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A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.

Insomnia

While insomnia has usually been thought of as an inability to fall asleep-it also includes other factors and disorders, for example the inability to stay asleep over any length of time and waking up from sleep continuously and always earlier than planned. Excitement or factors related to stress, may be responsible for the presence of sleep problems that go on for just a couple of nights or those lasting a few weeks at a time. But chronic cases of insomnia can also occur, in such instances these disorders may last for months or even years at a time.

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Some underlying disorder or the symptoms of some hard to define problem is thought to be the actual cause of insomnia-the problem may be acute or chronic in its manifestations. Sleeplessness can result because of bad dietary and lifestyle factors or choices, the presence of physical pain, because of a major illness and the use of certain medications-in some cases even a badly designed mattress can contribute to the inability to sleep. The real cause of insomnia in the majority of people however, tends to have a psychological basis such as persistent emotional tension, deep anxiety, and clinical depression occurring over a long period of time. Some good diagnosis will be required to discover the basic cause or actual causes of sleep problems-however long it takes, this is the ultimate and only effective way to get at a cure from insomnia and other sleep disorders.

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Supplements and herbs

All the herbs and supplements given here may be able to bring immediate relief for the person suffering from insomnia-these supplements must preferably be used one at a time to treat insomnia, unless it is specifically stated for use together, any supplement is to be used by itself. The best way to check the effectiveness of the supplements is to try one at a times and whether it works-thus treatment may be highly individualistic as the cause of insomnia differs from one person to another. To avoid the development of a tolerance to any of the supplements, it is essential to keep rotating them every couple of weeks, and any supplement must be used only as and when needed and never together unless stated as has previously been mentioned.

The herb called the valerian has been found to be a very effective aid for sleep, and numerous studies conducted by many different scientists have supported this claim. The herd is also among the most researched of all herbal supplements and will prove to be a great help in beating back insomnia. Rotate its use for best results with other herbs that have a sedative effect, herbs like the chamomile, the kava, and the passionflower are the best choices in this regard. The herbs can help bring down stress levels and will promote relaxation when taken in the form of pills, as herbal teas, or in an herbal tincture form-a person using them will find it easier to fall asleep and beat back the other symptoms related to insomnia.

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The synthetic version of melatonin, the body's own sleep hormone can be sued instead of valerian to bring relief from insomnia. The use of this synthetic hormone is of particular benefit to insomniac individuals who are not getting sleep due to some chronic pain in the body. Supplements of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which can effectively inhibit nerve impulses within the body, can be rotated with valerian and melatonin to induce sleep. The use of this compound can also prevent stress-related signals arising in the body reaching the brain-this will help reduce stress related sleep disorders. The valerian and melatonin can also be rotated with another compound called 5-HTP -which is a form of the amino acid tryptophan - this compound will raise the levels of the natural sleep-inducing chemical serotonin within the body, effectively aiding sleep.

Deficiencies in important nutrients can also result in sleep disorders in certain instances, this particularly includes the lack essential minerals such as calcium, the mineral magnesium, or the vitamin B6, within the body arising perhaps because of a poor diet-all of these factors can induce sleep disorders in an individual. It is very important to replenish the supplies of these essential minerals within the body and supplements of all these nutrients will prove to be very beneficial to a person suffering from insomnia. Stress related sleep disorders can be helped by supplements of the B vitamin, niacin amide, when this vitamin is used along with the vitamin B6; it helps ease anxiety and promotes sleep. Sleep disorders can also be treated by including supplements of the mineral magnesium or the vitamin B6 along with the 5-HTP.

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Aromatherapy

Commonly used essential oils for insomnia:

Homeopathy

The following homeopathic remedies are most effective against insomnia when taken at a somewhat high potency and dosage strength. Half and hour before going to bed, take a single dose consisting of four pellets each 200c strength of the chosen remedy. A tincture form of the Passiflora, should be preferred in lieu of the other forms-this is in the form of a homeopathic green plant tincture, in contrast to the herbal tinctures of the plant, mix the tincture in 10 to 20 drops in water and drink the mixture.

