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Insomnia - Holistic and Alternative Medicine Solutions

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder characterized by the inability to fall asleep and/or the inability to remain asleep for a reasonable amount of time. Insomnia is a symptom, not a disease. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia each year. Insomnia tends to increase with age and affects about 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men. Poor sleep quality can occur as a result of sleep apnea or major depression.

Causes of Insomnia

  • The aches, the worries and the blues: Stress and/or depression related to work, school, health or family concerns can cause insomnia.
  • Medications/stimulants:The use of stimulants, including caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or other over-the-counter or prescription medications will also cause insomnia. Prescription drugs, including some antidepressant, high blood pressure and steroid medications, can interfere with sleep. Many over-the-counter medications, including some brands of aspirin, decongestants and weight loss products, contain caffeine and other stimulants. Change in your environment or work schedule and even long-term use of sleep medications will actually interupt your sleep cycle.
  • Incontinence: Having to go to the bathroom frequently can disupt your sleep cycle, more than some people realize. It can be embarassing, but talking to your health care provider about treatment can make a big difference.
  • Restless leg syndrome: Sleepless legs, or restless leg syndrome, is the second-most common culprit in sleep disruption. These conditions are often related to imbalances in the regulation of dopamine (a neurotransmitter).
  • Medical problems: Fibromyalgia or complex diseases of the nerves and muscles can make it very difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Behavioral insomnia, occurs when you worry excessively about not being able to sleep well and try too hard to fall asleep. Most people with this condition sleep better when they're away from their usual sleep environment.
Many holistic and alternative medicine therapies can help with insomnia:
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Herbal remedies
  • Aromatherapy
  • Nutritional advice
  • Homeopathy
  • Exercise
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Feng Shui
  • Massage and Touch Therapies
  • Reiki
  • Meditation/Metaphysical therapies
  • Yoga
  • Guided Imagery
  • Color Therapy
  • Energy Medicine/Sound Therapy
  • Crystal therapy

    Top Ten Sleep Tips

    1. Sleep. That wonderful but sometimes elusive state of bliss and rejuvenation! It is most important to go to sleep with a "Quiet Mind". Sometimes this is difficult to do. We all have trouble now and then. Sometimes, we are even afraid of knowing that we have to go to sleep. Fear can be an underlining problem in many cases. There are many ways to quiet the mind. Doing 15 to 30 minutes of meditation or yoga can be very helpful. You must allow yourself to be distracted or get into your meditation or yoga and "let go" of the days thoughts...see Meditation.
    2. Try tiring yourself out during the day, so that by the time you are ready for bed you are yearning for that pillow! Try exercise during the day to exhaust the muscles and mind. The moving is good when we are depressed too! It gets the blood flowing and makes us move past many issues. Pack your day with lots to do. Errands, class, shopping...whatever you can find to keep you busy.
    3. Valerian Root is a wonderful, natural sleep assistanting herb and is considered the 'valium' of the herbal world. Herbal tea, half hour before bed, is wonderful for relaxing the digestive system if you are nervous or upset. Chamomile is great for this as well as Kava and Hops. Try brewing these herbs seperate or even together for a wonderful prescription for sleep! See Herbal Teas
    4. Reading a book before bed is also good. This can direct your mind to a different place.
    5. Diffusing essential oils of Lavender, Chamomile, or Clary Sage are all wonderful to induce a relaxed state and the soothing scents will calm your senses. See Aromatherapy
    6. If you are taking a pain killer, be careful for many pain relievers actually have caffiene in them. Perhaps you may want to consider Willow Bark for pain.
    7. Remember, we choose our thoughts, our thoughts do not choose us. Believe that this is so. To Believe is a powerful thing. The Universe supports ALL that WE CHOOSE to Believe. So do not torture your mind with troubled thoughts which will not allow you to sleep and are only distructive in the long run. See Belief Systems.
    8. Block out light. To increase the quality of your sleep, research has shown that by blocking out light in your bedroom, you can improve your sleep pattern. If you can see your hand in front of your face, after the lights are off, then it is light enough to affect melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone secreted at night by the pineal gland. The pineal gland is a small organ in the brain sensitive to light levels.
    9. Eat Earlier. Eat at least three hours before bedtime. The further away you eat from the time you go to sleep, the better it is for you to have a better night's sleep.

    Managing Your Sleep

    Sleep allows our body to rejuvenate and repair!

