Written by Lisa Ray.
It is an interesting coincidence that I am writing this on Sunday night since typically this was the night of the week where sleep used to elude me. Typically on Sunday night, I would get 2-4 hours of sleep, sometimes none at all. It was frustrating, staring at the ceiling desperately needing sleep, endlessly tossing/turning…exhausted. What a horrible way to start out a busy work week! The cycle of sleep deprivation would continue through the rest of the week where only massive intakes of caffeine and sugar would allow me to “make it through the day”. This self-medicating process would begin a Catch 22 cycle that perpetuated the inability to sleep soundly, interfering with Monday night’s sleep, then Tuesday, Wednesday etc.
I tried pharmaceutical sleeping aids but didn’t like the groggy feeling the next day and was concerned with addiction.
After the insomnia progressed over the next 20 years or so, I began to notice physiological and neurological effects such as the beginning stages of cognitive issues, weight gain (especially in the waistline), high blood pressure and higher than normal blood glucose levels. All of these are attributed to chronic insomnia or sleep apnea. Almost every afternoon (especially in meetings/classes) I would get so sleepy that I could barely keep my eyes open! It was miserable and at times embarrassing. The lack of sleep became the norm not the exception.
Only after I moved to NC to attend the Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine was I able to sleep 7 or more hours a night. I lived in a cabin without electronics, very little ambient light, no city noises and an established routine. I was eating healthier with less caffeine and sugar in my diet and started taking vitamin supplements (particularly magnesium glycinate). My sleep debt is still so profound, that it may take years of regular sleep to make up this difference, yet, little by little I am seeing improvements.
In talking to clients, friends and family it seems I am not alone in this experience. 35% of us are getting less than 7 hours sleep each night! We are averaging 6.8 hours per night which is down more than 1 hour from the average in 1942. At that time, the US was in the middle of a World War! I am sure stress levels were through the roof yet they were getting more sleep each night that we are today! This certainly seems to rule out stress as the primary causative factor.
In my case, it was multiple issues. A lack of stress management was certainly a factor as well as lifestyle, sleep hygiene and severe deficiencies of magnesium, iron and B vitamins. In addition, my bedroom was not conducive to a good night’s sleep, it was cluttered, the TV was on all night or I would be on the internet right up until light’s out.
On September 14th , I will be teaching a class entitled “Successful Slumber-Strategies for a Good Night’s Sleep”. During this 2 hour class, I will review the physiology of sleep, why it is so important to our body and mind, review the steps to good sleep hygiene and discuss methods (herbal and non-herbal) to assist with different types of sleep issues. If you are struggling with insomnia, I want to help by sharing what I have learned from both personal experience and the latest research.