ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT FOR SLEEP DISORDERS

There is a marked decrease in activity throughout the body when asleep. Cell function continues and does not appear to need rest but the diminution in nervous system activity decreases the level and number of commands to stimulate cell metabolism. Why the nervous system needs to sleep is poorly understood. Scientists know the chemicals that are produced in abundance to put us to sleep but why they are produced is not recognized. I have a theory.

Nature is in balance. For every rain shower there is a sunny spell, for every ice cap there is a desert. Activity and rest are simply the night and day of the natural human balance. Sleep is the closest that most people get to a meditative state and it is well established that meditation has a profound effect on well-being if practised properly. Scientists tend to look for a chemical/biological necessity for sleep but in fact it is to do with a spiritual requirement and connection to the source of vital force. Without sleep we die very quickly due to the nervous system’s loss of control over vital functions such as digestion and heart rate. There is no neurochemical basis for why rest would ‘recharge’ nervous cell activity, so the answer will be found when we can better assess the spiritual plane. Sleep is the body’s attempt to connect with its God. That moment just prior to falling asleep, if not influenced by our conscious mind, is a very happy moment. I hope this is how we would all feel coming into contact with our ‘maker’, whatever our beliefs. Awaking from our dream state is often unpleasant.

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a disorder of the body’s normal cir-cadian rhythm (body clock) with regard to sleep. Narcolepsy is characterized by uncontrollable attacks of drowsiness or falling asleep in the daytime, a sudden loss of muscular power often associated with emotional experiences, sleep paralysis and frequent vivid hallucinations during sleep.

It is important to differentiate narcolepsy from occurrences such as hypoglycaemia, which may have very mild forms of the same symptoms. Narcolepsy may well be created by damage to the brain through infection, toxins or physical damage. Acute or chronic dehydration may alter the electrolyte balance within the cerebrospinal fluid (the solution that the brain receives its nutrition from). Many cases of narcolepsy have no anatomical or chemical basis and one must return to the spiritual concept and ask why an individual is shutting out their consciousness. We must ask the question why does the sufferer need to escape reality.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Try to isolate the cause by removing obvious toxins such as cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs. If the condition started at a particular point in time, review the events of the previous three months and see if any change in diet (food allergy) or close contact with an environmental pollutant may be relevant for three weeks and see if there is an effect.

Review any orthodox drugs, as many have a narcoleptic effect. Antihistamines, tranquillizers and hypnotics are all very relevant.

Consult with a qualified homeopath to select a suitable constitutional remedy.

Consult a physician for a diagnosis if the above measures have not succeeded.

Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is the cessation or suspension of breathing. Its reversibility separates it from asphyxia, which is effectively suffocation. However, for the few seconds that apnoea occurs, the physiology is moving towards respiratory failure.

The cause is uncertain but for some reason the nasopharyngeal area of the throat (that part behind the nose and mouth) closes up. If the problem is associated with an infection, treatment should be followed as for a common cold, but if it occurs separately and without reason, treatment should be attempted.

Rarely is sleep apnoea a problem for an adult, although partners of those who share a bedroom with the condition often have very disturbed sleep. Symptoms that are characteristic are grunting, snoring and restlessness as the individual attempts to pull air in past the obstruction. Cessation of breathing may occur for several seconds followed by an apparent sleep-state panic, which includes the noises mentioned above plus marked restlessness and an eventual gasp. The individual rarely wakes up and settles to repeat the cycle within a few moments. Periods of sleep apnoea occur throughout the night rather than remaining persistent.

Sleep apnoea in children below the age of two years may lead to asphyxia and is known as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or cot death .

RECOMMENDATIONS

A constitutionally chosen homeopathic remedy should be selected by a homeopath.

The Bach flower remedy Vervain should be taken before bed.

See Snoring, because apnoea may be an extension of this condition.

Sleep paralysis

A most disturbing occurrence is experienced by most people at some time. On awakening, the body is unable to move. This condition rarely lasts for more than a few seconds but can continue for a moment or so. Quite simply the body is unable to move due to some lack of coordination between conscious thought and neuromuscular control. As the condition is sporadic, it is not possible to do studies on this matter but the assumption is made that a chemical disturbance occurs within the cerebellum at the base of the brain, an area that controls co-ordination.

The problem is transient and is probably due to an excess of sleep chemicals not being removed from a part of the brain that controls coordination.

If the problem persists, see a neurological specialist.

Sleep patterns

The biochemistry of the brain is controlled by chemicals that are stimulated by the level of oxygen, glucose and probably other nutrients in the bloodstream. On top of this, the brain responds by producing chemicals such as melatonin in response to sunlight and darkness.

The human being has evolved as a daytime animal and principally we should sleep when the sun goes down and arise at dawn. Our evolutionary ancestors benefited by sleeping longer hours and keeping their metabolic rate low in winter when food was less abundant but could enjoy longer periods of wakefulness through the summer when nature produced its bounty.