    Limit Stimulants: Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, some aspirin and many over-the-counter and prescription drugs disrupt sleep. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcoholic beverages for several hours before bedtime. Although alcohol may initially act as a sedative, it can interrupt normal sleep patterns. Limit Your Nap Time: If you are having trouble sleeping at night, try not to nap during the day because you will throw off your body clock and make it even more difficult to sleep at night. If you are feeling especially tired, and feel as if you absolutely must nap, be sure to sleep no more than 15-30 minutes, earlier in the day. Keep a Regular Schedule: Keeping a regular schedule will help your body expect sleep at the same time each day. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday, even on the weekends. Oversleeping to make up for a poor nightís sleep, even a couple of nights, can reset your body clock and make it harder for you to get to sleep at night.

    Bedtime Rituals -- Create a ritual or pattern to prepare your body for sleep.

    • Be Pro Active and determined when it comes to finding the culprit of your sleep issues. Do not just brush it off to ďthatís how it isĒ. It is always a revelation when we discover more about ourselves. Use your finding to improve your situation!
    • Spend quiet time by doing things that can make falling asleep easier. This may include meditation, relaxation and/or breathing exercises, or taking a warm bath. Try listening to relaxing music or Andrew's guided imagery program.
    • Listening to Soft Music: cues your body that it's time to slow down and begin to prepare for sleep.
    • At Night: Try to keep your bedroom dark while you are sleeping so that the light will not interfere with your rest.
    • Create a Sleep Journal: Overthinking is one of our biggest enemies. Write down your worries and possible solutions before you go to bed. Get them out of your head and on paper. This allows you to see your 'fears' in writing. This brings you one step closer to disarming your fears. A journal or "to do" list may be very helpful in letting you put away concerns and organize your mind in order to make tomorrow easier.
    • Go to Sleep When Sleepy: When you feel tired, go to bed.
    • Donít Lie in Bed Awake: Get out of bed. Go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Worrying about falling asleep actually keeps many people awake.
    • Television in the Bedroom: is a real no-no! To much light, stimulating commercials and news shows tend to be alerting and keep us awake.
    • In the Morning: Expose yourself to bright light/sunlight soon after awakening. This will help to regulate your body's natural biological clock.

      Herbal Remedies for Insomnia

      Catnip Leaf (Nepeta Cataria)
      produces a sedative effect. Animal studies (except in cats) have found it to increase sleep.
      Hops (Humlus lupulus)
      if muscle tension is causing sleeplessness before bedtime. In addition to its use in beer, hops has a long history of use in medicine as a sedative/relaxant.
      Passion Flower (Passiflora Incarnata)
      is rich in flavonoids, which is its primary constituents responsible for its relaxing and anti-anxiety effects.
      Skullcap (Scutellaria Lateriflora)
      is often used in synergy with Valerian to create an effective remedy for insomnia. It is primarily an anti-spasmodic and relieves muscle pain due to stress and menstrual cramps.
      Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)
      is a safe and effective sleeping aid.It is a wonderful, natural sleep assistanting herb and is considered the 'valium' of the herbal world.

      View our practitioners directory for Herbal Therapies. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.

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      Aromatherapy Remedies for insomnia

      Aromatherapy can help by reducing stress and promoting relaxation making it easier to sleep. Use essential oils in baths, massage oils, or in a diffuser in the bedroom as you relax. Aromatherapy allows you to calm and release tension in the body, as well as, your emotional/spiritual well-being.

      Chamomile-
      known as a physical and emotional soother, this essential oil is even suitable for children. Chamomile calms the nervous system and induces sleep.
      Clary Sage
      is anti-depressant and regulates the nervous system and is very beneficial with stress-related problems.
      Lavender
      is a soothing, relaxing essential oil that soothes muscle soreness and calms the central nervous system.
      Neroli
      is an anti-depressant and gentle nerve tonic. Orange blossom is most helpful for treating depression, anxiety, nervous tension and stress related problems.

      View our practitioners directory for Aromatherapy. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.

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      Nutritional Advice for insomnia

      Water should be a very important part of any nutritional program. Distilled water is best. 6-8 8 ounces per day. Water allows for the cleansing and hydrating of the system.

      Sipping a cup of herbal tea cues your body that it's time to slow down and begin to prepare for sleep.

      A Light Bedtime Snack Can Help. An amino acid called tryptophan, found in milk, turkey, and peanuts, helps the brain produce serotonin, a chemical that helps you relax. Try drinking warm milk or yoghurt, or eat a slice of toast with peanut butter or a bowl of cereal before bedtime.

      Eat Some Turkey. Turkey contains tryptophan, a major building block for making serotonin, a neurotransmitter, which sends messages between nerve cells and causes feelings of sleepiness. Eating foods containing tryptophan raise the levels of serotonin produced in the body, which in turn increase a person's feeling of sleepiness. It is best to eat tryptophan on an empty stomach. Other foods, besides turkey, that contain a notable amount of tryptophan are: milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream, chicken, cashews, soy beans and tuna.