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  • Coffea
    Coffea is to be used in the homeopathic treatment of patients afflicted with insomnia from too much mental activity, and sleep disorders that result due to excitement, from fright, from physical fatigue, or the ones that occur during long journeys. The remedy can also be used to treat insomnia related to menopause in women, and those that occur following a term of pregnancy, from having too much wine, from an emotional breakdown due to a failed love affair or due to over enthusiasm and stress. Symptoms in such individuals can include the presence of extreme nervousness, and restlessness, and such people may be very sensitive to any pain, becoming disturbed when even slightly touched, and even becoming stressed at the sight of a disturbing event, such individuals are also disturbed by even the least amount of noises, and odors. Such individuals display psychological symptoms and are full of ideas about everything. This form of sleeplessness can occur before or after midnight in the affected individual. The affected individual may suffer from an inability to sleep after 3 a.m. in the mornings, and may find it impossible or hard to close the eyes and sleep. The person also has a sense of internal warmth, but the condition can rapidly worsen when he or she is exposed to the open air out of doors. The presence of one or more of these symptoms requires the immediate use of Coffea as a homeopathic remedy in the treatment of insomnia.
  • Chamomilla
    Chamomilla is to be used in the homeopathic treatment of individuals affected by insomnia resulting from physical pain, and those sleep disorders caused by the consumption of certain medications, such sleep disorders that arise while teething in babies. The remedy can also be used to treat sleeplessness caused by excessive anger, and in the treatment of sleep disorders due to colic, sleep disorders caused by menstrual cramps in women can also be treated by this remedy. Symptoms present in the patient can include excessive moaning, sudden weeping, and wailing during sleep. Affected children can be very disobedient and demand to be carried at odd times. Symptoms can also include excessive talking while sleep. Such individuals are sleepless till about 2 a.m. in the mornings, and are usually drowsy during the day time, while suffering from intense sleeplessness in the night. Psychological symptoms include constant irritability and edginess, the person can become very quarrelsome and is very demanding, at the same time he or she may refuse to be consoled. The presence of one or more of these symptoms requires the immediate use of Chamomilla in the treatment of insomnia.
  • Dioscorea
  • Gelsemium
    Gelsemium is to be used in the treatment of individuals suffering from insomnia that results due to excessive time spent studying; it can also be used to treat sleep disorders arising as a result of physical exhaustion, those that come because of tobacco use. The remedy can also be used to treat insomnia arising due to excessive thinking, and due to fright or anticipation of troubles. Insomnia caused by teething, and pregnancy can also be treated using this remedy. The remedy can also be used in the treatment of sleep disorders resulting from influenza or fevers. Physical symptoms in the affected individual can include mental dullness, and a feeling of heaviness. The individual may fall asleep while he or she is studying or immediately following supper, only to awaken again unable to sleep. The person may complain of a delirious state of mind when falling asleep. Other symptoms include persistent restlessness, with very bad dreams during sleep that occurs after 12 a.m. the presence of one or more of these symptoms require the immediate use of Gelsemium as a homeopathic remedy in the treatment of insomnia.
  • Hyoscyamus
    Hyoscyamus is to be used in the homeopathic treatment of individuals suffering from insomnia that comes because of excessive excitement, and in the treatment of sleep disorders that arise due to jealousy, because of excessive anger, due to delirium. The remedy can also be used to treat emotionally induced sleep disorders as when a romantic affair falls through, it can be used to treat insomnia arising in women during the menstrual cycle, and the insomnia caused by persistent and excessive sexual desire. The remedy can also be used to treat sleep disorders arising from excessive worry due to business problems, and in the treatment of sleep disorders caused by fever or cough, or by fright, and to treat all sleep disorders which affects children. Physical symptoms in the individual can include persistent restlessness, and muscular twitching, and suddenly startling awake from sleep. Psychological symptoms in the individual can include excessive suspicion of everyone, the person can be given over to feelings of rage, he or she can be very talkative and is affected in this way at most times of the day and night. The individual is also given over to extremely mischievous or foolish play and antics. The individual is drowsy and affected by sleepiness during the day time, but suffer from sleeplessness after midnight till dawn comes. The person often wakes suddenly startled or with a scream when asleep. The person may also laugh out loudly during his or her sleep. The person is given over to muttering and mumbling. The presence of one or more of these symptoms requires the immediate use of Hyoscyamus as a homeopathic remedy in the treatment of insomnia.
  • Ignatia
    Ignatia is to be used in the homeopathic treatment of individuals affected by insomnia arising as a result of grief, the sleep disorders caused by an emotional reaction to bad news, those that arise because of excessive worrying, and the insomnia caused by depression. This remedy is also for use to treatment insomnia caused by fright, the insomnia caused by emotional pain due to a failed love affair, and the sleep disorders induced by jealousy or those caused by back injuries. The remedy can also be used to treat insomnia caused by excessive humiliation and anger. Symptoms in the individual include the presence of a persistent hysteria and excessive weeping. The person suffers from very changeable moods and emotional instability. The person may also have a lot of horrid and repetitive dreams. The individual may suddenly awaken during the night with loud cries. Such people typically sleep very lightly, they are excessively restless during sleep, and respond by waking up to every sound. Physical symptoms that are apparent in such individuals include the presence of tremors, muscular twitching and muscular spasms. The affected individual may also suffer from frequent and intense displays of yawning behavior, and is given to a lot of sighing. There is a lot of jerking in the limbs when the person falls asleep. The presence of one or more of these symptoms requires the immediate use of Ignatia as a homeopathic remedy in the treatment of insomnia.
  • Nux vomica
    Nux vomica is to be used in the homeopathic treatment of insomnia caused by the abuse of tobacco, and the sleep disorders that arise due to the consumption of rich food, and from the consumption of alcohol. The remedy can also be used in the treatment of insomnia arising due to the use of certain medications, those caused by excessive anger, and due to worrying about business. Such individuals tend to fall asleep very early in the evenings only to wake up again at 3-4 a.m. unable to sleep. The person when asleep falls into an anxious sleep full of dreams at daybreak-the person may find it very difficult to wake up from such a sleep. Physical symptoms include immense feelings of tiredness, and physical weakness. Psychological symptoms include extremely high levels of irritability; the person is often extremely driven and is always tense throughout the day. The person is also very sensitive to being touched; he or she may hate excessive noise, and reacts badly to intense light and strong smells. The presence of one or more of these symptoms requires the immediate use of Nux vomica as a homeopathic remedy in the treatment of insomnia.
  • Passiflora
    Passiflora is to be used in the homeopathic treatment of individuals affected by insomnia that arises due to excessive physical exhaustion, caused by overworking; it can also be used in the treatment of insomnia that affects infants or the insomnia that affects elder people. It can also be used to treat insomnia caused by factors such as excessive anxiety, the insomnia caused by stress, due to drug use, or because of alcohol abuse. Insomnia caused by conditions such as asthma, teething problems and epilepsy, and those caused by a night cough can also be effectively treated with this remedy. Symptoms in the person include heaviness in the stomach and the presence of worms. This remedy cannot treat sleep disorders effectively if the tongue is coated up or if symptoms such as a flushed face is present. The presence of one or more of these symptoms requires the immediate use of Passiflora as a homeopathic remedy in the treatment of insomnia.

