Homeopathy, Saviour of Sleep!
I don’t just love homeopathy because it fixed my dreaded insomnia, but it’s just another great reason to feel very warm and fuzzy towards two of my most favourite subjects in the world; homeopathy and sleep. Who doesn’t like sleeping? Wrapped up all nice and cosy, especially on a cold winter’s night; it makes my eyelids feel all heavy just thinking about my beautiful, soft pillow and deliciously warm doona. But there was a time when the thought of some shut-eye filled me with a sensation close to dread, as for a while there I suffered quite miserably with insomnia.
In my modest opinion, insomnia has to be one of the most torturous things to suffer from, especially since you have to spend hours alone in the dark with nobody but your own thoughts for company, with only your husband’s gentle but resonant snores for light relief. There’s no escape, unless you’re brave enough to go for a midnight jog, and the frustration of waiting the four-plus hours it takes to get to sleep is enough to try the patience of a saint; and believe me, I am very far from a saint……… I mean really, really far; especially after a bad night’s sleep. Thankfully, after some intensive homeopathic treatment and the implementation of a few sensible sleep habits, my sleep problems are now a thing of the past. Even so, you really don’t ever want to wake me up in the middle of the night unless the house is burning down!
Side effects of Insomnia
So, the number one symptom I would report from my own experiences with insomnia would be irritability. That’s a mild way of putting it for me personally, but it’s a general enough word to cover the many different variations of such a mood; and boy, was I irritable. The slightest noise would see my eyelids shooting open and make me wild with fury. No amount of industrial strength earplugs would shut out the sounds of the possums having a midnight party inside our roof, or my dear husband’s snoring. Being a light sleeper was bad enough. Not being able to get back to sleep for hours afterwards was my idea of hell!
Lack of sleep has also been shown to exaggerate not just irritability (and its many extremes), but also depression, lack of confidence, feelings of being overwhelmed and general stress. I for one don’t need thousands of dollars’ worth of research to tell me that lack of sleep makes life miserable. At my worst, all I had to do was open the fridge and see what there wasn’t for dinner and that was enough to cause a melt-down that would have impressed a two year old. Immunity is, of course, another area that suffers when we are chronically sleep deprived , and I was no exception. I caught cold after cold, all manner of nuisance tummy bugs and weird viruses galore. Then I had no time to try and get over them because I had little people to look after and I was the only one to do the job. My husband helped where he could around his very time consuming job, and luckily I have been blessed with very good family support. Still, even with support, often it has to be Mum at the coal face dealing with kids who are often sick themselves. It turns into a vicious cycle of even more broken sleep as somebody has to deal with coughing fits, fevers or vomiting that all seem to reliably hit after midnight.
Then there’s exercise. When the kids were tiny, the last thing I felt like doing was pushing my body through even more physically tiring activities instead of collapsing onto the couch every afternoon to break up the constant drudgery of wiping small bottoms and making food (notice I didn’t mention cleaning). The only thing was, if I could somehow fit in a walk a couple of times a week I noticed it drastically helped my moods (and still does) and I slept a whole lot better in between the wake up calls. It’s more than a little ironic really, because when you don’t sleep properly you don’t want to get physically active, but getting physically active helps improve sleep. Something to also consider is that if you are chronically sleep deprived you may actually be putting yourself and the kids at risk when you are driving, operating heavy machinery like shopping trolleys, and performing seemingly simple yet potentially dangerous tasks such as crossing busy roads or chopping vegetables. It has been found that people who are chronically sleep deprived have similar response delays to those under the influence of alcohol. So if you are severely sleep deprived, it may be a good idea to try fit in a nap beforehand or avoid any activities that you wouldn’t do while drunk.
Of course all of these things are easier to sit back and advise on than actually carry out. Believe me, I have been there and was often unable to avoid any of the above activities at certain times while being dangerously sleep deprived. That’s what we call motherhood in the early years, right? And most of us muddle through somehow. But how do we minimise the impact of sleep deprivation on our everyday lives while still tending to the dead-of-night needs of our little people?
Foods that may exacerbate Insomnia
I’m putting this one first because it’s one of the factors that affected me the most. Believe it or not, the single most insomnia-inducing food I ever put into my body was sugar. Coffee doesn’t agree with me and while I love an earl grey tea once in a while, I avoid drinking it too late in the afternoon, so the caffeine issue wasn’t a big one for me. But I have to guiltily admit there was a time there when my fatigue was so overwhelming I resorted to an old favourite from my childhood to prop me up a little in the afternoons: chocolate coated liquorice bullets. Popping them into my mouth one by one, allowing the thick, luscious chocolate to melt in my mouth whilst chomping my teeth into the sensuous chewiness of the liquorice buried beneath, I continually reassured myself that because they were organic it would all be OK. Eventually I realised that if I ate enough to get an afternoon boost, it would result in literally hours of being wide awake in the middle of the night, right at the time I should have been sound asleep.
