Ask The Herbalist!

Would you like to ask the Editor a question? Send it to:

Letter   to   the   Editor

Insomnia? Dear GM, It is interesting you say, “I went to the Naturopath and he found nothing wrong”. To have insomnia does not mean there is anything wrong with a person. It may mean that they are over stressed, their diet is not ideal, or perhaps they worry too much, drink too much coffee or something else, but there is usually nothing “wrong” with an insomniac. In fact, insomniacs are often the healthiest people as it is partially their vitality that keeps them awake. It would be hard to search for a reason for your insomnia, but perhaps when you say it could be “nerves” you are as close to an answer as anyone will ever get. In fact, you are probably right in your assessment. Most people suffering from insomnia have it because of their nerves. Then, of course it is a never ending circle. Nerve stress means little sleep, and little sleep means nerve stress which means little sleep which get the idea. Most people , of course , focus on the lack of sleep as their problem. This is similar to focusing on the runny nose as your problem in a cold and saying to yourself “If I could just get rid of this runny nose I would be better and cured!” Sure, you want to get rid of the runny nose, and it would be nice to take something to get rid of it. Perhaps you will, but you REALLY need to focus on getting rid of the cold itself, strengthening the immune system and bringing your body back to a healthy state. The same train of thought applies to insomnia. If you focus on the lack of sleep as your problem you will never find the solution. There are two things in your letter which make me think your problem is nerve related **(other than the fact you said this yourself). You say you don’t have a stressful life and yet you list an abundance of activities that you are involved in, all which are taking time, thought, personal interaction and spiritual energy from you. These activities are on top of raising your own children. I am shocked anyone would recommend you be more active. Perhaps they were referring to exercise and not activities? You certainly have too many if anything! They are all good activities and probably result in “good stress”. They don’t have to be stopped, simply you need to acknowledge that they are a source of “stress” so that you allow yourself to balance these activities with things that are NOT a source of stress (good or bad stress). Completely non-stressful activities would be: reading a book for fun, writing a letter for fun, listening to music while staring into space, walking alone or quietly with a partner and enjoying the scenery, taking a bath, drinking a cup of tea, listening to a concert, taking a trail walk, observing nature outside your window for fifteen minutes, some form of meditation (anything from yoga to those spiral walkways would do well). There is no difference between the words “busy” and “stressful” other than the colloquial meanings we have come to attribute to these words. What they do to our body is the same whatever word you use. (With one exception, if you have a busy life and call it stressful, your negative attitude may increase the stress. Your positive attitude about your busy life is an asset to you, on the other hand.) The second thing you said was that “...but even if I am dead tired...”. The fact that you even get dead tired at all indicates that you push yourself too much. However, the facts of life are that stress in unavoidable. You cannot usually change your stressful situation or busy life or circumstances, so you need to teach or enable your body to deal with the life you have. STEP ONE First of all, I would be interested to know what your diet is EXACTLY. You indicated a lack of produce in your diet and a love of snacking, but did not give any specifics. If you tracked your diet for one week it would be very helpful. All I can say without more information is that your diet is going to be a real help to you in solving your problem. Not eating fruits and vegetables causes mineral and vitamin deficiencies in your system and hinders your system’s ability to digest the minerals and vitamins you DO put in it. This will in turn cause some blood sugar lows and highs which interfere with bodily rhythms. However, sugar and processed foods are the biggest culprit in any diet. Make a list for three days and see how many sugary foods (muffins, jelly, cereals, canned soups, and of course deserts) and processed foods (chips, cereal, bread from the grocery store, pasta, etc..) you eat. If you eat more than 1-2 processed foods a day (i.e.: one muffin and one handful of chips OR one scoop of ice cream and one bowl of cereal) that is too many. Work on reducing these items in your diet. If you can do this one thing you will see your sleep improve. If you are having trouble letting these items go do the following exercises: 1. Try not eating ANY sugar or processed foods for three days and watch how your sleep magically improves. How to do this? Remember this rule: If it has a label, don’t eat it. Eat rice (NO PASTA!), potatoes, vegetables steamed or stir fried, fresh and dried fruits and meats (minimal). Eat a LARGE salad before every meal. A BIG BOWL of mixed greens with tomatoes and carrots and whatever else you like (or don’t like if you are a real veggie-hater). Can’t do the above completely? At least eat the large salad before every meal. By large I mean four bowls worth of salad. And make it interesting. It takes more time, but will encourage you to eat it and will taste better and be more effective. 2. If number one did not convince you then try this: Every time you reach for a chip or muffin or bowl of cereal envision that horrible feeling you get from the insomnia for twenty seconds BEFORE you eat the food. Most of the time the urge will go away. I solved my chocolate habit this way. Keep in mind that to ultimately solve your problem you are going to have to avoid as much as possible processed and sugary foods. If you don’t - you know the consequences. It is your choice. You are in control - not your body! Keep in mind that spicy, rich foods, refined sugars, late-night eating. large evening meals (you should eat a big meal for lunch or stick to small frequent meals), and eating meat at night can cause sleeplessness. Grains, oats, brown rice, cucumber, celery and lettuce are all good for insomnia. Remember when Benjamin Bunny finds lettuces are soporific in the Peter Rabbit series? Another hint: I have heard from many people (myself included) who went on Chet day’s 21-days to Health Hallelujah diet that they slept the best in their life during this diet. STEP TWO You will never finish step two to