The Eastern philosophies had noticed a time clock and brought it into their medical philosophy well before science discovered chemical ‘circadian’ rhythms. Sleep is a very active process as far as energy flow is concerned .

Insomnia

Insomnia needs to be divided into those who cannot get to sleep (sleep induction) and those who awaken (sleep interruption). The causes may overlap, although psychological stress factors are more likely to stop someone from sleeping than wake them up. Disturbed sleep is the result of a poor production of sleep chemicals (particularly serotonin), an overproduction of stimulating hormones such as adrenaline, Cortisol and glucagon (the antagonist of insulin), or of external disturbances.

The causes of insomnia may be divided into the following categories.

Psychological factors

Any cause of stress, fear, anxiety or tension needs to be assessed and dealt with. As with any problem, if it cannot be solved then the individual must learn how to come to terms with it through conselling or relaxation techniques. Other factors include an unfavourable or noisy environment, a change in sleeping venue or a snoring partner. Psychological anxieties may lead to nightmares, sleepwalking, restlessness and sleep talking, which will disturb sleep and potentially awaken the individual.

I have often noticed that sleep may be deprived from an individual if their mind or body is trying to sort out a problem that sleep does not have an answer for. Do not go to bed with an unanswered question, wherever possible, but if this is unavoidable then ensure that 15-20 minutes of a relaxation technique or meditation time is taken to counteract the adrenaline created by the unresolved problem.

Toxins

There are obvious stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine that keep people awake. Caffeine has some effect on most people and may be hidden in foods such as a bed-time cup of chocolate or tea, as well as coffee and coffee-flavoured ice cream. Less well known are the arousing effects of nicotine, cheese, red meat, alcohol and marijuana. The latter two are often a surprise to the uninitiated, who may confuse passing out with going to sleep. As the alcohol is denatured, a stimulatory effect is created and sleep is disturbed.

Bad habits

Other than those that come under the heading of toxins, such as smoking or drinking coffee, it is worth noting that a lack of exercise will inhibit sleep patterns. Regular exercise for as little as 20 minutes per day will use up excess adrenaline and release endorphins – the body’s natural opiates. Having a large meal at night will create a large insulin response to be followed at some point through the night by a reflex hypoglycaemia. When the brain registers a low glucose level it will instruct the body to release adrenaline, glucagon and steroids to raise the blood sugar level but at the same time it will overstimulate itself and thereby disturb sleep.

Ley lines

The earth has energy lines known as ley lines created by the production of positively and negatively charged particles produced by the flow of water. These ley lines can interfere with our own intrinsic electromagnetic pattern and can be very disturbing to sleep. Those with unrelenting insomnia may consider the proximity of water, especially streams, which may be underground. The regional geological Survey Departments or local water companies may be able to furnish you with maps. Treatment is available by moving the bed so that the energy lines move in harmony with the body, rather than contradicting it.

Do not resort to botanical or supplemental medicines unless all the potential causes have been removed because in the long term symptoms will only be suppressed which will show up in another way later on. If the mind does not want to sleep, help it by removing the cause rather than suppressing it. The use of over-the-counter sedatives (usually an antihistamine-type drug) or prescribed sedatives or hypnotics should really be avoided except for very short-term use.

Sleep disturbances

Many conditions, both physiological, and pathological, can disturb sleep: pregnant ladies; weak bladders; gentlemen suffering with prostatism; breathing difficulties from conditions such as asthma or hay fever; vivid or bad dreams.

Simple matters such as ineffective curtains, an uncomfortable mattress or pillow need to be considered and, more unusually, the atmospheric ionic (positive or negatively charged air) effects of nearby or subterranean water flow. If you are near water or there is a suspicion of a subterranean stream, try moving the bed for a few nights to see if there is any benefit .

Other factors

The Eastern philosophies believe that specific organs and systems are energized at different times of the day and night. The triple heater, which controls the adrenal and thyroid glands, is at its weakest at the end of the day and is replenished between 9pm and 11pm.

The gallbladder and the liver are replenished between 11pm and lam, and lam and 3am, respectively, having spent the day helping digestion and processing toxins.

Between 3am and 5am the lungs receive their energy, so they may be fully active during the day. The energy to the large intestine is replenished between 5am and 7am, which is why we generally evacuate our bowels at that time. Any disturbance to these organs will correspond to a greater or lesser demand for energy, which disturbs the general flow and in turn disturbs sleep.

As we age, we need less sleep. There is no orthodox scientific reason for this although certain chemicals are known to diminish as our cells deteriorate which may have some effect. The Eastern principle considers the diminution in ‘vital energy’ (life force) to be pertinent. The vital force we have requires less replenishment, and sleep is the time when this most occurs. We require less because we use less by lowering our levels of activity.

