By Dr. Andrea Wick EBS Contributor
One-third of the population has suffered from insomnia at some point in their lives. No matter how well you eat or how healthy you are, if you are not sleeping it is nearly impossible to be well.
According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, insomnia leads to a higher chance of work-related accidents, increased health care costs and a decrease in overall quality of life.
The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare in Cologne, Germany, recommends that adults need about seven hours of sleep per night, whereas children need nine hours of sleep.
Research has found that insomnia triggers include anxiety and stress, alcohol and drugs use, pain, needing to urinate at night, hot flashes, hormonal changes, menstruation, sleep walking, sleep apnea, grinding your teeth, the need for drugs such as anti-depressants, shift work and noise.
Epidemiological studies find that diets consisting of high sugar and carbohydrate intake cause an increased risk of insomnia. In relation to alcohol, some people can fall asleep easily after drinking, however it interrupts the natural rapid eye movement (REM) cycle causing sleep to be less restful.
There are many different holistic treatments for insomnia and sleeplessness. Having a consistent sleep routine or “sleep hygiene” is a good first start. Take a hot bath before bed with essential oils such as lavender. The Journal of Science and Healing found that college students who used lavender oil at bedtime had better performance, vibrancy and the ability to sleep. Exercising first thing in the morning has a positive effect on falling asleep faster at night. Also, avoid eating large meals right before bedtime, and don’t consume coffee or caffeine past noon.
Keep electronics out of the bedroom and avoid watching television before bed. Sleep.org states that 71 percent of Americans sleep with their phone in hand, phone next to their nightstand or have their phone in bed with them. Nomophobia is the fear of being without a smart phone and research is showing the negative impact of electronics on sleep hygiene. Blue light is emitted from electronics such as televisions, laptops and phones. Blue light tricks the brain into thinking it’s daylight. This blue light stops the production of melatonin which is an important hormone that aids in sleep.
Supplementation is a natural approach to insomnia. I usually recommend valerian, melatonin, passionflower, magnesium or Gamma-Amino Butyric acid depending on the patient’s symptoms. Valerian and passionflower are herbs that help create a calm state in the body. Magnesium citrate is a viable option in helping the nervous system relax at nighttime. GABA is a neurotransmitter in the brain and when there is a GABA deficiency, symptoms such as anxiety, depression, worry and insomnia may occur.
Lastly, cognitive therapy techniques such as meditation help improve sleep patterns. JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that mindfulness meditation improved sleep outcomes, and decreased depression and fatigue. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the breath and bringing the mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns or anxieties about the past or future. It helps you break the cycle of chronic everyday thoughts to activate a relaxation response, using a specific meditation technique that feels right for you.
Dr. Andrea Wick is a chiropractor and applied kinesiologist. She graduated from Life University in Marietta, Georgia, and now practices in Big Sky. She has a passion for holistic health care and being active in the outdoors. Her practice, Healing Hands Chiropractic, is located in the Meadow Village Center. Visit drandreawick.com to learn more.
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