perfection. I, nor anyone else I know ever has, so do your best and go on to step two. Step two is to take some supplements that will help your body deal with stress. I recommend large doses of vitamin C (perhaps 1000-2000 mg a day: Some say up to 5 GRAMS is OK. I take about 6 GRAMS a day when under stress. You will know if you are taking too much by when your bowel movements become lose, at that point , back off and go down a notch in the dose) or perhaps a formulated stress-relief formula. I know Nature’s Sunshine sells some good formulas for stress. Don’t buy from Walmart, buy from a reputable source. Magnesium and Calcium are also good supplements for nerves. B-complex, lecithin and vitamin E are good too. Stick with them in appropriate doses (are you taking enough?) and take them at least two weeks to a month before you look for real improvement. Buy one or two things are take them regularly. Many people buy things and don’t take them or they stop taking after one or two weeks. You may need two-four weeks to see a result WHEN TAKEN REGULARLY. Another mistake people make is taking too little. If you are a big person you need to take a larger dose. In any case, follow the directions on the bottle. Other than these two supplements it would help you to mix up some anti-stress tea and take it throughout the day when you want (once or twice). Here are two good combinations: Chamomile Passionflower Hops Fennel or Skullcap Valerian Hops To use, buy good dried herbs from a reputable place (try Mountain Rose herbs at: 800-879-3337) and make fresh tea yourself if you like to do that. Put one teaspoon per cup, pour the cup of boiling water over the herb and then after ten minutes strain, sweeten and drink. Try to use stevia herb or honey to sweeten and not too much. Drink the tea once or twice during the day and then immediately before bed. The tea will take some time to take effect so if you can get to sleep it will keep you there. It will also help your body in general to fight stress. Taking these teas may, once again, take a week or two to show results. STEP THREE Since some of the above methods may take a week or two to kick in (but also may work right away, it depends on your body), you also need to employ some instant techniques. Try the following tricks: 1. Gently massage the inside of your ear in the middle of the inside rim and the middle bone, where the bottom crater of your ear is. Do this ten minute before you sleep. In accupressure, this point slows your heart rate and causes sleepiness. 2. Take a warm (not hot) bath with 1 drop of valerian oil, one drop of clary sage and one drop of lavender and one drop of vetiver. (you can also take a bath with four drops of one of these oils if you don’t have them all) 3. Use the above formula in a base of one teaspoon of olive oil or massage oil and massage on your temples. 4. Massage between your eyebrows just where the nose “starts” (Imagine you are drawing a sketch of a person’s profile. Where does the top of the nose start in your drawing?). This is another relaxing accupressure point. I have found accupressure very useful as a self-help tool since you can do it to yourself or have someone else do it. 5. Pretend you are yawning for five minutes 6. Take seven deep breathes as you lie in bed. Inhale deeply, then exhale slowly. Start over. Watch out, though, this energizes some people. So if you feel energized don’t do this exercise again before bed. 7. Pretend you are asleep. I don’t know what age your kids are but I do know when I used to “pretend to sleep” so mine would, I would always sleep instead. But this is more for if you have trouble GETTING to sleep. STEP FOUR Most importantly, don’t worry about your insomnia. Here are some attitude adjustment tips: 1. If you do happen to get up at 1 or 2. feeling awake YOU KNOW you are not going to sleep again so smile and try to get some things done, read a book, thank God you have some time to yourself only and everyone else is asleep. By the way, sometimes, subconsciously mothers tend to wake up in the middle of the night if they are not getting any time to themselves. You need relaxing time (as mentioned in one). If you do not get this your body will naturally seek it out. If this means staying up all night it will strive to do this. So if you need more time for you, try to find it. 2. Attack this problem from all angles with full force. Taking a few tablets of calcium, magnesium or whatever is not going to help. You need to attack from all angles - diet, supplementing, symptom relief, mental...everything! There is no instant solution to insomnia. You can not take a pill for it (health store or pharmacy pill). You need to work on solving the problem. 3. Sometimes activity from others you sleep with can add to your trouble. Snoring from children or husband, or fidgeting from children or constant nursing from a baby can interfere with your trying to sleep again. Try to work on this person’s problem as well. Snoring can often be overcome by installing a white noise device (they are found all over the place lately, you know those electronic things that play the sound of the ocean, or the waterfalls, etc....etc....) in the room or an air filter which creates white noise. It is often quicker and easier to cover up the snoring than cure it if the person does not want to be cured. 4. This is a lot of ideas. Make a list and check off the list as you do things so you are sure to cover more ground! 5. Remember your body functions best on a rhythm. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. 6. Practice leaving things undone. Come to the realization that things will never ever be done so you just need to stop at some point. 7. Try to keep the evening time for relaxing only. Do your volunteer activities, housework and work in the morning or afternoon and keep the evening for a light dinner, games or movie with family, chatting with husband , taking a shower, reading stories to kids or other things. No work allowed. Work at night causes insomnia. The most you should ever do at night is one load of dishes. If you have too much work at night left to do then you are either A. Doing too much or B. not planning your day well. Good luck! **By the way, stress-related and nerve related mean the same thing. Stress does not have to be bad. Any form of excitement, life change (even marriage or a new baby or grandchild), or active lifestyle can cause “stress” to a person. Various people react in different ways to their lifestyles. Some people can be enrolled in 5 classes, raising three kids and working part time and be fine. Others have trouble focusing on more than one activity at a time. more than that would cause “stress”.

Make your own free website on