Sleep should be a natural part of life but for some, it doesn’t come easily. The reasons are many and varied: some prescribed medications interfere with the body’s wake/sleep cycle, emotional stresses lead to night-time anxiety, and the wrong food before bed will disturb sleep. Sometimes there is no obvious reason.
To help you get a good night’s sleep, we have compiled a list of helpful tips and outlined the common symptoms of some homeopathic remedies that treat insomnia. The remedy you need may be among them.
Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
1. Keep Healthy
- Exercise regularly. Exercising for at least thirty minutes each day will help you fall asleep at night. Just make sure you don’t do it too close to bedtime or the reverse will be true.
- Lose weight. Being overweight increases the risk of snoring and sleep apnoea, neither of which result in a good night’s sleep.
- Have a health check. Many diseases interfere with sleep. For example, thirst through the night may indicate diabetes, burning feet can point to small blood vessel or nerve disease, and frequent visits to the bathroom could signal a prostate, kidney, or heart problem.
- Balance menopausal hormones. Hormonal changes at menopause can cause hot flushes, joint pain, and palpitations that interfere with sleep. Bring you body back into balance with the help of your local homeopath or natural therapist.
2. The Food Factor
- Avoid caffeine. Drinking coffee, or even tea, will stop some people falling asleep. Be aware that caffeine is also in some processed foods, drinks, and even medications such as diet pills.
- Avoid foods which irritate. Dairy and wheat products are high on the list of foods that cause sleep-disturbing problems such as gastrointestinal upsets, congestion, gas, and apnoea in sensitive people.
- Eat a protein snack a few hours before bed. L-tryptophan from protein foods will help your body produce the sleep-promoting neuro-transmitters of melatonin and serotonin. Carbohydrates such as a small piece of wholemeal bread may also help tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier.
- Avoid fluids two hours before bed. This will reduce the likelihood of waking to go to the bathroom. Empty your bladder before going to bed.
- Avoid snacks, especially sugars and processed grains, before bed. These foods cause rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar levels that disturb sleep.
- Avoid alcohol. The drowsiness produced by alcohol is short-lived and stops you entering the deeper and more restful stages of sleep. As its effect wears off some hours later, you are also more likely to wake and then be unable to go back to sleep.
- Sip chamomile tea before going to bed. Chamomile tea has a mild homeopathic effect of relieving anxiety and inducing relaxation – just the thing for a good night’s sleep.
3. Prepare the Bedroom
- Make your bedroom an attractive place to sleep. Don’t dump work, chores, or junk on or around your bed. You will sleep much better in a relaxed and uncluttered environment.
- Check your bedroom for electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) and remove electrical devices. These can disrupt the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin that lead to sleep. If you are especially sensitive to EMFs try switching the circuit breakers off at night, cutting the power in your home.
- Maintain a moderate temperature. The recommended temperature for sleep is no more than 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit). A warmer temperature can disturb sleep.
- Darkness will help. Even small amounts of light can disrupt your body’s production of the neuro-transmitters needed for sleep. Reduce the light in your room by black-out curtains and avoid sudden exposures to bright light if getting up at night, as these can stop you body’s production of melatonin.
- Change the noise. Gentle music, white noise or relaxation CDs can help you relax and unwind. Sounds of the ocean can be particularly soothing for sleep.
- No TV before bed. Stop watching TV well before you go to sleep and certainly do not watch it in the bedroom. An exciting program will over-stimulate your brain, and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Add a little fragrance.The essential oil of lavender soothes and relaxes. Sprinkle a few drops around your bedroom before going to bed.
- Keep your bed for sleeping. Bed should be reserved only for sleep, or that other pleasurable activity. If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, your brain will associate it with these activities rather than sleep, making it harder to relax when you turn off the light.
4. Night-time Ritual
- Pack up your work at least an hour or more before going to bed. This will let your mind relax so you will more easily go to sleep. Write the following day’s ‘to do’ list before finishing work to stop your mind compiling lists as you try to go to sleep.
- Start a relaxing routine. This could consist of a warm bath, massage, aromatherapy or listening to a calming CD – anything that relaxes you. Repeat this routine each night and your body will soon associate it with going to sleep.
- Go to bed at the same time each night. And get up at the same time each morning, too, even on weekends. Your body clock will synchronise with these times making it easier to go to sleep as well as wake up in the morning.
- Take a hot bath or shower before bed. This will increase the temperature of your body. The fall in temperature as it returns to normal will encourage relaxation and help with sleep.
- Write it down and get it out. If your mind races when you try to sleep, writing you thoughts, plans and worries in a book can be a useful way of calming and emptying your mind.
- Read something relaxing. Slightly boring material is best as stimulating material such as mysteries or suspense novels will only wake you up further.
- Go to bed early. It is often said that every of hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after it, and there is truth in that saying. Our bodies do most of their detoxing before the early hours of the morning, something that is hindered if we go to bed too late.
- Use the homeopathic effect of coffee. In homeopathy’s ‘like treats like’ approach, coffee will paradoxically help some people sleep better as it will calm their busy mind and body if drunk before going to bed. This approach only works if your symptoms of insomnia are very similar to those of having had too much coffee. Coffee can also be taken in homeopathic potencies – read all about it under the name of Coffea Cruda in the ‘Treat Your Insomnia with Homeopathy’ section.
5. Once in Bed
- Warm your feet with socks. Feet often have the poorest circulation of your body. Wearing socks will stop them becoming cold and disturbing your sleep at night.
- Wear an eye mask to block out light. As already mentioned, blocking out as much light as possible will help you sleep. An eye-mask is an easy way to do this, especially if it’s impossible to have your room in complete darkness.
