The number of people I talk to who have issues with sleep is astounding. Maybe your issue is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, frequent waking, non-restorative sleep, nightmares/night terrors, overheating, night sweats, or just not falling asleep at all. Whatever it may be – there is a solution – and that solution is probably multi-faceted but it can also be natural and effective!
I never had sleep issues until this past January and when I got them they hit me like a brick wall. It wasn’t pretty. I soon developed anxiety from my lack of sleep and then got more anxious as I worried each night if I would sleep that night. It was a vicious cycle and I was an emotional wreck. I figured that since I’m a health provider I would try to figure it out on my own – from trying different homeopathic remedies to practicing good sleep hygiene, eating well and even quitting my jobs! I eventually realized that I needed outside help and went to the doctor where I was given a few sleeping pills (and a strong warning that I did NOT want to get addicted to these little pills and should probably look at managing my life/job/stress better). However, to my complete frustration (and building anxiety) the sleeping pills didn’t work.
Something had to change…and fast! I did not want to remain in a state of constant anxiety with my heart pounding in my chest nor did I want to spend the rest of my nights sleepless. I booked an appointment with my homeopath, a reflexologist and booked a vacation.
The first night I took my homeopathic remedy I slept for 6 hours. AMAZING! And each night after that it got a bit better. The reflexology appointment improved my ability to fall sleep in less than 4 hours and I was over the moon.
I am now 6 months past the completely sleepless nights. I am still doing some healing but I am a lot more aware of my body’s needs. I fall asleep soon after I go to bed and I don’t lie awake most of the night. I have set boundaries for how late I can be out at night and start settling down for sleep around 9 pm because otherwise I have issues falling asleep. I don’t wish to experience that ever again and my compassion for those struggling with sleep issues has grown exponentially.
Stepping out of a season where sleep was elusive and my life was in upheaval I have developed a newfound appreciation for sleep, how much life is impacted by a lack of sleep and how totally life-changing insomnia is for the sufferer and their loved ones. I learned a lot about sleep and how to improve sleep in natural ways. I learned how ignoring my own boundaries and emotional and physical needs were major contributors to my sleep issues.
Oftentimes stresses in our lives are too much and we have ignored our emotional, mental and physical boundaries and sleep issues are the one way in which your body can get your attention. It may possibly be that you have poor sleep hygiene or eat a poor diet. Whatever your issue is, when sleep becomes an issue, I can guarantee that your entire life needs to be looked at and changes will most likely need to be made in a variety of areas including your diet, sleep practices/hygiene, stress management, personal boundaries and overall lifestyle.
That being said, here are a few tips I learned in the process of healing myself and managing my sleep cycle.
- Start paying attention. The most helpful thing you can do when you start dealing with sleep issues is to stop and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Oftentimes we push ourselves until the point of no return, when our bodies are no longer able to adapt to the level of stress we place on them, whether it be physically, emotionally or mentally. The greatest gift you can give yourself is space/time to listen to what your body’s needs are.
- Start talking. I don’t know about you, but I feel the need to be the, “I’ve got it all under control” person. I bottle up my emotions because I’m afraid of looking weak and instead l ignore how I feel. When you deal with insomnia you may find that not only are you feeling more anxious or depressed but these feelings can be compounded by the stresses and emotions you had previously ignored. Find someone you can trust and start talking to someone daily about everything and anything. Life is meant to be lived and emotions meant to be expressed. Even if you feel silly sharing initially, you will find that just verbalizing your thoughts (as inane as they may be!) will actually reduce your anxiety and stress creating space for your body to move back into normal rhythm.
- Start practicing good sleep hygiene. Most of us are guilty of using our phones in bed or watching t.v. in the bedroom. You need to stop! Your room should be a place for sleep and not equated with work or entertainment as your mind will have trouble shutting down in that space. Other sleep hygiene ideas: lower the room temperature, make sure your room is dark, and try to get it to be a place of quiet.
- See your doctor. Yup, coming from a natural health professional this may seem contradictory, but a medical doctor is a great ally in your battle with sleep issues. I am not recommending that you jump on the “take a sleeping pill train,” but I am suggesting that you may need to get blood work taken to find out if there are other health issues occurring, you may need to get a note for some time off work, you may need a referral to another health professional or you may need medication to get you through the beginning stages of healing yourself. Obviously, I would recommend trying something natural (think counselling, sleep hygiene, visiting a natural health professional) before jumping onto any sleeping medication.
- Visit a holistic health professional. A natural and holistic approach to sleep issues is a must. No one wants to spend the rest of their days taking sleeping pills or fighting insomnia. I chose to work with a homeopath because I wasn’t looking to just treat my sleep issues but also get at and treat the root issues that were contributing to my insomnia. I didn’t want a band-aid solution but a holistic and natural approach that took into consideration everything from my mental/emotional state and physical symptoms.
- Use other modalities as needed. There are a wide variety of effective and natural treatments for sleep. Modalities such as reflexology, PEMF, taking supplements or herbs, massage, and acupuncture are just a few different options that can help with stress management, relaxation and improving sleep quality. Don’t hesitate to ask the treatment provider how the service they are providing will help with your concerns.
- Love yourself. We are way to hard on ourselves. We expect that overnight all should resolve itself. But when you are dealing with issues like sleep, you are looking at something that is going to take time to resolve! By putting pressure on yourself to fix the problem quickly you do a disservice to yourself by not allowing your body the time or space it might need to heal itself. It probably was several months (if not years!) of stresses and/or poor eating and lifestyle habits that contributed to your current situation. Therefore it’ll probably take a few months or longer to resolve itself. But it can resolve! Be patient with yourself.
When I began the journey to regulating my sleep (and managing the other symptoms I was dealing with as a part of my lack of sleep) I had to make major changes to my life. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I had people tell me it was possible. I’m here to tell you it is possible for you too! You are not alone!