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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the best treatment of Insomnia?

    I suffer from insomnia and it is really impacting my emotional state as I am always tired and in bad moods. I am finding it difficult to perform at work. How can i treat this?
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    Dr Louise Shepherd

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I am a clinical psychologist with 15 years experience working with all sorts of goals and issues. I love working with people, helping them to … View Profile

    You might be interested in visiting this site to watch a couple of short videos on an approach to sleep problems called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). 

    http://thesleepschool.org

    Whilst the centre from the site is based in London there are many ACT therapists in Australia.

    You could visit www.actmindfully.com.au to find one in your local area if you think this might be relevant for you. At The Sydney ACT Centre our clinical psychologists are able to assess and treat insomnia and after considering what is happening for a particular person we would come up with a treatment plan to address the sleep difficulties as everyone is a bit different!

    All the best and I hope you get more sleep very soon!

    Louise

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    Nikki Warren

    HealthShare Member

    I agree!  I read the book written by Guy Meadows "The Sleep Book" and there is also an app you can download which is fantastic.

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    Nikki Warren

    Naturopath

    Nikki Warren is committed to preconception care, natural fertility, and pregnancy through to postnatal care. Nikki is a degree qualified Naturopath, Medical Herbalist, Doula and … View Profile

    From a naturopathic perspective I would look at the reasons why a person has insomnia and address those issues.  For example, if a person is suffering anxiety I would treat the anxiety with a combination of nutritional supplementation and herbal therapy alongside diet and lifestyle recommendations. 

    No matter what the cause, I give the same diet and lifestyle advice:

    1) Give up caffeine.  It's hard at first, especially when you haven't slept all night and need to get through the day but caffeine definitely contributes to insomnia (even if you drink it in the morning).  If you currently drink coffee, switch to tea instead for a while to wean yourself off it.

    2) Research shows that exercise at dusk, e.g. a walk for 30 minutes, improves your ability to sleep by raising melatonin levels.

    3) Make sure you eat a well-balanced meal for dinner that includes carbohydrates, protein and fats (good fats preferably).  

    4) Eliminate sugary foods and drinks from your diet such as biscuits, cakes, lollies and soft drinks - this causes issues with blood sugar levels and can aggravate insomnia.

    5) Eat foods which nourish the nervous system - these include whole grains (especially oats), fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds and foods high in protein, particularly foods high in L-tryptophan, an amino acid which converts to serotonin and then melatonin - turkey, milk, beef, fish, cottage cheese, lentils, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soybeans and rice.

    6) Try a cup of hot milk or herbal tea such as chamomile before bed.

    7) Avoid alcohol - this may make you feel sleepy at first but is often the cause of sleep maintenance insomnia (frequent awakenings) when you wake up and can't get back to sleep again).

    8) Make sure you have block-out curtains in your bedroom and if you are sensitive to noise, use ear plugs.  Also make sure your room is well-ventilated - preferably leave a window open at night.

    9) Have a bath or shower before bed - letting your body cool down just before bed helps to induce sleep.

    10) Learn deep breathing exercises, meditation and muscle relaxation techniques and use these instead of tossing and turning when you can't sleep.

    I conducted a webinar on insomnia last year which includes naturopathic remedies to help you sleep.  A CD of this webinar is available for purchase for only $20.

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    Dr David Cunnington

    Respiratory & Sleep Medicine Physician

    Specialist sleep physician delivering a high standard of clinical care to clients with complex sleep problems and promoting sleep health through research, education and advocacy. … View Profile

    The first step in treating insomnia is to work with a health professional to identify contributing factors to poor sleep. These can be medical conditions, physical and mental or lifestyle factors, and your general practitioner (GP) is the ideal starting point as they will be familiar with your medical history. Then a treatment plan can be developed. A very effective treatment that is used for primary insomnia and some forms of co-morbid insomnia is cognitive behavioural therapy specifically for insomnia (CBTi). This has been shown to dramatically reduce insomnia symptoms and is available via psychologists with specific experience in treating insomnia.

  • Daniel Bonnar

    Psychologist

    Daniel is a clinical psychologist who completed his training at Flinders University in South Australia. Coming from a clinically diverse background working with individuals of … View Profile

    As Dr Cunnington suggests above, CBTi is a good option in a lot of cases. Even though sleep medication is commonly prescribed to reduce sleeplessness, CBTi is actually the recommended first line treatment for insomnia in Australia. What’s great about CBTi is that not only is it effective, but it’s relatively brief (approx. 6 sessions), and has long-term gains. 

  • My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    Two things have helped me with insomnia.

    The first is what is called "sleep hygiene", which means learning good habits in preparation for sleep. There is an explanation of it here; http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Sleep_hygiene .

    The second, which Nicki Warren alluded to above, is progressive muscle relaxation. I do it, lying in bed, by tensing and then relaxing each set of muscles, starting with my foot muscles and moving up to my facial and neck muscles. 

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