Additional things you may do

Make sure that you follow a regular and even sleep schedule, even on the weekends when there is a chance of staying up. Do not watch television or read on the bed, use it only for sleeping. Make sure that you exercise regularly to beat back stress-though you should avoid exercising in the evenings as it may overexcite you at night. Stimulants should be avoided and must not be taken before sleeping-these include drinks that contain alcohol, all kinds of tobacco products, and caffeine.

Usual dosage

  • Kava, 250 mg before bedtime.
  • Valerian, 250-500 mg before bedtime, starting with the lower dosage. Increase when needed.
  • Chamomile, one cup of chamomile tea in the evening.
  • Magnesium / Calcium, 600 mg magnesium and 600 mg calcium before bedtime. Take it with meal.
  • GABA, 500 mg before bedtime. Rotate with valerian, 5-HTP, and melatonin.
  • Niacinamide / Vitamin B6,  500 mg niacinamide and 50 mg vitamin B6 before bedtime.
  • Melatonin, 1-3 mg before bedtime, starting with the lower dosage. Increase when needed.
  • 5-HTP, 100 mg 5-hydroxytryptophan before bedtime (take with magnesium or vitamin B6).

For kids

See age-appropriate dosages of herbal remedies

Children affected by insomnia must be helped before they go to bed, help the child relax and unwind by giving him or her a cup of herbal chamomile tea. This herbal tea is a relaxant, and should be given to the child an hour before his or her bedtime. To achieve similar results, you can also give children a combination herbal tea, such as Celestial Seasonings' Sleepy time tea. Children over the age of four can also be given an herbal tea made from the passion flower, which is a mild herbal relaxant with no side effects. Dosage of the passion flower tea at bedtime for children can be a single cup of tea. The effective relaxing effects of the skullcap herb can also be utilized to beat back insomnia in children. Dosage of this herbal tea can be a single cup of herbal tea before bed time, alternately this herb can be given to children in the form of a tincture, or it can also be used in the form of capsule, all these forms must preferably be given an hour before the child's bedtime.
For your information: children under six years of age must not be given this herb in any form, even if they suffer from insomnia, other treatments must be sought.

Children aged twelve and above can be treated for insomnia using the root of the valerian herb, this herb is a very effective cure for sleeplessness in children of this age group. Children in this age group can be given a single dose of the herbal extract; it can be given in the form of a capsule, as an herbal tea, or in the form of a tincture just before bedtime. Children older than this age group can be given an herbal combination tea made form equal amounts of the valerian root, and other herbs like the chamomile, the passion flower, and the skullcap, children can be given a cup of this combination tea at bedtime to beat insomnia. Rotating the herbal treatments is the most effective treatment for insomnia in children and should be preferred over the repeated use of a single relaxant herb-as such a use might induce tolerance in the body. As an example, rotate the chamomile tea with passion flower tea-using one tea for several nights and the other tea for several other nights.

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