Every created being on earth sleeps. It is a state provided naturally in the creation cycle of life. For some, sleep is a waste of time. There are others who debate on why sleep? How much sleep is required?
Sleep is a natural state, where body and mind come to rest, in which normally the eyes are closed and one’s consciousness partially or completely goes into a state of unawareness.
Research has proved that the more physical activity one does, the more there is need for sleep. Sleep helps to improve the immune system, and is important for a normal, healthy physical as well as mental health. This happens as body rests and restores its energy levels during sleep. Sleep is a result of the activity of neurons which are located in the brainstem. They induce sleep by inhibiting other parts of the brain.
There was a time when sleep was considered to be a passive state. Researchers proved that it is a dynamic process where one’s brain is actively involved.
A good sleep refreshes and heals the body from wear and tear. This is the time when we dream and experience REM (rapid eye movement) and when the deepest healing takes place. Younger people sleep up to nine hours, adults sleep seven to eight hours, while old people may sleep from four to six hours.
However, not everyone enjoys this deep sleep. Research shows that about 60 to 70 percent adults and about 50 to 60 percent children suffer from lack of deep sleep or sufficient sleep. Women are more affected than men. The age plays an important role. Lower socio economic group, mental health patients, and people suffering from chronic alcoholism are those who suffer most.
Person who has difficulty or lack the initiative in maintaining sleep or both are termed as suffering from ‘Insomnia.’
Insomnia is classified in different ways. Generally it is classified based on the duration of the problem. Transient insomnia, which shows symptoms lasting less than one week.
Short-term Insomnia when symptoms persist between one to three weeks and chronic Insomnia when symptoms go longer than three weeks.
The treatment that leads to the healing from Insomnia is termed as ‘Sleep Therapy.’
Therapy, in simple words means the act of caring for someone through diagnosis and medication or remedial training, resulting in the healing process from a defined health problem.
The word therapy in Greek is called ‘therapeia’ meaning treatment.
WHO NEEDS SLEEP THERAPY
When a person finds it hard to sleep in spite of being tired, or experiences daytime drowsiness, irritability, is unable to perform normal activities, finds it hard to go to bed for sleep or does not feel refreshed after sleep, it is time to seek therapy. It is discovered that therapy provides ways to express feeling and understand patterns of thinking, gaining perspective on the past events and current relationship. It aids in setting goals through clarifying futuristic dreams. It adds meaning and affluence to life by easing the pain and suffering.
Normally, Insomnia only shows up for few days and disappears on its own, especially when it is connected with stress which is temporary. When there are underlying mental or physical issues left unattended for a longer period, it results in chronic Insomnia.
Symptoms showing the need for therapy are -
1. Any person who is not able to have regular and healthy deep sleep due to hindrance which is short lived or long term affecting the normal sleep pattern. The sleeping pills or alcohol consumption only gets the person sleep.
2. When one gets anxious or experiences depression or any other psychological problems that lead to the loss of normal daily sleep. This sleep deprivation when continues due to anxiety disorder, or untreated depression leads to the development of chronic Insomnia.
3. Sleep disorders like apnea, narcolepsy, and restless legs syndrome is present.
4. Certain medications like antidepressants, flu medications, pain relievers containing caffeine, corticosteroids, beta-blockers, Thyroid hormone, high blood pressure medications lead to sleep disorder.
5. The healthy and unhealthy stress that makes an impact on ones’ mind and emotions can cause lack of regular sleep. According to Hans Selye, MD, the wear and tear on the body, mind and spirit which is brought about by a person’s reaction to the events of life is called stress. Stress triggers the flight or fight response within the body. Thus stress related hormones (Catecholamines, Cortisone) are released into the blood resulting in the increase of blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, blood sugar and cholesterol level increase, and the body muscles becoming tense. These lead to sleep disorder.
6. When someone on a regular basis is involved in challenging self-defeating thoughts, thus hindering the mind to come to a restful state.
7. Menopause can lead to the development of Insomnia, as menopausal woman may experience night sweats, anxiety, hot flashes, and fluctuations in hormones.
8. The hormonal changes in a woman’s menstrual cycle can disturb the sleep.
9. During pregnancy the mother’s size and the need to urinate changes thus disrupting the normal sleep.
10. Consuming large amount of alcohol, drugs, smoking, caffeine, certain prescribed medications leading to restlessness causing Insomnia.
11. Certain biological changes associated with aging, side effects from medications contribute to Insomnia.
12. When the disruption of circadian rhythms takes place due to travel across time zones, or when there is vision loss.
13. Certain diseases like manic-depression disorder, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and post traumatic stress disorder, asthma, allergy, acid reflux, kidney disease, cancer can lead to sleep disorder.
14. Working on computers leading to an excessive physical and mental stress.
15. For some people when their partner’s snoring habit causes hindrance in the deep sleep.
16. Some individuals who have failed to keep a balance in their internet surfing, TV viewing, and their sleep habits suffer from sleep disorder.
