Insomnia can refer to being unable to get to sleep at night, an inability to stay asleep, or simply light and restless sleep. Everyone has a sleepless night now and then, but some people have more of those than not.
After a single wakeful night one might feel tired and unable to focus. But repeat and frequent episodes of poor sleep can be physically devastating for long-term health, including a higher chance of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, alcohol abuse, and mood disorders such as depression.
Some causes for insomnia
Body discomfort is a major reason that people don’t get great sleep. This could range from physical pain to restless leg syndrome to sleep apnea. When the body cannot rest the mind can’t rest either. If there is a physical cause for poor sleep this would be considered a secondary form of insomnia (as opposed to primary insomnia which has no apparent cause). The obvious fix for this type of insomnia is to address the physical cause.
Pain and tightness are common complaints. Acupuncture can help a great deal with muscular and skeletal pain, even if the source of pain is a form of arthritis, offering the body the ability to get restful sleep. Bodywork and yoga are effective in dealing with muscle tightness.
DeLora Frederickson, Austin yoga teacher and pelvic floor specialist, notes that, “Lower back pain can come from pelvic floor tightness which can be especially pronounced when lying down. Yoga and pelvic floor work can create an ease in the lower body that allows the back and the body to relax and open allowing peaceful sleep.”
Caffeine intake should be given consideration as well. Coffee, tea, sodas, and energy drinks contain caffeine, as do some processed foods and chocolate. Aging bodies can develop intolerance to caffeine that can cause sleeplessness if caffeinated foods and drinks are consumed after a certain time of day.
Other lifestyle considerations deserve special mention in regards to getting a solid night of sleep. SXSW gave Austinites plenty of opportunities to experience late night sleep schedule disturbance! Irregular lifestyles with inconsistent bedtime, excess alcohol consumption, and even living close to a live music venue can interrupt the quiet downtime that is often required to drop off to sleep and spend eight or so uninterrupted hours.
Depression, anxiety and worry are frequently associated with chronic insomnia. People who are sleepless often even begin to worry about not getting enough sleep, creating a vicious cycle in which shut-eye is less and less possible. To further complicate matters, many depression patients who take anti-depressants find that these medications can keep them awake or decrease the depth of sleep.
Anxiety patients seem to fare better on the surface in terms of medications, yet many of these leave patients groggy the following morning, primarily because they deprive the body of deep sleep which is needed to be truly rested.
Treating insomnia with alternative medicine
Reiki, acupuncture, massage, yoga, tai chi, and qigong are just a few of the alternative medicine options for addressing insomnia. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can help relax the body and mind and treat causes of insomnia directly.
Acupuncture balances the body constitution so that good rest is possible. Reiki is a Japanese energetic art which releases stress and pain, creating a deep sense of quiet and calm. This gives the body an opportunity to self-heal and balance. Massage therapy can open tight muscles and give a sense of wellbeing and relaxation.
Yoga, tai chi, and qigong are more active participatory methods for relieving tension in the body and mind that can cause sleeplessness. This weekend there is a unique opportunity to learn about yoga for insomnia at Yoga Yoga South, a local yoga studio in Austin Texas, and to walk away with some techniques for getting to sleep at night.
Regardless of how insomnia is addressed, alternative medicine is definitely worth a try. Techniques used by licensed acupuncturists and massage therapists, certified Reiki practitioners and yoga instructors, and experienced tai chi and qigong teachers are safe, drug free, non-toxic, and healing.