Sleeping well?

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. (Shakespeare: The Tempest)

Thus spake the bard in his last play. Prospero was probably the wisest and most evolved of all Shakespeare’s characters. A scholar, magician and healer, he saw the foolishness of the human race and dreaded returning to society.

Life does indeed end with a sleep but so does every day, if we are lucky that is. What of the millions who cannot get to sleep every night? Where is respite for them? Is there anything that can be done for the one in three of us who will suffer from insomnia sooner or later?

The Week quoted some useful tips from a new book called The Insomniac’s Best Friend by Lynda Brown (Harper Collins 2004, £9.99) She emphasizes the importance of learning how to relax but let’s have a look at some of her advice…
  • Don’t set targets of how many hours to sleep, don’t take insomnia seriously, feel happy if you get a little sleep every night.
  • Have a warm (not hot) bath every night before going to sleep
  • Repeat the ‘sleep mantra’ Tonight I’m going to sleep for (however many) hours… over and over.
  • Do not try to work through any problems in bed at night.
  • Recommended aromatherapy oils: Sandalwood and sweet marjoram
  • On waking up in the middle of the night, put you hands on your tummy and concentrate on its rise as you breath in and its fall as you breath out.
  • Become aware of each muscle group in the body and tense and release it.

Okay, some good practical advice there. In my experience as a medical doctor I can say that the last piece of advice is by far the most important. Learn a form of deep relaxation. However I do think this process is greatly facilitated by being taught properly and supervised, so let us look at some of the methods of deep relaxation.

1. Jacobson’s Progressive Relaxation: Perhaps the most widely-practised form of deep relaxation although it is seldom attributed to it’s founder. It involves becoming conscious of your toes, tensing them to an inbreath and then releasing them to an outbreath. Then your feet, your shins and working all the way up to your head. Simple and effective, it has been used for decades.

2. Meditation: The most well-known meditation is perhaps TM or Transcendental Meditation, but many forms of meditation can be learned. Most involve the silent repeating of a mantra (sacred sound).

3. Biofeedback: This technique involves connecting you to machines that show your brainwaves. When you see them slow down, you try to do whatever you were doing to get them that way.

4. Autogenic Training: This is my personal recommendation for effective deep relaxation. It is a very efficiently-taught system of deep relaxation involving the muscles, heart, breathing and much more. It has no religious connotations. In my experience, most insomniacs who learn Autogenic Training, eventually learn to sleep well.

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Homeopathic Tip of the Week: Insomnia
The most famous homeopathic remedy for insomnia is Coffea cruda. Yes indeed, it is made from coffee! This shows the paradoxical nature of homeopathy. A stimulating substance like coffee can have the opposite effect when given in homeopathic potency (dilution). There is no harm in using a dose of Coffea 6c to help you sleep now and then but I wouldn’t rely on any form of medication, orthodox, herbal or homeopathic to help you sleep. Best results come from deep relaxation methods and my personal choice of these is Autogenic Training