One of the most common complaints my patients have is insomnia. Often times this is not their chief complaint but rather comes up in discussion at the first patient interview. Its surprising how many patients think that its “normal” not to get a good nights sleep so they do what they can to put up with it. I have patients that get up and do their laundry at 0300 because they are up and well, they needed to get the laundry done.
There are many contributing factors to insomnia which include, chronic pain, stress, menopausal hormonal imbalance, sleep apnea, improper diet, the use of stimulants Ie coffee and energy drinks late in the day,shift work, to mention a few.
Problems occur either in falling asleep, or they fall asleep only to awake at 0200 bright eyed ready to go.
Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can lead to many other health problems, not to mention poor sleep can effect ones work performance the next day. Jobs that require quick thinking and operating machinery are particularly hazardous to the insomniac. In fact one study suggests that poor sleep quality over time is comparable to doing your daily performances at a level of being impaired by alcohol.
What can one do to help if they have insomnia or sleep disturbances. For starters, for anyone who has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, they absolutely must look into a cpap machine. They work by delivering a constant flow of air through a tubing and mask into your airway. It creates enough pressure in your airway to hold the tissue open so your airways do not collapse which causes you to snore. These machines are not cheap and there are sleep disorder clinics that will help you find one most suited for you. Sleep apnea can have a significant impact on your quality of life, including high blood pressure or heart problems, daytime fatigue, liver problems. Not to mention a sleep deprived partner due to the snoring.
It takes a few weeks to get used to the machine on at night, but once you do, your quality of life increases.
In treating my patients for any medical problems one of the first things I do is address insomnia and sleep issues. Once a person gets better sleep their ability to heal anything else increases significantly. Acupuncture is very effective for insomnia, but like other therapies it can take some time. Making a few lifestyle changes including reducing stimulants such as nicotine, caffeine and alcohol will help. Keeping a consistent sleep and wake time. Keeping your room dark and only using your bedroom for sleep or sex. Eliminating any tv s computers or other electronic devices in your room and limiting your on screen activity a few hours before you sleep. Regular exercise during the day, as well Using some essential oils such as lavender which is very calming can help the mild insomniac.
There are over the counter and prescriptions you can take for more immediate results, and for the very short term may be necessary. However In a Stats Canada survey in 2010 it showed that taking medications to treat insomnia and anxiety long term increases your mortality risk by 36%.
These are not things you want to take for any extended period of time. Chinese herbs work much differently they help your body heal addressing the excess or deficiencies you have in your system getting at the root cause of your insomnia. Combine the herbs with acupuncture and you are e well on your way to a better nights sleep.
Lisa Greene. R.Ac Ryt