Alternative names : Sleeplessness, Melatonin.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia or sleeplessness has assumed alarming proportions in present times, especially among the upper classes in urban areas. This is evident from the wide range of medication for this condition prescribed by physicians and sold by chemists. Instances of persons taking an overdose of sleeping pills with fatal results are quite frequent. Insomnia deprives a person of mental rest and thereby interferes with his activities in the daytime. It constitutes a severe health hazard when it becomes a habit.
Sleep is a periodic state of rest for the body which is absolutely essential for its efficient functioning. Sleep gives relief from tension, rests the brain and body and a person wakes up in the morning fresh and relaxed after sleep. The amount of sleep, however, varies within very wide limits from individual to individual. Normally, seven to eight hours of sleep every night is adequate for most people. Some, however, do well with four to five hours because their sleep is deeper and more refreshing.
Insomnia is common among the elderly for a variety of reasons. The sleep of the elderly is often punctuated by brief periods of wakefulness during the night. In such cases it is the quality rather than the quantity which is most affected. With age, there is a gradual reduction of periods of deep sleep. The older person, therefore, gets roused easier. Sleep requirements also diminish with ageing. From nine hours of sleep per night at the age of 12 the average sleep needs decrease to eight hours at the age of 20, seven hours at 40, six and a half hours at 60 and six hours at 80.
The most common cause of sleeplessness is mental tension brought about by anxiety, worries, overwork and over excitement. Suppressed feelings of resentment, anger and bitterness may also cause insomnia. Constipation, dyspepsia, over eating at night, excessive intake of tea or coffee and going to bed hungry are among the other causes. Smoking is another unsuspected cause of insomnia as it irritates the nervous system, especially the nerves of the digestive system. Often, worrying about falling asleep is enough to keep one awake.
The signs of pathological insomnia are dramatic changes in the duration and quality of sleep, persistent changes in sleep patterns, lapses of memory and lack of concentration during the day. Other symptoms are emotional instability, loss of coordination, confusion and a lingering feeling of indifference. Some the common symptoms of insomnia includes:
- Amnesia or difficulty with memory.
- Poor concentration and focus.
- Depression and mental illnesses.
Home Remedies for Insomnia
Some of the common and best home remedy for the treatment of insomnia are as under:
The various food elements, thiamine or vitamin B. is of special significance in the treatment of insomnia. It is vital for strong, healthy nerves. A body starved of thiamine over a long period will be unable to relax and fall asleep naturally. Valuable sources of this vitamin are whole grain cereals, pulses, and nuts.
Lettuce is beneficial in the treatment of insomnia as it contains a sleep inducing substance, called ‘lectucarium’. The juice of this plant has been likened in effect to the sedative action of opium without the accompanying excitement Lettuce seeds taken in a decoction are also useful in insomnia. One tablespoon of seeds should be boiled in half a litre of water, till it is reduced by one-third.
Milk is very valuable in insomnia. A glass of milk, sweetened with honey, should be taken every night before going to bed in treating this condition. It acts as a tonic and a tranquilizer. Massaging the milk over the soles of the feet has also been found effective.
Curd is also useful in insomnia. The patient should take plenty of curd and massage it on the head. This will induce sleep.
5. Bottle Gourd
The mixture of bottle gourd juice and sesame oil in a 50:50 ratio acts as an effective medicine for insomnia. It should be massaged over the scalp every night. The cooked leaves of bottle gourd taken as a vegetable are also beneficial in the treatment of insomnia.
A tea made from aniseed is valuable in insomnia. This tea is prepared by boiling about 375 ml of water in a vessel and adding a teaspoon of aniseed. The water should be covered with a lid and allowed to simmer for fifteen minutes. It should then be strained and drunk hot or warm. The tea may be sweetened with honey, and hot milk may also be added to it. This tea should be taken after meals or before going to bed.
Honey is beneficial in the treatment of insomnia. It has a hypnotic action and induces a sound sleep. It should be taken with water, before going to bed, in doses of two teaspoons in a large cup of water. Babies generally fall asleep after taking honey.
The herb rauwolfia is a valuable medicine for insomnia because of its indisputable efficacy as a sedative. The hypnotic action of the drug appears to have been known since ancient times. The very first dose of rauwolfia will enable a patient with a phlegmatic and gouty nature to go to sleep. The powder of the root in a quantity of 0.25 gm to 0.5 gm should be mixed with some scented. substance like cardamom and given to the patient. The patient will have a sound sleep during the entire night. If the disease is chronic, the patient should take 0.25 gm twice a day, in the morning as well as at night before retiring.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening.
- Exercise regularly, but do so at least three hours before bed-time.
- Consider your sleep environment. Make it as pleasant, comfortable, dark and quiet as you can.