently, nourishing your body with healthy foods, and investing in yourself are good ways to start. If Insomnia still bothers you after you have made your lifestyle changes and you have seen your doctor, try your complementary health therapists. Massage Therapy, Reflexology, Acupressure have been shown to improve sleep.You deserve to sleep well and feel well. Good health is your basic human right.ReferencesBalch, P. A. (2000). Prescription for Nutritional Healing (3rd ed). New York: AveryGoleman, D., & Davidson, R. J. (2017). Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes You Mind, Brain, and Body. New York: Random House.Gu. M. (n.d.). Taoist Meditation Course & Guided Meditation. 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ISBN0-87983-559-1Elle Hutchins is a Complementary Health Therapist, writer and educator practicing out of Sage Center. You can find a link to her written works and her professional speaking schedule at http://findyourdynamic.com