My mind buzzed, eyes physically unable to close and my legs twitched like they were being electrified. I always knew about the toxicity of sugar but to experience it so drastically for myself was quite an eye opener. Not only that, even if I slept relatively well after a bullet binge, the next day I felt literally sapped of energy and even more cranky than before. Only another packet of liquorice bullets made me feel even remotely better, and if I had all day and unlimited words on this blog I would expound at length on the dangerous and drug-like addictiveness of sugar. I have to just add that the sugar withdrawals were far from pleasant, but I am very relieved to be free of such a deliciously sinister dependency. More on beating sugar addiction here.
Getting back to foods that can cause insomnia, other things to avoid include: alcohol especially before bed, caffeine, dark chocolate, spicy foods (even ginger!!), and unhealthy, fatty foods such as donuts. Good fats like coconut oil, butter and fat from meat made in stews and soups may actually help you sleep better if you give your body time to digest before going to bed. For other foods that help you find sleep, click here. Many of these foods stimulate production of various sleep enhancing hormones such as tryptophan or melatonin, so if you’re finding it hard to get some quality shut-eye, you may want to give them a try.
Other sleep hygiene tips to help beat Insomnia
There are ways you can help to train your body as well as your subconscious so that it recognises it’s time for sleep. Some tips include: going to bed at around the same time every night, eating earlier meals so your digestive system can relax too, getting into the habit of certain rituals to prepare for sleep, and only going to bed when you feel tired. Also, avoid doing things in bed that you would do in your “awake” time, like paying bills, writing letters, playing on facebook or anything else that stimulates your mind. Keep bed for sleeping and, of course, intimate activities with your partner (unless you are too tired and then just sleep!).
Checking to see what time it is really doesn’t help things along either, especially if you are like me and fume about how much sleep you aren’t getting every time another hour slips by. I have given my digital clock radio away, as the light of the numbers so close beside my bed was keeping me awake and demanding me to look at it. These days, on the odd occasion I get up for my now older kids, I wouldn’t know what time it was and it’s actually better that way.
Meditation can also be of great assistance. Yoga nidra is a type of meditation that can be very helpful technique in relaxing the body and switching off that very loud and insistent mind. There are also other various meditation techniques that can help prepare for sleep that can be very effective as well.
Homeopathy and Insomnia
I have saved the best for last! When you visit your local homeopath for insomnia, it is likely he/she will ask you many questions about the nature and known causes of your sleep issue. You will also be asked about sleep apnoea, which can be a major contributor to sleep problems. Please note; it is important to seek medical advice if you suspect you suffer from this, as there can be some rather nasty side effects if it continues untreated. Whilst homeopathy can often work wonders with a whole range of sleep issues, using the best of what conventional and complimentary medicine can offer, especially for serious complaints, will go further to ensure the best outcome possible.
So back to me….. After trying all of the above sleep hygiene and dietary practices to try and help my insomnia with varying success, of course being a homeopath I was self-prescribing remedies left, right and centre, rather than doing what I should have done all along. Finally I made an appointment with my homeopath, who gave me Nux vomica to help with my irritability and noise intolerance, and homeopathic Melatonin to take half an hour before bed every night for a couple of weeks to reset my sleep cycle. I was also given a remedy to help my son with his waking that was happening for a different reason. This had been the trigger which severely exacerbated my insomnia to the point where if he woke me up in the middle of the night I often wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep until sunrise, a few minutes before my dear husband’s alarm went off. I can’t say I look back to those times with fondness; neither does my husband.
I must mention here that homeopathy can also work wonders with childhood insomnia or sleep issues as well. A homeopath will look very thoroughly into the cause/s of your child’s sleep problems and prescribe a remedy to gently rebalance the problem lying at the heart of the issue. Many children have nightmares, or fears around going to bed where it’s lonely and dark and they’re away from Mum and Dad. Other children suffer from reflux or colic, especially if they’re very little babies and their digestive systems are still getting used to milk or solids. Maybe they have intolerances that haven’t yet been detected.
Some kids have snuffles or coughs that make it hard to breathe when they’re lying down. Maybe it’s just general anxiety that seems a whole lot worse when there’s no more noise and bustle of daytime to keep their attention diverted from their thoughts. Whatever the reason is, from a child’s point of view those night time hours feel even more endless than from a grown up’s perspective. Where the night time visits are a source of comfort for a sleep challenged child, they can be a source of extreme frustration for a chronically sleep deprived parent, and finding long term solutions for your child’s sleep issues will benefit the whole family dynamic.
This was definitely true for our family. After taking our remedies, both my son and I had the most amazing sleep that first night, and I can still remember waking up the next morning with the closest thing to a smile on my face (I am not a morning person) that I have had in years! Everyone heaved a sigh of relief that finally Mum could go about her day in a much calmer mood from then on. After trying so many different things, which all have a very valid place in helping with sleep issues, the most effective of all was that little bottle of drops I still keep next to my bed so many years later. If I wake up with a racing mind, all I have to do is take a little dose and back down I go within a few minutes. It really is quite miraculous stuff when you get it right!