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Natural Living: Lay insomnia to rest

Maureen Lamerdin, O.M.D

Our pace of life is increasing everyday with the help of technology. We can be productive 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, just how productive are we without proper rest? Sleep deprivation affects more than 40 million people in United States. Approximately 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep. Over 9 million doctor’s visits per year are attributed to insomnia, while in 2011 60 million sleeping-pill prescriptions were filled in this country. Unfortunately, the trend is for people to increase their usage of stimulants through the day to keep them awake due to a poor night’s sleep. This creates a vicious cycle, which only pushes the body more out of balance. The good news is that there are many effective steps one can take and many natural treatments that can be employed to improve sleep.

It is important to respect our body’s natural circadian rhythm. When it gets dark, the body clock stimulates the Pineal gland which produces melatonin, in Chinese medicine this is the yin time of the cycle. The yang time of the cycle, when the sun is shining, or with bright light, melatonin production shuts off. We are indeed animals and if we follow the laws of Mother Nature we allow our bodies to rest during the yin cycle which will allow the body to repair and rejuvenate reducing fatigue and stress.

It is essential to distinguish why one may have trouble sleeping. Common disturbances can come from sleeping in an uncomfortable bed, side effects of medications or drugs of any kind including sugar and caffeine, and from a secondary health condition including pain. Implementing simple life style changes like eliminating what is unhealthy for us and treating the root cause of other health conditions one will see a pronounced difference in their sleep.

Specific recommendations include the following:

Create a sanctuary in your bedroom, free of TVs, computers or most electronic devices. The bedroom is a place for sleep, so fill it with relaxing energy.

Avoid use of any device with a bright screen within two hours of falling asleep as research has shown these can inhibit sleep.

Learn to relax physically by incorporating yoga, meditation, acupuncture and massage.

Take a warm bath with lavender salts or use lavender oil on your pillow.

Have a regular bedtime.

Reduce food and drinks that increase sleep problems such as alcohol, chocolate, tea, coffee and soda.

Exercising daily will reduce stress and fatigue and help promote sleep. Tai Qi and Qi Gong are gentler exercises that balance the body while keeping the body fit.

Treat physical pain or discomfort that is keeping you from falling asleep or staying asleep. Acupuncture has proven successful in treating pain and many other physical conditions including insomnia.

Feed your body nutritiously by making sure you’re getting nine (yes, nine!) servings of vegetables and fruits per day, with vegetables being predominant. This will replenish energy and diffuse built-up stress.

Utilize the power of natural herbal remedies such as melatonin, valerian root, longan fruit, sour jujube seed, magnesium and mimosa bark. These remedies can be tailored to your specific type of insomnia by a Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Create balance in your life so you can have the power to lay insomnia to rest!