What is insomnia?
Insomnia is difficulty in getting off to sleep, or staying asleep through the night.
What causes insomnia
- Stress and anxiety - for some this is a permanent state, for others only with challenging life events
- Stimulants: including caffeine, alcohol, drugs or nicotine
- Too much mental stimulation before sleep
- Eating too much before bed - particularly rich or sweet food
- Age: as we get older, sleep can be more challenging
- Other illness: chronic pain, heart disease, neurological conditions, hormone problems eg. over-active thyroid
- Pharmaceutical drugs: certain prescribed and over the counter medications have insomnia as a side effect
Conventional treatment for insomnia?
Your GP will give lifestyle advice, of things you can do to improve your sleep, eg. go to bed at a regular time (see life style advice for a more extensive list)
You may be referred for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
If it is a stressful time you may be prescribed sleeping pills for the short-term.
How do I treat insomnia?
It is likely that sugar, alcohol and caffeine are likely to be problems. Although I am less likely to use kinesiology to extensively test for food sensitivities or for pathogens, unless there are other symptoms that suggest they may be a problem.
I may kinesthetically test for a Bach Flower Remedy, which is an emotional tonic, developed by Edward Bach, which can sooth anxiety and stress.
Commonly I will want to move Liver Qi Stagnation - which gives you the feeling of being wound up, frustrated, angry or stressed; whilst I would want to tonify Yin and Blood, especially that of the Heart if you find it difficult to get off to sleep, and the Kidneys, if you find you wake up a lot on the night. For the real "over-thinkers" there is probably Stomach and Spleen deficiency too.
I am likely to use auricular acupuncture to de-stress and chill. I call these my "valium" points. Some patients ask me, "what do you have on those pins", as though they were dipped in a drug to provide extra relaxation - of course they are not!
- It is difficult to test on sleep during the session - unless the person goes to sleep there and then (not unknown, but not so common for insomniacs), however I do use EFT to:
- Address any on-going stressful situations
- Address specific issues you connect with your insomnia
Effectiveness of treatment:
For those for whom this treatment is effective - it is really effective, but my experience suggests that for those who are prepared to work with me - adapting their habits and lifestyle, will get better results than those who carry on with bad habits, not conducive to a good night's sleep.
The British Acupuncture has research lists research into acupuncture for insomnia - the results are mixed, but include:
"Acupuncture treatment is superior to Trazodone for sleep quality and daytime function, with milder adverse reactions.."
Luo WZ et al. [Effect of acupuncture treatment of relieving depression and regulating mind on insomnia accompanied with depressive disorders].Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2010 Nov;30(11):899-903.
Each case is slightly different, so to discuss your symptoms further call 020 7370 4693 or email.
Lifestyle advice for insomnia
- Stop drinking tea and coffee or other caffeine drinks (cola, Red Bull, etc)
- Avoid alcohol
- Don't smoke
- Don't eat a big meal before going to bed
- Set up a routine: a lavender bath, candles, relaxing music
- Relax - however you do that - playing guitar, reading a light book, etc
- Comfort - be sure you feel safe and comfortable in your bed
- Don't nap during the day
- Have fixed hours for going to bed, ideally before 11pm
- Do 30 minutes of exercise each day - but not within 3 hours of going to sleep
- Write down the worries that are keeping you awake, and then leave them till the morning (there are less than you think!)
Keep stress to a minimum
Stress reducing tips:
- Take a walk in nature: the countryside or a park
- Try yoga, Qi Gong or Tai Chi
- Engage your creativity: painting, playing an instrument, taking pictures, creative writing (start with a journal)
- Avoid over obsessing about emails, texts and the internet
- Anything to provide balance to counteract a busy life
Ask yourself, what do I do to relax? I hope you have an answer! If so, make time for it. If not - play and find out.
Other sleep tips
- Try taking valarian - a natural sleeping herbal pill
- Try Super Sleep, or Sound Sleeper - a product of the Monroe Institute. It is binaural beats which you play on headphones, each ear receives a slightly different frequency. Because the head cannot move to even out the sound between the ears (doesn't work with headphones), it forces the brain to even out the sound - these two versions take you into delta waves, the brainwaves of sleep. If you do remain awake, it's a much more restful place - and you may drop off to sleep
- Try meditation