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Insomnia: When you just can’t sleep

Sleep Disorders | February 4, 2021 | Author: Naturopath

sleep conditions

Insomnia: When you just can’t sleep

You’re in bed, tossing and turning, watching the clock and know you need to sleep, but you find yourself too wired. Legs start to twitch, itches develop in all sorts of places, you are too hot or too cold and then you need to use the bathroom - again. Being too tired but too wired to fall asleep can happen for a number of reasons. You may have something different or important on the next day (more the reason you need a good night sleep), you may have over-done it in the garden, dehydration, hunger or eating certain foods can all be responsible for keeping you awake. There are some quick fixes you can employ in the middle of the night (or way before then) to get you to lala land.

Feeling anxious

Feeling anxiousWhen you have some anxiety in your life, a new job, death in the family, or purchasing a new car, for example, for some reason your brain thinks when its time to go to sleep is the perfect time to think. The more you try not to think of things the more they seem to pop into your head.

Anxiety is a natural response to stress and can result in restless steep. Lack of sleep can also increase anxiety.

  • Sleep and cortisol. Cortisol is secreted over a 24-hour cyclic period. In the morning the amounts in the body are at their peak and gradually reduce throughout the day with the minimum level around midnight. This is why we (should) wake with energy in the morning and feel like bed (sleep) at the end of the day. Cortisol is also one of the stress hormones which is released when there is a perceived danger (fight or flight) situation. Unfortunately, everyday situations may be the cause of elevated cortisol. Chronic stress can cause a dysregulation of stress hormones and prevent regeneration of resources causing a depletion of body and mind. 

Magnesium can be a great help here as it can help calm down adrenaline and cortisol. You can take magnesium as a supplement or use a topical product to roll or spray – easily accessible on the bedside table. Herbs such as passion flower, ziziphus, hops, valerian and camomile are quick acting for helping to calm the mind and relax the body. These herbs, and magnesium, are good to take long term to help regulate the stress response in situations of chronic stress.

Irritated digestion

Unfortunately, some foods although enjoyable at time of consuming, can cause a problem when its time for sleeping. Spicy foods, caffeine and over-eating can result in reflux irritating the oesophagus and keeping you awake. Soothe digestion with some slippery elm or chamomile. Ginger can be helpful for nausea.

Allergies acting up

This may occur if you have been gardening, working in a dusty environment, enjoyed too much sun, or a change of scenery, for example. 

The result is irritation and itchiness, or sinus inflammation and asthma restricting airways making it hard to breath and ultimately making it harder to sleep. ​Herbal medicine such as perilla and albizia can help reduce the allergic response as can increasing doses of vitamin C. Horseradish, marshmallow, fenugreek and elderberry can help with upper respiratory irritation. Saline nasal sprays can help with nasal congestion. 
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Restless legs

Is it the lack of sleep causing the legs to get jumpy or are the legs getting jumpy due to lack of sleep? Either way twitches are annoying and can make it hard to relax and sleep. Magnesium spray or roll-on can be applied directly to irritation and calm those nerves quickly. Restless legs can also be associated with medication, iron-deficiency, uraemia, cardiovascular disorders and neuropathies – so it is a good idea to have a check-up with your medical practitioner if you are experiencing restless legs regularly.
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Exhaustion from physical exertion

Sometimes you push your body to its physical limits when you have to get things done. Moving house, renovating or working in the yard, for instance, might leave you physically exhausted, but unable to sleep. Magnesium again is a great mineral for relaxing tired muscles. If joints are aching and keeping you from sleep, turmeric (curcumin) can help with pain and inflammation. Liniments containing arnica, capsicum, rosemary or eucalyptus can offer quick relief.

Warding off a restless night

There are a few suggestions you can employ if insomnia is becoming a habit. These include:

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages close to bed time
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Avoid stimulus before bed – this include tv, smart phone, reading or worrying whilst in bed
  • Light dinner earlier in the evening (avoid heavy meals and eating late)
  • Exercise earlier than later
  • Get some sunshine during the day (to increase melatonin)
  • Warm shower before bed (good for restless legs)
  • Magnesium bath for relieving tired muscles
  • Relaxation imagery (pleasant thoughts)

The Diet

Glass of milk before bed.Glass of milk before bed. Believe it or not this old-fashioned remedy for sleep does have a scientific basis. Milk contains an amino acid called tryptophan which is the building block for serotonin (the happy hormone) which can be converted to melatonin (the sleep hormone). Unfortunately, we cannot make tryptophan so must obtain it from out diet. Tryptophan is found in milk, cheese, turkey, chicken, meat and fish.

Fruit and Vegetables. Healthy eating is associated with a good night sleep

Herbal medicine check list for treating insomnia. These can be used/found in combination and will often work better when taken that way.

  • Passion flower (passiflora incanata)
  • Hops (humulus lupulus
  • Ziziphus (zizyphus jujube var. spinosa
  • Camomile (matricaria chamomilla)
  • Valerian (valeriana officinalis)

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The Effect of Anxiety and Depression on Sleep Quality of Individuals With High Risk for Insomnia: A Population-Based Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6700255/

Insomnia and Relationship with Anxiety in University Students: A Cross-Sectional Designed Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4762701/

Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6212970/

Clinical Practice Guideline on Management of Sleep Disorders in the Elderly https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5840912/

Herbal Medicinal Products from Passiflora for Anxiety: An Unexploited Potential https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7387951/

Ziziphus spinosa seeds for insomnia: A review of chemistry and psychopharmacology https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0944711317300788


Exploring the Effect of Lactium™ and Zizyphus Complex on Sleep Quality: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5331585/

Why Does Warm Milk Make You Sleepy? https://www.sleepadvisor.org/warm-milk-sleep/

Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5003001/

Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality1,2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015038/


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