PROCESS OF DIAGNOSIS
One needs to follow a process towards determining as to what is impeding the body’s ability to function normally affecting the sleep. Based on it the treatment strategy is worked out. It is crucial to know the patient’s lifestyle, dietary and environmental factors affecting the sleep.
Also knowing if there are any underlying medical conditions, medicine intake or any key life changing incident happened, which one has recently gone through. Maintaining a sleep diary under a sleep specialist’s supervision is helpful in knowing body movements, breathing and heart beat patterns. It is also helpful to check hormones, melatonin levels which may be affecting the normal sleep pattern.
DETERMINING THE TIME WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL HELP.
1. It is advisable to call for a doctor when the sleeping disorder lasts for more than three or four weeks, interfering with the normal wake-up time activities.
2. When the sleep disturbances begin to cause abnormality at work, home, or at social gatherings.
3. Increased difficulty in breathing at night or worsening chest pain which are not normal, are indicators of attending to them immediately.
4. When self-help plans do not respond positively.
5. When it becomes a daily routine and starts getting worse day by day.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM SLEEP THERAPY.
As a result of going through sleep therapy, one needs to take note of the positive changes that have begun in the sleeping process. The overall physical, mental and spiritual side of the person shows healthy signs. Sleep no longer is a torture but a joy bringing wholeness to one’s wellbeing.
KINDS OF SLEEP THERAPY
In today’s modern world we are blessed with many medical advances. The variety in these advances leaves us with choices for receiving sleep therapy also. One can prefer from Naturopathy, Herbal treatment, Acupressure, Yoga, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Psychotherapy, Reflexology, and Allopathic medicinal treatment.
NATUROPATHY AS SLEEP THERAPY
Here the emphasis is given on correcting the root cause of Insomnia rather than fixing it. Treatment is based on correcting the patterns, factors, behaviors which have caused the disorder. Some of them are shared here.
Lifestyle and habits
Developing a system for consistency of bed and wake-up time.
Avoiding television, heavy food and fluids before bed time.
Deciding the bedroom to be a place for restful sleep and sex only, and not for any other activity.
Taking a snack diet rich in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat produces serotonin and melatonin, the chemicals which promote sleep in the brain.
Establishing clear and realistic goals for personal and professional life help in managing time. This in turn keeps one from pacing life activities and relieves from short Insomnia.
Changing the sleeping position, if sleep does not take place within 15 to 20 minutes while been in bed.
Avoid keeping a watch in front of one’s eyes while going to sleep. This hinders the mind from coming to a restful stage.
It is also helpful to learn to challenge self-defeating thoughts that stimulate Insomnia. Thoughts which generate unrealistic expectations and exaggerations, catastrophizing thoughts, fortune telling and thoughts of hopelessness should be replaced with thoughts that promote sleep.
Aerobic physical exercises when done outdoor on a regular basis benefit by maintaining the body’s circadian rhythm. Abdominal deep breathing exercises before sleep is helpful for our parasympathetic nervous system.
Developing and maintaining an environment that motivates healthy sleep is essential. Matters like temperature of the bedroom, quietness, avoidance of all stimulating activities, and sleeping before twelve midnight help much for good sleep.
Acupressure for good sleep
Many people do not see the impact of sleep disorders which can cause long-term health damage and affect the quality of life. Acupressure has been practiced in China for many centuries. It recognizes the presence of certain points in the human body which are linked to body’s vital systems and organs. Simple pressure from fingers is used on these points to hearten up or repress body organs or systems. Certain areas in the ears, forehead, and toes can be stimulated to promote a healthy night’s sleep.
The right use of herbs not only treats symptoms of Insomnia but also corrects the imbalances within the body that cause those symptoms. Herbs have variety of active constituents with a main action and several contributory actions thus helping in deciding the conditions for which it is most suitable.
Some of the herbs used for therapy are --Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Jamaica Dogwood (Piscidia piscipula), Hops (Humulus lupulus),
Californian Poppy (Eschscholtzia Californica), Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile),Balm,Oats, St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum),Wild Lettuce, Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora).
Different forms of herbal tea and herbal baths are also used for the treatment of Insomnia. Herbal remedies do not cause “hang-over” like many conservative medications. They can be
used daily and do not make one habitual. It is essential to take the herbal therapy in consultation with the Herbal Therapist and the personal physician.
Those suffering from chronic sleep disorder suffer from an underlying psychiatric or physiologic (medical) condition. The most common psychological problems leading to insomnia are: anxiety, schizophrenia, stress, bipolar disorder and depression.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) methods have their usefulness that lasts beyond the length of treatment. Some of the CBT methods that help in sleeping well consist of: restricting sleep to specific times of the night, anxiety reduction methods, interventions to remove mistaken ideas about sleep length and sleep loss, promoting habits of sleep promptness.
