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Alternative Approaches to Treating Insomnia

Insomnia, or sleeplessness, is a serious disorder affecting 30% of the population in the industrialized world, mostly as a result of a modern hectic lifestyle, although it can also be illness-related and a natural symptom of aging. Some people have trouble falling asleep and wake up several times a night for no apparent reason with trouble returning to sleep. Others wake up way too early in the morning or do not feel refreshed, even after sleeping seven to eight hours. Due to the lack of restful sleep they frequently experience symptoms such as fatigue, excessive sleepiness, trouble thinking clearly and feeling irritable or depressed.

A common medical approach to treating sleeping problems is prescribing hypnotics, psychoactive drugs, antidepressants or antihistamines that are grossly over-used, do nothing to cure the underlying problem and because of their adverse effects and the risk of dependence and addiction they cannot be taken long-term and, once stopped, they cause withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes the use of insomnia medications results in serious losses of memory of recent events and sometimes even of entire days. Additional negative side effects of many of these drugs, which were intended for another purpose other than insomnia, include nausea, dry mouth, low blood pressure, constipation, anxiety and sexual problems.

However, sleeplessness can be treated effectively with acupuncture, relaxation exercises and herbal medicine (not just Valerian), along with changes in lifestyle. The theory of traditional Chinese medicine is based on the flow of energy throughout the body. If a blockage occurs in this flow, it will have a negative impact on health. To restore the flow of energy called qi (similar concepts can be found in many other traditional cultures, even in ancient Greece), safe and effective herbs plus a combination of acupuncture points, chosen specifically for treating insomnia, are used. The role of herbs in this combination is to speed up the recovery process and support and tonify the body.

In addition to a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine, lifestyle changes, such as going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning, should be implemented. It is necessary to avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine and avoid exercising five to six hours before bedtime. Eating dinner at least two to three hours before bedtime is also recommended, as well as keeping your bedroom quiet, dark and cool. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, soothing music or a white noise machine to cover up disturbing sounds. Follow a routine to help you relax before going to sleep, such as reading a book. If you cannot fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and read or do something else that is not too active, like listening to quiet music, until you feel sleepy. Only then try going back to bed. When in bed, it helps to think about something positive, something you enjoy doing. Avoid other distracting activities in your bed, such as watching TV, playing with your tablet, making phone calls or reading. Overtime, your body will learn to associate bed and bedtime with sleep.

Although sleeplessness is a problem of all age groups, it can create specific problems for elderly people. The elderly are often taking medications for various conditions and those drugs may disturb their sleep. In such cases, alternative medicine should be considered to treat not only the sleep problems but any other medical condition affecting sleep. Patients with insomnia often experience improved sleep just by reducing the number of medications they are taking. In fact, it has been proven many times that traditional Chinese medicine can treat many medical conditions just as effectively as Western medicine, while also attacking the underlying imbalance that is causing insomnia.

Getting the appropriate amount of rest is absolutely necessary for having a happy and productive life. Ensuring and restoring a refreshing sleep in the most natural, drug free way is certainly the best option.

Where to Find More Information: National Sleep Foundation