      Check Your Iron Level. Iron deficient women tend to have more problems sleeping so if your blood is iron poor, a supplement might help your health and your ability to sleep.

      Avoid Stimulants After Twilight. Coffee, colas, and even chocolate contain caffeine, the powerful stimulant that can keep you up, so try not to consume them past 4:00 p.m. Avoid alcohol at dinner and throughout the rest of the evening, if you currently have a sleep problem and don't fix a nightcap to relax you before bed. Alcohol does depress the central nervous system, but it also will disrupt your sleep. In a few hours, usually during the middle of the night, its effects will wear off, your body will slide into withdrawal, and you'll wake up.

      View our practitioners directory for Herbal Therapies. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.">Diet and Nutrition. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.

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      Hydrotherapy for insomnia

      The mysterious and amazing healing power of water has been utilized for centuries. Water cleanses, refreshes and restores all life. Try a warm, soothing foot bath before bed. Fill the tub or foot basin with enough warm water to cover your feet. Add some calming essential oils, sea salt or bubbles.

      Take a soothing, relaxing bath. Fill the bath tub with hot water, adding sea salts, calming essential oils like lavendar and chamomile, and soak for 15-20 minutes. As the water gets cool, replace the bath with warm water.

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      Homeopathy for Insomnia

      This medical system uses infinitesimal doses of natural substances to stimulate a person's immune system and body's natural defenses. Homeopathic remedies are named for the plant or animal ingredients they are made from. Homeopathy not only offers relief from temporary disorders but, can provide long term healing of a person due to its individual and "wholistic" approach. This type of healing makes it easier and possible to avoid recurrence or relapses in the future and homeopathy stimulates the body's natural defense system by reestablishing normal immune system and cell functioning.

      Homeopathic remedies for insomnia:

      Coffea Cruda
      6c for symptoms of a racing mind or nervous excitement. Symptoms are aggravated by cold air, or when the mind is fully alert.
      Kali Phosphoricum
      6c if symptoms occur such as weakness, irritability and low spirits. Also symptoms of nervous exhaustion from too much mental strain and exertion.
      Nux Vomica
      30c if symptoms occur as light or disturbed sleep. Also, if you always feel like you need more sleep or if bad dreams occur - which are often due to overexertion or overindulgence in food or drink.

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      Exercise for insomnia

      Exercise during the day to exhaust the muscles and the mind. The moving is good when we are depressed too! Aerobics, power walking, weight training, swimming are all great for working the muscles and the mind. Exercise gets the blood flowing and makes us move past many issues.

      Exercise early in the day. Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise every day can help you sleep, but be sure to exercise in the morning or afternoon. Exercise stimulates the body and aerobic activity before bedtime may make falling asleep more difficult.

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      Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for insomnia

      In Traditional Chinese Medicine, insomnia is differentiated by the difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, excessive dreaming, excessive overthinking and/or frequent waking.

      TCM recognizes imbalance of Yin and Yang, especially in insomnia patterns. Excess Yang makes it difficult to fall asleep, while Excess Yin often has patterns of dampness or phlegm, which cause patients to sleep more or heavy.

      Acupuncture and herbal medicine are effective therapies for the treatment of insomnia. Acupuncture redirects your Qi into a more balanced flow. It provides support to the underlying energetic spheres affected by your insomnia, helping to resolve the cause or effects of your sleep problems. Acupuncture releases tension in the muscles. This allows increased flow of blood, lymph, and nerve impulses to affected areas, decreasing the pressure and blockage experienced by you.

      View our practitioners directory for Tra ditional Chinese Medicine. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.

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      Massage and Touch Therapies for Insomnia

      Insomnia can arise from stress. Because stress upsets the delicate integral balance of all your body's functions, regaining this balance requires a holistic approach. This balance is expressed by your biochemistry, particularly for insomina in the balance of the cortisol, serotonin and dopamine. massage therapy has been shown to have a positive effect in getting these neurotransmitters back in balance. Massage Therapy and gentle self massage not only calms your mind, but also affects the whole of your metabolism through normalizing your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems and their interdependent functioning.

      Sleepless legs, or restless leg syndrome, is a common culprit in sleep disruption. Massage will also help relax the muscles and improve circulation in the lower legs - though these are not official causes of RLS, they do seem to help. If you can reach your calf muscles with your hands, you may be able to relieve restless legs with massage, says Elliot Greene, past president of the American Massage Therapy Association. Begin by placing the palm of your left hand on the largest part of your right calf. Your fingers should be pointing toward your heel. Then grab the muscle firmly in your hand and pull it away from your leg as far as is comfortable. Squeeze the muscle gently several times, then release the muscle. Repeat this for about five minutes, then switch to your left calf, using your right hand to do the massage.

