One of the most common questions I am asked in my clinic is 'can you please help me sleep?'. More often than not, my sleep deprived clients have difficultly falling off to sleep, experience frequent waking throughout the night, or wake in the early hours of the morning unable to return to sleep. For some clients, their insomnia may be remedied in the short term, yet for others there are a number of variables to appreciate and apply if one is to improve their current sleep patterns. Many of us are aware that our sleep-wake patterns are governed by circadian rhythms, which usually run off a 25 hour cycle. Within this cycle there are two daily peak times for sleeping, one at night and one at midday. However, very few of us indulge in a luch time siesta. For this reason, you want to make sure that your night time sleep is as restful as possible to avoid fatigue.
There are 3 major types of insomnia: sleep onset insomnia (difficulty falling to sleep), maintenance insomnia (difficulty staying asleep) and early a.m. insomnia (waking in the early hours of the morning and being unable to return to sleep). Onset and maintenance insomnia are frequently associated with anxiety, while early a.m. insomnia is often associated with depression. Common medical conditions that can trigger insomnia include allergies, arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, hyperthyroidism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and menopause. Disturbed circadian rhythms in the form of shift work can also trigger insomnia.
There are a number of valuable natural treatments for insomnia that should be considered under the supervision of a qualified health care practitioner, before resorting to medication. These natural treatments include aerobic exercise (minimum of 20 minutes, 4 times per week); 500-2000 mg of L-tryphtophan (excellent for acute insomnia); 600mg of the herb, valerian, one hour prior to bed (improves quality of sleep and improves long term sleep patterns); a well studied and natural substance known as U4EA (small doses increase relaxation, tranquility and drowsiness); 5mg of the hormone melatonin (plays a huge role in inducing sleep) and 3mg of Vitamin B12 daily (improves sleep quality). With my current clients I have also found success in using stress management techniques, lecithin, magnesium, alcohol and caffeine avoidance and reducing trans-fatty acid consumption.