The Impossible Dream: Overcoming Insomnia
Current studies report up to 30 percent of North Americans are currently suffering from insomnia. Insomnia can be a difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Some people lie in bed for hours before properly falling asleep; others fall asleep only to wake up a short while later, unable to fall back to sleep. This is a chronic and severe problem in our society.
One quarter of the population takes prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs to help them sleep. Insomnia drugs have many serious side effects including cognitive impairment, falls, tolerance and dependency, withdrawal, plus they tend to leave people drowsy and lethargic after constant use. Some people taking medication do not show significant sleep improvement, and sometimes experience further decrease in their quality of sleep due to suppression of REM cycles.
These pharmaceuticals are trying to replace the melatonin that is normally produced in the body in response to daylight cycles. Melatonin activates and helps regulate your body’s sleep patterns and other natural rhythms. If you are using drugs to help you sleep, your body does not respond to produce the proper amount of melatonin when the sun rises and sets, so you will feel drowsier during your waking hours. Prolonged sleeping pill use becomes addictive for the body because it shuts off its own production of melanin to rely on outside sources.
As with all health issues, the best cure is to look at the cause of the problem. The main cause of insomnia is chronic stress, usually in the form of excess and constant mental or emotional stress. When a person is consistently in a state of stress their body is always on the edge waiting to respond and deal with stimuli. The body is not interested in going to sleep because it fears the body is in danger. This is why someone will go to bed and just lay there – even though they’re lying down, the mind is too active and pumping out stress hormones such as cortisol.
Cortisol suppresses the immune system, shuts down the reproductive system, increases blood pressure, counteracts insulin (thus causing hypoglycemia) and decreases metabolism. You can see how just one simple stress hormone can cause terrible disease in the body!
The best way to overcome insomnia is to use natural methods. Meditate to calm your mind. Take deep breaths, read calming books and affirmations, take a bath and relax! You could read to your kids or go get some fresh air. Relaxing your nervous system through chiropractic, yoga and massage will also help. Absolutely do not eat, watch TV or go on the computer… it is important to make the time to consciously do something that makes you happy and relaxed before going to bed.