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Snooze Away Insomnia

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The poet Robert Frost saw sleep as a reward for our earthly endeavours and as a blessed release from the travails of our conscious life. Still sleep, that most natural of states, remains a mystery to science.

The poet Robert Frost saw sleep as a reward for our earthly endeavours and as a blessed release from the travails of our conscious life. Still sleep, that most natural of states, remains a mystery to science. Why do we need sleep? Without it we begin to suffer at all levels of our existence and we can literally become sick. The common term for this condition is insomnia, which means lack of sleep.

Sleep deprivation is endemic in our society and, like not eating well, it affects us in many ways. Insomnia can range from waking several times a night (with or without difficulty in going back to sleep) or difficulty falling asleep to an almost complete inability to fall asleep at all. Sleep itself has several levels from a very deep, unconscious sleep (from which it is very difficult to rouse the sleeper), through a more relaxed state, to a state of dreaming (often called REM sleep because the eyes move rapidly during this time).

Sometimes we sleep but derive little or no benefit from it. I had a patient who complained that he could not sleep at all. As far as he was concerned, he had not been able to sleep for a long time. This was clearly impossible, and his wife confirmed that he did indeed sleep, but it was fitful and restless.

Underlying Stress

Homeopathy offers a safe and natural means of regaining the natural sleep cycle, while getting at the cause of the problem. Much of insomnia is caused by emotional stress, which can result from a simple change in routine or ongoing exposure, whether at work or in personal relationships. The cause for stress can be relatively recent or deep-seated and chronic, linked to unresolved traumas from our past. In the case I cited above, the man's insomnia had been the result of disturbing experiences from the second World War.

Although there is no panacea for insomnia, very good results can be obtained by addressing the underlying emotional cause. There are four primary emotions we suffer: loss, anger, fear and guilt. These are what Dr Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, called "diseases of a constant nature."

For each emotion there is a constant remedy. The general rule that Dr Hahnemann laid down was one remedy per disease. Thus, homeopaths have found excellent results in most sleep problems by giving the patients Natrum muriaticum (for unresolved loss), Staphysagria (for unresolved anger/resentment), Papaver somniferum (for fear/anxiety) and Lachesis (for guilt). Where the problem is fairly recent, homeopaths can consider the acute complements of these remedies. Thus, for example, Ignatia (for acute grief) and Aconite (for acute fear).

Homeopathic Sleep Solutions

In addition to the above basic remedies, there are many others that can address variations of insomnia. In keeping with the law of similars upon which homeopathy is based, Coffea (made from roasted coffee beans) will help treat the lively sleeplessness people experience after drinking coffee, or as if they had been drinking coffee. A patient needing Coffea will be wide-awake, with unusual activity of mind and body and full of ideas that prevent sleep.

Nux vomica can help with insomnia that comes after mental strain and overwork, or the abuse of stimulants (usually alcohol or tobacco). There is wakefulness around 3:00 to 4:00 a.m., when ideas are abundant and it is difficult to fall asleep again until about 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. Then it is hard to waken and you will be tired. Arsenicum is useful for those who are wakeful and extremely restless from midnight to 3:00 a.m., particularly when they have a lot of fears of being alone, or robbers or of recovery from an illness.

Sulphur is for those who are irresistibly drowsy by day and wakeful at night. The person needing this remedy will toss and turn and cannot sleep for the great flow of ideas. They are very warm and often will stick their feet out of bed because they get too hot. They are worse from the warmth of the bed (this remedy can also be useful in night sweats, as in menopause). Sulphur people are generally more awake at night, often seeming to get a second wind after 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.

Cocculus is an excellent remedy when sleep problems are caused by jetlag or shift-work. It is best known for its ability to cure ailments of "night-watching," caused by excessive worry while staying up to watch over a sick loved one or in caring for a newborn baby. A homeopathic preparation of Arnica can be helpful when people are too tired to sleep due to excessive physical exertion and exhaustion. The bed will feel too hard and sufferers will have many aches and pains that prevent restorative sleep.

Sleep is indeed a precious thing and homeopathy can do much to give you back this gift of life safely and effectively if you have temporarily lost it.

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