      Massage for insomnia can be done with calming aromatherapy to increase the impact. Hot Stone Massage Therapy is also recommended for this condition. It is an ancient healing therapy with river bed stones which draw out stress, tension and impurities from the body.

      View our practitioners directory for Massage Therapy or Therapeutic Touch. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.

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      Emotional Aspect:

      There is an emotional aspect to every illness. Often times, it is the emotional thoughts or "excess emotions" that will lead to illness. Insomnia is often caused by worry, emotional stress, the aging process and exhaustion.

      The following techniques are utilized for calming the mind, help with stress relief and focuses on our mental powers over any situation. The ability to balance your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual self is up to you. Here are some suggestions:

      • Trust the Process of Life!
      • Face fears head on by: writing them down on paper, acknowledging them, then move on.
      • Get rid of the quilt. This emotion is an endless irritant that does not allow you to move forward.
      • Release through the breath! Your breath is your connection to relaxation and inner peace.
      • Quiet your mind. Gain control over your thoughts and you gain control over your life. Be in the here and now. Bring your attention to calm, peaceful sleep.

        View our practitioners directory for psychotherapy and counseling. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.

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        Feng Shui Tips:

        Make sure your bed is large enough and comfortable. If you are disturbed by a restless bedmate, switch to a queen or king-size bed. Test different types of mattresses. Try therapeutic shaped foam pillows that cradle your neck or extra pillows that help you sleep on your side. Get comfortable cotton sheets. Make your bedroom primarily a place for sleeping. It is not a good idea to use your bed for paying bills, doing work... Help your body recognize that this is a place for rest or intimacy.

        Keep your bedroom peaceful and comfortable. Make sure your room is well ventilated and the temperature consistent. Try to keep it quiet. You could use a fan or a "white noise" machine to help block outside noises.

        Hide your clock. A big, illuminated digital clock may cause you to focus on the time and make you feel stressed and anxious. Place your clock so you can't see the time when you are in bed.

        Avoid sleeping with your head towards the door. The proper position in which to have the bed and to sleep is in such a place that allows you to see the door but without being right across from it. This way, you should always avoid sleeping with your feet right in front of the entrance.

        Avoid sleeping under a window. Sleeping under a window would have a bad impact on your vital energy, as well as it might cause you to loose some of your positive energy by dispersing it. If you can't avoid sleeping under a window, then you should hang a curtain on the window.

        Avoid having pictures of water or fountains in the bedroom. Keeping a fountain or pictures of water in the bedroom can cause insomnia as well as attract bad luck to those who sleep in the room.

        Avoid any "poison arrows" pointing towards the bed. In order to find out if there are poison arrows, you should check for any sharp edges or corners, (such as a desk corner), which might point towards the place where you sleep. If you find any and you can't get rid of them, you can neutralize its bad effect by covering it or by placing a plant in front of it.

        View our practitioners directory for Feng Shui. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.

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        Yoga for Insomnia

        Yoga poses can be good alternatives to "traditional" health remedies because they relax the body and mind, improve circulation and respiration, reduce tension and help the body through it's healing process.

        The Yogic breath exercise can be done without instruction, without danger, and with a good chance that your discomfort and stressful feelings will be reduced. Relaxation Breath is the most powerful tool for stress management.

        Sit up, with your back straight in any position. Place your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise. Exhale completely through your mouth.

        Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, to a count of eight. Repeat this cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. Try to do this breathing exercise at least twice a day. You can repeat the whole sequence as often as you wish, but don't do it more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. This exercise is fairly intense and has a profound effect on the nervous system.

        Deep Diaphram Breath Sit with your legs crossed in a comfortable position. Breathe slowly and evenly from your diaphragm, through your nose. Fill your lower abdomen, lungs, then chest with air. Hold for a four count then slowly exhale the air out from your chest, lungs, then lower abdomen. Repeat 3 or 4 times. That's it! Just allow your shoulders to drop and your face relax as you breath, deep.

        Also consider Child's Pose, Cat, Head to Knee, Knee to Chest, Laying Down Twist, Standing and Seated Forward Bends, Standing Back Bends..

        View our practitioners directory for Yoga. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.

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        Meditation Therapy for insomnia

        Meditation is a time-honored technique that can take you into infinite dimensions of consciousness. One major principle to meditation is in the ability to completely quiet your mind. Quieting the mind comes as a result of meditating over a long period of time, but any time you are looking within, you are meditating.

