Insomnia

Insomnia

Some people need less sleep than others, and can function effectively on as little as 4-5 hours per night, but the majority of us need 7-8 hours sleep in order to feel rested and energised. Although everybody's sleeping habits are different, most people agree that it's difficult to function effectively if you haven't slept well.

Symptoms

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Waking during the night or early in the morning, and having difficulty returning to sleep
  • Waking up tired due to the short duration or poor quality of sleep; irritability or poor co-ordination may occur for the same reason
  • Night sweats may accompany insomnia during MENOPAUSE

Causes

  • Transient or short-term sleep problems may be due to STRESS, ANXIETY, change in routine, sleeping in unfamiliar environments, jet lag, or the use of stimulants (such as caffeine), and often resolve themselves within a few days
  • Longer term sleeping problems may be due to more significant problems, including chronic mood disorders (e.g. DEPRESSION) and ongoing STRESS
  • Use of stimulants such as caffeine, recreational drugs or cigarettes may interfere with sleeping patterns, as may alcohol, especially binge drinking
  • Restless legs syndrome is a common disorder that interferes with sleep by causing the legs to twitch involuntarily during the night
  • People with sleep apnoea may wake periodically during the night due to lack of oxygen. It is common for them to experience FATIGUE and sleepiness during the day
  • Shift-workers often experience difficulty sleeping, due in part to disturbed bio-rhythms and to environmental conditions such as increased light and noise during the time that they are trying to sleep
  • Those suffering from chronic disease may experience insomnia, particularly when pain levels are significant, or if physiological issues interfere with breathing or comfort

Nutritional & Herbal Solutions

  • Valerian is an effective but gentle sedative that promotes calmness and relaxation, and may also assist in the relief of nervous tension, irritability, ANXIETY and STRESS. It reduces the amount of time taken to fall asleep, and also promotes sleep quality. Research suggests that valerian is most effective when taken for at least two weeks at a time
  • Valerian is sometimes combined with other herbal sedatives such as skullcap and hops, and the minerals potassium phosphate, calcium phosphate and magnesium phosphate to enhance sleep while relieving ANXIETY, nervous tension and STRESS
  • Kava has traditionally been used to improve sleep, and is specifically indicated when insomnia is accompanied by ANXIETY or is associated with MENOPAUSE. Look for kava tablets providing 2400 mg kava standardised to contain 60 mg active kavalactones
  • Anxiety and STRESS deplete the body's nutrients, which increases your daily requirements. Take a high potency multivitamin that provides the B-complex group of vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and other nutrients that help combat nervous tension and ANXIETY

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Try to stick to a regular routine, even on the weekends, and sleep in a comfortable, well-ventilated room
  • Stress and frustration make insomnia worse, so if you're not sleeping, try not to worry about it. It may be more beneficial to get out of bed and do something else until you feel sleepy again, but avoid activities that energise you or stimulate your mind
  • Avoid caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks. Note that the effects of caffeine can persist for several hours, so ideally avoid these from lunchtime onwards. Relaxing herbal teas such as chamomile, lemon balm and vervain are better choices
  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, especially in the evenings
  • Regular exercise and activity are important for energy levels and sleeping patterns, and can also help to improve STRESS levels, DEPRESSION, low moods and ANXIETY. Even a brisk 30-minute walk has health benefits, but other options include swimming, yoga and going to the gym. Try to exercise in the morning or in the middle of the day, rather than in the evening, because the energising effects of exercise may aggravate your insomnia
  • Learn and practice meditation or relaxation techniques in order to improve your ability to cope with STRESS, and to help you wind down in the evening. Playing a sleep-inducing hypnotherapy or relaxation CD may help you to drift off at bedtime
  • Avoid watching stimulating television or reading thought-provoking books in the evening. Instead, try a warm bath using relaxing essential oils such as lavender and marjoram

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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