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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