Recent research suggests that 1 in 3 of us are having less than 5 hours poor quality sleep and at some point we are all going to suffer from a bout of insomnia. Insomnia, once it becomes habitual can be quite difficult to resolve alone. But, there are many practices, herbs and treatments which can help, without resorting to prescription medication.
In natural medicine, we do not look at just the nervous system when looking to treat insomnia. Other factors are of equal importance, particularly the digestive system. Gas, bloating and constipation are sign of a Vata imbalance and insomnia is often part of the symptomatic picture. To resolve any digestive imbalances within the body often results in a good night’s sleep. Both the functioning and energetic health of the liver is also important. Whilst we sleep, the liver does most of the vital work of detoxifying the body and if this is compromised by insomnia, this may lead to overheating. Excess heat in the body may lead to restlessness and waking several times during the night.
Equally, if we are too cold from poor circulation, we’ll find it difficult to drop off to sleep.
In Ayurveda, our constitution determines both the quality and the number of hours of sleep we need. Vata dominant individuals (air type) typically need the least sleep. They can survive on around five hours which is usually light and restless. They are the most prone to chronic insomnia from over-thinking and worrying. It is really important for their general health to ensure they seek treatment to help maximise the length and quality of their sleep as sleeping patterns can change quickly.
If you are Pitta dominant (fire type) you will generally need between 5-7 hours sleep a night. However, if you are too hot, stressed, frustrated or angry you will suffer from insomnia. Alcohol will definitely make this problem worse as alcohol is very heating for the body.
Kapha (water type) enjoy the best quality sleep for between 8-10 hours and rarely have problems sleeping, unless one of the other doshas is out of balance. Some warming spices and herbs for a short period will generally resolve the problem.
Whilst different herbs are prescribed, depending on the constitution, Ashwaghanda, an Ayurvedic herb with a multitude of health benefits, taken along with Passion flower are two of my favourite herbs to help sleep. But there are many others, depending on individual needs and constitution, such as vervain – great if you’re overworked and stressed, lemon balm, rose, chamomile and hops. These can be taken as teas, tinctures or capsules.
Valerian is often found in proprietary blends, but it doesn’t suit everyone and can make the problem worse for some.
A few drops of a relaxing essential oil on the pillow such as lavender may also help.
Massage is one of the great stress relievers. Either visit a professional or have a neck and shoulder massage before bedtime.
Ayurvedic Health Tip for Insomnia
If you have a juicer, juice 4 sticks of celery and add 1 teaspoon of honey and drink late in the evening. Alternatively, if you drink milk: warm a glass of cow or soya milk and add a generous pinch of nutmeg and pepper along with a little honey to taste and drink before going to bed.
If you are taking prescription medication or pregnant, please consult a professional before taking a herbal prescription for insomnia.
If you would like help in conquering insomnia naturally, for a tailor-made prescription please contact me.