Tossing and turning for hours, staring at the ceiling, or waking an hour after you fall asleep continuously throughout the night. Insomnia in any form leaves you restless and exhausted. Sleep is a precious time in which our body resets, rests, and regulates. Insufficient sleep leads to hormonal dysregulation which in turn can cause weight gain, extreme fatigue, and even symptoms of pain.
What is the conventional treatment for insomnia?
Most often insomnia is treated with either over the counter sleep aids or prescription sleeping pills in more extreme cases. The problem is that these methods are incredibly habit-forming, regardless of what is written on the label. Let’s look at benadryl, one of the most commonly used OTC sleep aids. Benadryl is truly meant to treat allergies, but it carries drowsiness as a side effect. Additional side effects include low blood pressure, heart palpitations, nausea, and dizziness which are much less desirable. Even if you haven’t experienced these symptoms yet, the circulatory changes like blood pressure and heart issues are cumulative, meaning they build over time. Even for it’s intended use of high histamine reactions, Benadryl was never meant to be used on a daily basis and poses dangers to health.
Prescription hypnotics like Ambien, carry different risks, primarily addiction. Often the addiction to Ambien is related to the inability to sleep without taking it, but it can also be related to the hypnotic effects, or “high” associated with the drug. It is commonly abused and is classified as a DEA schedule IV drug. Ambien was never intended for long term use. The manufacturers even issue a warning that it is only intended to be taken for a two week time period. Long term effects from regular Ambien use include insomnia (yes, ironic), panic attacks, seizures, gastrointestinal disorders, and severe respiratory issues.
How does the natural approach differ from the conventional?
The problem with offering a pill to correct sleep is that it does not address the reason someone is not sleeping in the first place. If you take a pill to fall asleep and it works, it still does nothing for you the next night. Enter dependency. The naturopathic approach involves searching for why an individual can’t sleep. It’s not just substituting melatonin (also can be habit forming) for Ambien. Our bodies are supposed to want to sleep, so there is a dysfunction that needs correcting when an individual is lying awake at night. Insomnia can stem from underlying anxiety, environmental toxicities, hormonal dysregulation, or even unknown food and drink intolerances.
Dr. Purdy will explore each of these potential causes through either lab work or a simple description of your symptoms. She will address your hormone picture and correct any imbalances, address any anxiety or contributing mood factors using homeopathics and herbs, and explore diet and lifestyle habits that can exacerbate symptoms. True healing can take time, so she often offers herbal, non-habit forming sleep aids (like our Goodnight Tea) with the intention that these will only be used until the original imbalance is corrected. The goal of naturopathic treatment is to completely heal, meaning the protocol is not lifelong and in a reasonable amount of time, the patient will be going to sleep without any medication, natural or otherwise.
When should I come in?
- If your sleep troubles at night are affecting your energy during the day
- If you are currently dependent on medications or supplements to fall asleep
- If you wake up more than once during the night
- If you feel that you have to have more than one cup of coffee in the morning to get going