Insomnia again…but some new ideas
If you suffer from insomnia, you want to do anything to cure it. Insomnia suggests you’re body isn’t getting what it needs to have a good night’s sleep. In order to better understand insomnia, it’s important to learn more about sleep itself.
Each night we cycle through 5 distinct sleep “stages” – 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM sleep. Stage 1 is light sleep, where we drift between sleep and wakefulness, and might experience a feeling of spinning or falling. We can be easily awakened in stage 1 and frequent disruptions can cause insomnia.
In stage 2, our brain waves become slower, with occasional bursts of rapid waves. In stage 3, or the beginnings of deep sleep, slow waves called delta waves appear, alongside faster waves. In stage 4, the deepest form of sleep, the brain shows only delta waves. It’s difficult to wake someone during deep sleep, but many forms of insomnia and sleep disorders (bed-wetting, sleepwalking) occur over this period.
If you’re woken up during deep sleep, you feel groggy and disorientated. If your insomnia causes you to have less deep sleep than your body needs, you will feel tired throughout the day.
Then, you move to REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep. Your eyes jerk in all directions, and your body becomes paralyzed. We dream during REM sleep. Scientists still don’t understand why we dream, but have discovered REM sleep stimulates learning areas of the brain. It’s believed REM sleep is a kind of “processing” time for the brain, where the cortex assigns meaning to the fragmented brain activity.
Because different areas of the brain control sleep, any substance we take – food, drinks or drugs – may affect our ability to sleep. Caffeine, certain foods and diet pills commonly cause insomnia. Many medications disrupt REM sleep, causing insomnia and other problems. Your body can’t regulate its temperature during this stage, which can cause insomnia in extreme temperatures.
Smokers will also commonly suffer from insomnia as they sleep lightly and don’t spend as much time in REM sleep. Alcohol, too, prevents a person entering REM and deep sleep, so if you suffer from insomnia, having a “night cap” might help you fall asleep, but won’t allow you to get the sleep you need.
Learning more about how and why you sleep can help you figure out what’s causing your insomnia, and to find an insomnia treatment that works for you.
Naturopathic tip: Many herbs and nutrients such as magnesium can help support vital functioning of the brain so all the phases of sleep can be experienced supporting health and vitality.