by Joseph Patrick Jakubal
When you discover that you are falling asleep during the day but having difficulty sleeping at night you have insomnia. And, do not think that you are alone because as many as two-thirds of U.S. citizens have sleep difficulties which can result in a myriad of problems.
Drowsy drivers cause a multitude of accidents on the nation's highways every year (as many as 100,000 per year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). A study printed in the Lancet (a medical journal from Britain) reports that sleep deprivation affects the body in a similar manner as aging. Also, it affects the thyroid gland and carbohydrate metabolism (see the March/April issue of New Age magazine).
The typical solution by the medical community is to prescribe sleep medications like Halcion ... which can cause addiction and decrease in effectiveness with time. According to Dr. Timothy McCall ... a patient he was familiar with had been started on Halcion and became addicted within weeks, it got to a point where he could not sleep without it. Upon discussing the patient's lifestyle the doctor discovered that he would drink a cup of coffee following supper each night. The problem was solved, after abandoning the evening coffee (and tapering off the pills) the patient was again sleeping well.
Sometimes it is mandatory to analyze your personal situation ... don't expect the doctors to do it for you.
Of course, serious diseases like sleep apnea can also be the cause of insomnia and must be ruled out (sleep apnea is a condition in which a person actually stops breathing during sleep). Other causes can be "restless leg syndrome" and/or "hormonal imbalances".
If medical conditions can be ruled out then analysis of food-stuffs should be performed. Be aware that caffeine is found in chocolate, some medications, tea, soft drinks and coffee. Of course, these should be avoided prior to going to bed (for at least four hours). Any medications which contain ephedra, pseudoephedrine or phenylporopanolamine can interfere with your sleeping ... check your over-the-counter diet pills and cold medications. Other medications which are known to cause insomnia are those used for asthma, high blood pressure, depression (Prozac). Illicit drugs like marijuana and cocaine may also be contributing to your problem. Also, legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco may also cause sleeplessness. While it is true that a little wine with dinner may not affect night time sleep, it is also true that consumption of alcohol prior to sleeping can cause you to wake earlier than normal - feeling as though you did not get a very refreshing sleep.
The stresses of daily living can certainly be the primary cause of insomnia because it prevents you from putting yourself in the relaxed state of body and mind which precedes restful and normal sleep. Also, quit working or exercising at least four hours prior to bedtime (to allow the mind to relax). Human beings are "creatures of habits" and when we repeatedly go to bed thinking about problems at work or what we are going to do tomorrow then we set ourselves up to repeat the cycle over and over again. Even the fear of not being able to sleep can prevent us from sleeping ... the more we try, the less we are able to. The answer of course is not to try and force yourself to go to sleep but rather do something instead. You can use the phenomenon of "habits" to work to your advantage by developing a routine that always results in sleep. It could combine a warm bath (which relaxes and drops the body temperature), reading, soft music, herbal tea and soft lighting in a special place. At first, do ponder upon lost sleep because a few hours of restful sleep is better than a full eight hours of restless sleep. A note to the wise would be to skip the reading of murder mysteries or books that make an impact on your mind.
The human mind works by way of association and the bed should be associated with the act of sleeping. In other words, do not watch T.V. in bed, or eat food, or read, or work. About the only other things I can think of to do in bed (except for sleeping) would be having sex and meditating in the middle of the day.
The bedroom should be as dark and comfortable as possible. Adjust the temperature to make it slightly cool and wear an eye mask if neccessary. If you have a clock in the room then face it away from you so you will not be calculating how many hours are left for you to sleep (this will only contribute to your anxiety).
As mentioned, we are creatures of habit, so get out of bed in the morning at approximately the same time every day. Do not sleep late on the weekends because it will inerfere with your natural body rhythms.
When all else fails you could look at the herbal preparation ... valerian root which has a reputation for treating insomnia. It becomes effective following approximately two weeks to a month of regular use. The herb seems to be safe, however users have reported some cases of grogginess during the daytime.
Chamomile tea, hops, kava-kava, and pasionflower, and lavender oil (aromatherapy) are more herbal remedies which appear to be safe and effective for many people.
Light therapy can also be benificial. The natural rhythms of the body expect natural, bright light in the morning and throughout the day ... and lack of light at night. Try getting a dose of natural sunlight first thing upon waking up and throughout the day. Then, as night approaches dim lights and ultimately have the room where you sleep as dark as possible. It has been shown that the melatonin levels of the brain (powerful antioxidant) is increased during periods of extreme darkness. Note that Melatonin has been associated with anti-aging.