Naturopath

Insomnia a problem ? Ask the Naturopath.

Posted on May 29, 2012 in Practice Information

Poor sleep affects much more than just energy levels and concentration. Numerous important biological pathways are influenced by the quality and duration of sleep such as hormone production, detoxification, learning and memory acquisition, immune function and neurotransmitter regulation. And when you consider 1/3 of our lives are spent asleep, it is vital we make the most of it.

Unfortunately, increasing pressure on all of us to do more and sleep less, means that we are seeing an escalation in the number of people experiencing sleep difficulties.

So what can a Naturopath do to support a patient with sleep issues?

The first step of any plan to improve sleep is to help reconnect the body with its natural rhythm by ensuring healthy sleep hygiene habits. This will involve discussions about the actual bedroom environment, sleep times, diet, sunshine exposure and various relaxation activities.

The next step is to identify the underlying cause of the sleep problem and determine what part of the sleep process requires support, as there are various nutritional and herbal medicines available to help depending on the actual problem.

For example, some people suffer with poor sleep onset (can’t get to sleep) or poor sleep maintenance (ie can’t stay asleep) and treatment may involve specific nutrients to support the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, acetylcholine, dopamine and GABA.

For others who spend too much time in active REM sleep and not enough in deep nonREM sleep and wake up feeling exhausted a Naturopath may recommend specific B vitamins along with magnesium and sedative herbal medicines to improve the sleep cycle.

Sometimes other issues such as pain associated with arthritis or sweating during menopause can interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. So, naturopathic treatment may involve reducing inflammation, or supporting hormone production in these cases.

Even issues such as anxiety, weak bladder, obesity or restless leg can play a role in undermining sleep quality. So it is important the underlying cause is identified and an appropriate treatment plan and or natural medicine is selected rather assuming “one shoe fits all” and reaching for an over the counter natural medicine when it may not address the underlying problem.