Are you getting your zzzzzzz’s?
If you are struggling to switch off or waking frequently through the night read on to find out how to improve your sleep.
I have been fascinated by sleep and dreams for many years and feel that both Dream sleep (REM) and Deep sleep (NREM) have a role to play in our health. I am concerned at how little we value sleep as a culture in the West, often trying to overcome natural patterns by resorting to coffee, drugs and medications that override our sleep requirements.
Two thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended 8 hours of nightly sleep. This won’t come as a surprise as many of us are battling stress and overwhelm with huge demands on our time as we try to juggle work, parenting and other obligations.
Most of us have a cup of tea or coffee in the morning to kick-start us, but our hormone levels first thing in the morning should be optimum for wakefulness and we should not need any stimulants. The need for caffeine first thing in the morning is a sign that we have not had enough sleep.
There are other issues too if we look at the importance of REM (Rapid Eye Movement ) or dream sleep as well as NREM (non rapid eye movement) in the processing of life events and the formation of memory. REM is essential and does not occur if we drink alcohol or take sleeping tablets . Once we have missed the window our ability to recall stuff whether it is our studies or life experiences diminishes by around 40% – not good news for students at University who are renowned for over indulgence!
As I am sure we all know deep down, a lack of sleep can be extremely damaging to our health. As adults, routinely sleeping less than 6 or 7 hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer and can also put you at risk of Alzheimers/ blocked coronary arteries and diabetes. And then of course there are the effects on our emotions – a lack of sleep can and probably will lead to depression and anxiety. And the worst thing to do if you suffer from Anxiety is drink coffee as it exaggerates all the physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat and difficulty breathing.
You may also put on weight as too little sleep leads to a concentration of the hormone that makes you feel hungry and you will have more cravings for carbohydrates including bread and sugar.
Sleep according to the Chinese
Waking up at a certain time every night can also be explained by referring to the Chinese Medicine Body clock. For example if a person wakes regularly between 3 and 5 am then it could indicate there is an issue with the lungs or it could be a sign that you are experiencing grief as the lungs are the organ associated with grief in Chinese Medicine.
Dreams are often entertaining and can bring comfort or possibly the solution to a problem. On the other hand they can be Nightmares, something we dread and prevent us from wanting to even go to bed – I find this is particularly the case for children I treat who find it harder to differentiate the dreamworld from reality. It is important to make a note of how you feel in a dream as this could be an emotion that you are processing in the physical world too. Symbology is good but your dreams are personal to you and whilst we have universal meanings this may not always apply to you and what you intuitively feel or understand from your own dream is much more important.
The homeopathic perspective
I very often treat people who are suffering from Stress and Anxiety and naturally many of them suffer with sleep problems. Whatever you come to see a homeopath with they will invariably ask you about your sleeping habits, whether you wake up and possibly whether you have any recurring dreams.
From a homeopathic point of view this can give us many clues as to the correct prescription as all remedies have key times in which things occur within their picture for example some remedies wake at certain times of the night. Some remedies also have a greater tendency to insomnia or difficulty getting to sleep or waking up in the morning. Recurrent dreams can also provide a helpful insight into what is happening in your subconscious behind the coping day to day mask that most adults wear.
A homeopath will also look at exactly what may be causing the sleep difficulties – it could be a natural tendency to being more awake at night time or it could be down to stress and nervous tension. Another cause of sleep disruption is obviously Jet Lag, night shifts or caring for a loved one or new baby through the night – something that has disrupted our natural sleep pattern.
In homeopathy we always aim to find the remedy that best matches the individual symptoms to those produced by the homeopathic substance, according to the principle “Like Cures Like”. It will be no surprise then that one of my top acute remedies if I am wide awake and having trouble sleeping is Coffea!
Bach Flower remedies can help too…
In my practice I often use Bach Flower remedies alongside the homeopathic remedy and many of you will have heard of Rescue Night which is Rescue remedy with the addition of White Chestnut, which is very good for those who suffer with thoughts going round and round in their head preventing sleep. These off the shelf mixes such as Rescue Remedy can be a great help but nothing beats making your own personal rescue combination!
Craniosacral therapy – calming the nervous system
When people ask me what Craniosacral therapy is I often describe it as feeling similar to meditation or having a whole night’s sleep in an hour. Craniosacral therapy works on many levels but the most prevalent effect it has is in calming the nervous system, by taking us out of “fight or flight” mode of the sympathetic nervous system and back into the more healing parasympathetic nervous system. Craniosacral therapy is non-invasive and non-threatening and the client lies fully clothed on the couch, often with a blanket over them. As such it is an ideal therapy for someone who tends towards stress and anxiety.
I like to combine all of the above in my attempts to help people get the right amount of quality sleep for them. Let me know if you need help with Sleep, Stress or Anxiety and I would love to hear about any interesting dreams that you may have had and what light it shed on your life situation….
Sleep Therapy Appointments
Please contact me if you would like to try an extended 2 hour Sleep Therapy appointment – this costs £150 and includes:
- 1 hour of homeopathic consultation with all remedies.
- 45 min craniosacral treatment to relax and reset the nervous system.
- Bach Flower mix if needed to soothe the emotions.
- Weleda Lavender Bath Milk and Epsom salts to take away.
- Avena Sativa comp drops to take away.
What can you do to help yourself?
Stick to a sleep schedule
Excercise but not too late – Although Yin Yoga is great in the evening
Avoid Caffeine/ Nicotine and alcohol
Avoid large meals and drinks late at night
Avoid medications that delay or disrupt your sleep
Don’t take naps after 3pm
Relax before bed – reading or listening to music should be part of your bedtime ritual
Take a hot bath- The drop in body temperature after getting out may help you to feel sleepy.
Add Epsom salts to your bath – they contain magnesium and will help your muscles to relax – I buy mine in large tubs for economy.
Add Lavender to your bath as this has a natural calming effect. Weleda Lavender Bath milk is included in the package or you can buy it here.
Avena Sativa Comp drops from Weleda contain herbs that target your nervous system naturally
Try an earthing sheet or grounding products to reduce inflammation and increase the restorative power of sleep as explained here
Make sure your bed is clean and comfortable and the room is dark.
you will sleep better if the room temperature is on the cool side
Don’t have screens in your bedroom and get an alarm clock so that you can leave your phone downstairs.
Turn off your WiFi at night – you will be amazed…
Write a list and put clear your mind!