- Stop the noise. Ear plugs will block or muffle sounds if you are a light sleeper or if you have to sleep in a noisy environment
- Face your alarm clock away from you. Watching the hours tick by as you try to sleep will only increase your stress and make it harder to drift off.
Treat Your Insomnia with Homeopathy
Homeopathy has a marvellous history of treating insomnia, often making some of the more stringent suggestions in the ‘Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep’ section unnecessary. If insomnia is the only symptom you have, one of the following remedies may bring relief.
Just take one pill, or 5 drops, an hour or two before going to bed and let the remedy do its work. Once you are sleeping well, don’t continue to take it each night as each remedy will cause insomnia if taken in excess. You only need another dose should the insomnia return.
Symptoms usually do not exist in isolation, though. If insomnia is just one of your problems, or if it is not fully relieved by the remedy that seems to match your sleeplessness, make an appointment to see a professional homeopath who will take a detailed case-history to find a constitutional remedy to treat not only your insomnia, but the other health problems that bother you as well.
Arsenicum Album (Ars)
Key Symptoms: Those who need Arsenicum will be anxious and restless. Anxiety, fear, or worry prevents sleep. Frequent starting or jumping which wakens from sleep. Sleeplessness from physical exertion. Worse for: after midnight. Better for: warmth; warm drinks.
Supporting Symptoms: Disturbed, anxious and restless sleep. Lying awake with restlessness, tossing and turning. Cannot lie still in bed – has to get up and wander around from restlessness. Going from bed to bed to try and sleep. Can only sleep with head raised. Hard to fall asleep after waking.
Coffea Cruda (Coff)
Key Symptoms: Coffee is well known for producing sleeplessness but because of homeopathy’s ‘like treats like’ effect, it will relieve insomnia when given in crude, or especially homeopathic form. The type of symptoms it relieves are those produced by coffee. They are: sleeplessness from rapid thoughts or an active mind; constant flow of ideas; physical restlessness; nervous energy; excitement. Can also be used to counteract the effects of a caffeinated product that has been taken too close to bed-time. Worse for: suprises; strong emotions; narcotics.
Supporting Symptoms: Unable to sleep from the excitement of a surprise, or good or bad news. Palpitation with sleeplessness. Waking with every sound. Waking from frequent starting. Sleeplessness from an itching anus. Minor pains seems intolerable.
Gelsemium Sempervirens (Gels)
Key Symptoms: Sleeplessness from anticipatory anxiety. Dull, drowsy mind – hard to think yet difficult to go to sleep. Insomnia from exhaustion. Hard to get fully asleep. Worse for: bad news; thinking about problems.
Supporting Symptoms: Yawning with tiredness. Sleeplessness with teething. Sleeplessness from itching on head, face, neck, and shoulders. Sleeplessness during delirium tremens (withdrawal from alcohol).
Ignatia Amara (Ign)
Key Symptoms: Intense, repeated yawning or frequent sighing. Sleeplessness from a recent disappointment or grief.
Supporting Symptoms: Waking easily from sleep. Waking from the jerking of a limb. Itching of arms with yawning. Yawning produces tears in the eyes or threatens to dislocate jaw. Child wakes from sleep with screaming and trembling after being reprimanded before bedtime. Worse for: Coffee.
Lycopodium clavatum (Lyc)
Key Symptoms: Waking from hunger – must get up and eat. Restless sleep and anxious dreams with frequent waking. Feeling unrefreshed in morning.
Supporting Symptoms: Unable to get comfortable in any position. Falling asleep late and waking early. Sleepy all day and sleepless at night from an active mind. Children who sleep all day and cry all night. Child wakes terrified with screaming – seems not to recognise anyone (sleep terrors).
Nux Vomica (Nux-v)
Key Symptoms: Frequent yawning. Irritability from loss of sleep. Falling asleep before normal bedtime and then waking at 3–4am. Waking at 3-4am with alert and active mind and then falling asleep as daylight approaches only to then wake with difficulty, feeling tired, weak, and not wanting to get up. Worse for: stimulants and narcotics
Supporting Symptoms: Sleeplessness from the excessive consumption of coffee, alcohol, or drugs (therapeutic or recreational). Tendency to lie on back with arms under head. Sleeplessness from mental strain and stress or excessive study. Drowsy after meals an in early evening. Grogginess on waking in morning. Weeping and talking in sleep.
Passiflora Incarnata (Pass)
Key Symptoms: Restlessness, exhaustion, and sleeplessness.
Supporting Symptoms: Restless sleeplessness from excessive work. Sleeplessness with exhaustion. Insomnia of infants and the aged. Convulsions with sleeplessness.
Other Comments: Has a long history of use in herbal medicine where its homeopathic effect in the treatment of insomnia has also been exploited. It is effective in either herbal doses or homeopathic potencies.
Key Symptoms: Short naps with frequent waking. Frequent waking from feeling too hot. Sleeplessness from excitement or anxiety.
Supporting Symptoms: Sleeplessness in old people. Sleepless before midnight. Sleepy all day, sleepless and restless at night. Sleeplessness with sensation of bubbling in blood. Worse for: lying on left side.
Key Symptoms: Waking between 2 – 5am and unable to go back to sleep. Difficulty in falling asleep from itchiness of skin or perspiration. Drowsy by day and sleepless at night. Worse for: becoming hot; atmospheric changes.
Supporting Symptoms: Wakes up singing from happy dreams. Waking at night from a rush of blood to the head. Sudden waking from sleep. Constant flow of thoughts that prevent sleep. Sleep disturbed by headache. Better for: dry, warm weather.