YOGA AS SLEEP THERAPY
Yoga benefits in different ways through the use of Asana, pranayama, yoga-nidra. Yoga enables the balancing of body, mind and spirit giving good results.
Some of the asana used in this therapy are Tadasana, Salabhasana, Bhujangasana, and Sahavasana. Hatha and Iyengar, which are gentle form of yoga, is found helpful in the treatment of Insomnia.
During pregnancy abdominal exercise should be avoided. People having atherosclerotic neck arteries, extremely high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, ear problems, cervical spondylitis, risk of blood clots, should avoid some yoga positions. People suffering from heart or lung disease need to avoid certain yoga breathing techniques.
AYURVEDA AS SLEEP THERAPY
Ayurveda says the mind-body constitution or the body form plays important role in deciding the amount of sleep needed for a person. Ayurveda classifies life in three stages. Kapha stage for childhood, Pitta stage for adulthood and Vata stage for old age. One sleeps more during Kapha stage and least during Vata stage.
Ayurveda gives two reasons for Insomnia. 1. Aggravated Vata and 2. The disturbances caused in routine life. The imbalance of Vata which governs movement all over the body gives rise to the environment conducive to initiate insomnia. Secondly, the disturbances which come in our daily nature friendly routine disturb the normal routine causing sleep disorder.
It is helpful for one to go to sleep between 6p.m to 10p.m which is Kapha time since it has the property of heaviness thus facilitating sleep. The lively qualities of Pitta begin from 10 P.M. onwards where the mind alertness increases. Around 12 midnight one feels hungry. Eating and then going to bed disturbs the deep sleep. Vata phase is light and airy in quality and begins about 2 A.M. to A.M. This is the time when one dreams, drifts in and out of sleep. Thus this stage is not fully helpful in providing a sleep where one experiences freshness in the morning.
HOMEOPATHY AS SLEEP THERAPY
In homeopathy treatment the prescription is based on treating the vital force of the body which is struggling to overcome the disease. Symptoms help as an outward sign and guide the recommendation for medicine. Dosages in homeopathy given in different potencies are regulated with time intervals. Use of aromatic oils or certain food or drinks weakens the benefits of this treatment.
Some of the homeopathic remedies useful for sleep therapy are Arnica, Aconite, Arsenicum album, Calcerea phosphorica, Causticum, Chamomilia, Cocculus, Coffea, Euisetum, Ignatia, Kali phos, Lachesis, Muriaticum acidum, Nux vomica, Opium, Pulsatilla, Sepia, Sulphur, and Thuja. All these remedies need to be taken under a qualified practicing homeopath.
According to Reflexology, internal and external parts of the human body are connected to specific areas of the foot and hand. Thus when pressure is applied to these specific reflex areas on the foot and hand, it leads to the stimulating of the nerves or body part, and the corresponding organs.
Insomnia is mostly a result of mental stress, circulating problems, breathing difficulties, and digestive dysfunctions. Thus by stimulating the respective organ reflex points insomnia is treated. Reflexology uses endocrine glands’ (all the seven) massage for sleep disorders. Thus the reflex brings calmness by relieving stress and helps to attain calm mind.
The organ generated sleep disorder can be also treated through the massage reflex therapy. The brain, lungs, heart, spleen, thymus, stomach and solar plexus when treated with reflexology give therapeutic relief from Insomnia.
MEDICATIONS AND MEDICAL THERAPY
There are various sleep medications which provide temporary respite; they are not a cure for Insomnia. They can at times worsen it if not used carefully. They should be need based and used under strict medical supervision. Some of the medications used to treat insomnia are—Benzodiazepine sedatives, Nonbenzodiazepine sedatives, Ramelteon (Rozerem), Trazodone and amitriptyline(antidepressants).
CELEBRTIES WHO SUFFERED FROM SLEEP DISORDERS.
Please don’t think you are alone in this struggle of sleep disorder. There are a big number of them. Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Burns, Napoleon, Winston Churchill, Sir Isaac Newton, Mark Twain, Tallulah Bankhead, Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe, Margaret Thatcher, Benjamin Franklin, Carey Grant; Catherine the Great, Charles Dickens, Marcel Proust, and Thomas Edison.
There is enough information that the medical research has provided for us when it comes to sleep therapy. Let us be courageous and take positive steps which can lead in treating insomnia. It is time to get out of our deficiency of sleep and take up the positive help provided in different therapeutic approaches.
May the reading of this article become a blessing to you.
About the author: Emerson Noble Scott is a graduate in Science and post graduate in Theology. He is an educationist, counselor, writer, and social activist. He also enjoys photography, bird watching, cycling, traveling, gardening, playing games (indoor and outdoor), listening to people and making friends. A family oriented person, practices contemplation, believes in being creative and takes life as a gift from Almighty.