There is a condition known as nocturnal myoclonus which is characterized by a muscle group contracting whilst asleep. Like snoring, the perpetrator is unlikely to be aware of the condition and a sleeping partner usually initiates the diagnosis. This condition is similar to the restless legs syndrome and treatment may be needed.

RECOMMENDATIONS • Eliminate all stimulants from the diet and lifestyle. Once a sleep pattern returns, introduce these stimulants early in the day and monitor whether they disturb sleep. If they do, they have to be cut out permanently.

Assess any stress and deal with this, or learn and practise a good relaxation/meditation technique.

Look back 6hr from the time of awakening and register what was eaten or drunk. This may be a specific intolerance and should be eliminated.

Do not eat a heavy meal late at night, and avoid refined sugars at the evening meal.

Ensure that the sleeping environment is comfortable, quiet and dark. The reclining Buddha is always seen lying on his right with the right hand under the head. This position encourages the energy flow needed for sleep and should be practised by everyone.

The following supplements and extracts can be used in doses as recommended below per foot of height approximately lhr before going to sleep. Try one of the compounds at a time and add in the next if the effect does not become apparent after five nights: niacin (20mg), vitamin B6 (lOmg) and magnesium (60mg).

The amino acid tryptophan can be taken at 75mg per foot of height, but is difficult to obtain because there is some controversy over the possibility of a toxic effect. Medical practitioners may have access to this amino acid. This should be taken one hour before sleeping with water and no other food or drink.

Valerian, Passiflora and Chamomile can all be taken but should be administered by a herbalist or knowledgeable complementary practitioner. Over-the-counter supplements may be tried but take care not exceed the recommended dosage.

There are many homeopathic remedies that have insomnia or sleep disturbance as part of their symptom picture. Accurate selection is necessary but pay attention to the remedies Aconite, Lycopodium, Coffea and Arsenicum. The remedy opium should also be reviewed but may not be easy to obtain without a homeopath’s prescription. All of these remedies should be taken at potency 200 for three consecutive nights and a result may occur immediately or within ten days. Be patient.

Ensure that 20min of exercise is performed each day, and for bad insomnia try doing this again in the evening.

Melatonin is being well-hyped as a safe ‘supplement’. I put this word in inverted commas because this hormone comes under the licensing of a supplement but is in fact being touted as a medicine. It may well be safe but there is scant evidence to support this. Melatonin is best left alone or used as a last resort under medical supervision.

If the individual is awaking at a particular time, please review the possibility of an energetic disturbance in the organ or system that corresponds to that time of night .

Move the bed 90° in case ley lines are relevant.

SNORING

Snoring is a rough audible sound caused by vibration of the soft palate at the back of the roof of the mouth during sleep. Anything that influences the tension, weight or size of the soft palate will influence snoring. This part of the roof of the mouth is very important in the formation of sound and swallowing and therefore has many muscular connections.

When we sleep, our muscles relax. The deeper the sleep, the more the relaxation and therefore a deep sleeper may well relax the soft palate muscles to such a point that it vibrates through normal breathing. The use of sleep-inducing drugs and, most frequently overlooked, alcohol will relax the tension in this area and cause snoring.

Fat settles around the soft palate and its muscles and an excess will alter the weight of the palate and predispose to snoring. Any condition that may inflame the area, such as the common cold, hay fever or other causes of rhinitis and, very importantly, smoking, can cause snoring.

Noisy breathing through sleep that is not actually soft palate-created snoring may occur with any nasal obstruction. Rhinitis, the common cold, nasal polyps, sinusitis and enlarged adenoids may all produce a snoring sound. The use of the nose to abuse drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and heroin by ‘snorting’ will create inflammation and worsen snoring.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Temporary snoring associated with a common infection may benefit from treatment directed at rhinitis .

Persistent snoring may be stopped by losing weight, cessation of smoking and stopping alcohol and excessive sweet foods.

The position in which a snorer sleeps may influence the noise. Generally speaking, sleeping on the back makes the problem worse.

The homeopathic remedy Opium (often available only on prescription, especially in the USA) can be taken at potency 200 each night for one week.

The Bach flower remedy Vervain, four drops before bed, may also influence snoring.

L-Tryptophan, an amino acid that is difficult to obtain, may well be beneficial if taken in moderate doses because it is turned into serotonin by the nervous system, which enhances muscular tension.

The orthodox world will offer steroid nasal sprays which show some efficacy but need to be used continually.

There are devices called mandibular advancement devices (MADs), which prevent the lower jaw from falling back, thereby pulling the tongue forward and away from the soft palate.

Continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) units actually pump air at high pressure into the airways, which may strengthen the musculature.

Surgery may be offered as a last resort. Avoid if at all possible.

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