        There are many meditation methods. Some are passive and others are active -- not in the physical sense, but in the sense that you actually do something during meditation. Meditators learn to focus their awareness and direct it onto an object: the breath, a phrase or word: a mantra, repeated silently, a memorized inspirational phrase, an image in the mind's eye. Researchers have documented immediate benefits in terms of lowered blood pressure, decreased heart and respiratory rate, increased blood flow, and other measurable signs of the relaxation response.

        Meditation will calm an agitated mind, creating optimal physical and mental health, undo our sense of separateness, which is the common root of fear and misery, unify consciousness, putting us in touch with our higher self and connect us to higher consciousness. Meditation restructures the mind, allowing us to achieve our full potential as human beings.

        Fold your hands gently in your lap and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Then just sit. If you have never meditated before, you will probably feel as if your mind is full of thoughts. Don't try to stop the thoughts, just watch them. Imagine that you are on the bank of a river and that your thoughts are the river going by. Don't try to stop the river, just watch it. Within a week, you will see the river begin to slow down. You may become impatient, or even bored. That's okay. If you find yourself complaining, just watch the thoughts pass by. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes. You may find that you fall asleep because you are so relaxed. That's good because, in many ways, you have begun to let go. Continue at this pace and each day allow just alittle more time for yourself to meditate. Doing this allows you to relax and forget about time.

        View our practitioners directory for Meditation. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.

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        Guided Imagery

        Do Visualization: Focus all your attention on your toes or visualize walking down an endless stairwell. Thinking about repetitive or mindless things will help your brain to shut down and adjust to sleep.

        Counting Sheep or counting backwards really does work. Try these visual games, which are a simple but powerful tool for treating insomnia.

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        Color Therapy

        When you are balanced, you can more effectively fight dis-ease, rid your system of toxins, as well as, negative patterns. You can achieve balance through the vibrational remedy and application of color. Color inteacts with the human energy system in a unique way to stablize physical, emotional, mental and spiritual conditions.

        In the Morning: Expose yourself to bright light/sunlight soon after awakening. This will help to regulate your body's natural biological clock.

        At Night: Try to keep your bedroom dark while you are sleeping so that the light will not interfere with your rest.

        Blue, Turquoise, Purple, Indigo and Violet - Are all associated with the upper Chakra, which are centered in the head and throat. They influence the thyroid, pituitary and cerebral cortex and have shown to be helpful with insomnia in this combination of colored light.

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        Energy Medicine and Sound Therapy

        Vibrational medicine, which validates that everything in the universe is in a state of vibration and the frequency at which an object or person most naturally vibrates is called resonance. The chakras, bones, and organs in the body all possess a different resonant frequency. When an organ or part of the body is vibrating out of tune or nonharmoniously, it is called "dis ease" or disease. A body is in a healthy state of being when each cell, each organ creates a resonance that is in harmony with the whole being.

        Music is a powerful tool that can be used in so many ways. It has been proven that the type of music that makes a person relax or become receptive is not any one kind. It all depends on the individual and their affinity with it.

        An amazing technique to relax before sleeping involves music - placed on the belly. It must be baroque music in this case. You don't listen to it, but lay the earphones of a portable music player on your belly for 5-10 minutes.

        View our practitioners directory for Energy Medicine. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.

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        Crystal Work

        Crystals have both piezoelectric and pyroelectric properties. This means that the polarities of the crystal will change when subjected to pressure or heat (even body heat from the hands). This will radiate energy from the crystal due to this reversal of polarities. It provides the transfer, storage and transformation of energy offering a balanced energy field, energy modification, and harmony and alignment with the chakra energy areas.

        Crystals to consider are:

        Amethyst
        clarifies the inner world of images and also our dream lives. If you put amethyst under your pillow, you will find that, initially, it will strongly stimulate dreaming until all undigested impressions have been clarified. After a few days, however, sleep will become calmer, deeper and more refreshing.
        aventurine
        enhances relaxation, regeneration and recovery. Aventurine makes us more patient and is calming to anger and annoyance.
        lepidolite
        bestows calm and inner peace and helps with sleep disturbances

        A chakra balancing balances the seven main energy sources which govern all the major organs and psychologically alters and clears the body's energy in order to allow healing to take place. This can often be done by your Reiki practitioner, plus Discover Yoga has a chakra balancing yoga class each month.

        View our practitioners directory for Reiki. Got a question? You can get "instant info" by emailing the practioners on this page.

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        What is your experience with alternative and complementary medicine? Sharing your own experiences often helps others. We'd love to know.

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