Sleep solutions for insomnia
Five tips for the best sleep
By Dr. Rahim Habib ND – Naturopathic Doctor
Sleep is vital for overall health, including cognitive function, cardiovascular health, weight maintenance and a balanced daytime mood. Some even feel they sleep enough but they’re nowhere close to the recommended 7-8.5 hours each night. Common treatments include benzodiazepines and cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT). However, many medications have safety concerns and may develop tolerance; CBTs are helpful but may be inaccessible. Below are 5 of my top tips to address to encourage healthy sleep.
1. Stimulants. Daily intake of caffeine and alcohol can affect your sleep. Even screen usage can be seen as a stimulant (TV, tablet, late-night texting…) as well as late-night exercising. The caffeine in coffee and tea can keep your nerves and mind awake, so it’s best to avoid these beverages past the mid-afternoon hours. Alcohol leads to more frequent waking. longer periods of being awake in the night and less total sleep time. Develop a calming sleep routine in the last hours before bed where you cut out the screen time and instead ramp-up more calming activities such as reading, meditating, or taking a warm bath.
2. Address the stress. Patients often tell me their mind is what keeps them awake, it can also be related to a mood disorder such as anxiety or depression. Try journaling before bed or making notes on your next days schedule before you head to bed, to get the day-to-day worries out of your mind. Relaxed breathing exercises and meditation can help calm the mind and relax the body.
3. Reduce night time urination. A simple strategy is to avoid fluid drinks three to four hours before bedtime. Kegel exercises can strengthen pelvic floor muscles to help you retain bladder function and reduce night time urination. Men commonly have prostate enlargement issues that can be improved using herbal medicines such as Saw palmetto or Nettle. Women tend to respond to a stronger form of kegel exercises that I teach in-office.
4. Changes with aging. The deeper levels of sleep (stage three and stage four) can dramatically reduce as you age and approximately 50% of older adults have some form of insomnia or unrefreshed sleep. It may be a hormone-related problem, such as from decreasing melatonin which happens with aging. It can also be related to nutrient deficiencies which commonly occur when digestive and absorption functions reduce with age. Getting hormone and nutrient screening tests and related therapies can point you in the right direction.
5. Find other causes and treat them. Reduce the pain, reduce the heart burn, restless legs, reduce the distractions…reduce the cause and you have your solution. Naturopathic solutions for pain may include herbal medicines such as valerian, chamomile or lemon balm. Testing for and eliminating your food intolerances may rid your heartburn symptoms from keeping you awake. It’s also best to avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed, particularly those heavy and spicy meals.
For more individualized help, book a naturopathic assessment.