A Healthy Balance: Insomnia

Most people experience insomnia at some point in their life. Whether it manifests as difficulty falling asleep (primary insomnia) or waking in the middle of the night (secondary insomnia), it affects our daily performance, energy levels and interactions with others in our lives.

Sleeping aids with potential for addiction and very unpleasant side effects are used nightly in households all across America, but there are many simpler ways to get the sleep that you need to stay healthy physically and mentally.

First, take a look at your sleeping area and your habits. Do you frequently watch TV, work on your laptop or on stacks of papers, or read in bed before falling asleep. This can over-stimulate your brain and prevent you from falling asleep easily.

Removing these activities from the bedroom and finding another area of the house in which to do them can help calm your brain before sleep, allowing you to fall asleep more readily.

Check out your bedroom to ensure it has a restful calm to it, that the temperature, noise and bedding are comfortable and fit your sleep needs. Consider purchasing a white noise machine to drown out any street sounds or other noises that may be interfering with your sleep.

Primary insomnia can be addressed with warm baths (especially with Epsom salts- use enough to saturate the water until the salts can no longer dissolve), warm milk or an herbal tea without caffeine. However, try to finish drinking liquids 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime so you do not find yourself waking to use the restroom.

A walk after dinner is a great chance to get in some more exercise and help you work off any nervous energy that might be interfering with falling asleep. Journaling can be of great benefit in emptying your mind of the day’s worries so that you don’t find yourself lying in bed, brooding over them.

One of the culprits in secondary insomnia is low blood sugar. When your blood sugar falls below a certain point your body wakes so you can eat again. This can be remedied very easily by having a high protein and complex carbohydrate snack about 30 minutes before bedtime.

Snacks like peanut butter and apples, lean chicken or turkey meat, or cheese and whole grain toast slices are an excellent choice. They will maintain your blood sugar levels far longer than a snack that is high in simple carbohydrates or processed food.

If all these suggestions fail to give you the sleep you seek, be sure to schedule an appointment with your family physician to discuss the issue. There are certain supplements that your family naturopath can prescribe to assist in falling asleep, like melatonin, magnesium, passionflower, and kava.

In addition, forms of therapy such as biofeedback and craniosacral therapy can be utilized to aid you in getting a good night’s sleep and becoming healthier.

Dr. Katie Baker is the owner of Stone Turtle Health, a naturopathic family clinic here in Ballard on 8th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 62nd Street (www.stoneturtlehealth.com). She can be reached at info@stoneturtlehealth.com with questions and or suggestions for column ideas.

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