Boston Insomnia and Sleep Solutions

Insomnia and sleeping difficulty is an all too common experience in today’s busy, information overload society. Particularly in metropolitan cities like Boston with the excitement of living in an area filled with some many people and experiences, getting adequate and restful sleep can be difficult. Chances are that you may have experienced or are currently experiencing sleep difficulties. If you are, you are not alone. A 2002 study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that about 58% of adults in the United States experienced symptoms of insomnia a few nights a week or more. Women in particular are 40% more likely to experience sleep difficulties than men.

So what does this mean for you as you lie tossing and turning in your bed? First off, let’s talk a little bit about what the term insomnia means. It most commonly refers to a report by an individual that they experience difficulty sleeping or experience difficulty falling or staying asleep. From there, insomnia is categorized as either primary or secondary. Primary insomnia has no connection to another medical, psychiatric or environmental cause whereas secondary insomnia is co-morbid with, or caused by, a number of things including but not limited to, sleep apnea, use of stimulants, hormonal changes like those during menopause, pain, or mental disorders like depression or anxiety.

If you have trouble sleeping and are looking for a natural approach to decrease your discomfort and improve the quality and quantity of restful sleep, you may want to try some of the following recommendations.

Meditation – Lying awake in bed, stressing out about not being able to sleep only adds fuel to fire raging in your overactive mind. Meditation and mindfulness training helps quell that fire. A study conducted by the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in 2009 showed that patients who took time to meditate twice a day for 15 to 20 minutes over a span of only two months were able to fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly than those that didn’t. Meditation or relaxing activities, like yoga that incorporate aspects of mindfulness practice, can decrease cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is the hormone that is responsible for the feelings that accompany stressful situations in life….those feelings of “fight or flight”.

Chinese Medicine – Regular acupuncture sessions can help decrease those cortisol levels. By balancing the sympathetic (stress) and parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous systems, it can take the edge off the stress and anxiety you might be feeling. This will allow you to better handle stressful situations and recuperate from those instances without the destructive cycle of sleep disturbances that damage your body’s renewal capabilities. In addition, Chinese herbal medicine can not only help with the symptoms of insomnia, but it can address the organic root cause of the problem within your own body.

Exercise – Exercise helps expend the extra mental energy you might have, translating to physical exertion. It will force your body to use up the hormones causing your stress symptoms and leave you in a more relaxed and fit state. You can even use a technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation to assist you while you are awake in bed. The technique involves deep abdominal breathing and a cycle of muscle tension and relaxation throughout the body. Start at the calf muscle of one leg and then progress up the body, tensing and relaxing muscles along the way. In addition to getting a chance to put the mind’s activity to another topic besides your inability to snooze, it also gives you real feedback about what a relaxed muscle feels like.

Only a specialist knows enough to actually diagnose the many different sleep disorders that are included under the blanket term of insomnia but if you struggle with sleep, you may not be aware of the issues it poses to health. In a study conducted by the American Cancer Society, individuals that got less than 6 hours of sleep a night were at higher risk than were those that got about 7 hours of sleep. In addition to a higher risk of mortality, insomnia has been linked to higher risk for other diseases and disorders such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

If you are interested in a natural, holistic approach to your sleep difficulties then Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, might be a worthwhile therapy to investigate. Find a licensed acupuncturist, ask them some questions about your particular case and begin a treatment series. Do be aware though that Chinese medicine is not a magic bullet and ingrained and chronic sleep disorders will take time to address but on the whole, you’ll be healthier leaving than you were coming in. So give acupuncture a try and best wishes for a sound and restful sleep. Zzzzzzzzz…..