The Naturopathic Botanical Treatment of Insomnia

Insomnia is the most common sleep problem reported by adults.

Approximately one-half of all adults have occasional sleep problems during the course of any year.

Insomnia is characterized by the inability to fall asleep or to maintain sleep, usually due to an underlying condition or cause.

Both men and women of all ages suffer from insomnia, but it is more common in females and older adults.

Insomnia Symptoms

Individuals suffering from insomnia may experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking too early in the morning

Insomnia is also often associated with concomitant emotions and states, including:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Unrefreshing sleep, and/or
  • Daytime fatigue.

Likewise, medical or psychiatric concomitant conditions sometimes associated with insomnia include:

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Restless legs syndrome, and
  • Chronic medical conditions.

Substance-Induced Insomnia

Medications and other substances, including caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, can also play an important role in the development or persistence of insomnia.

Some commonly used medications - such as antidepressants, antihypertensives, antihistamines, and decongestants - have known associations with insomnia and sleep disruption.

It is very important to discuss your concerns about any medication with your prescribing physician or naturopathic physician, and to only withdraw or eliminate any medication under the supervision of such an experienced health care professional to avoid any complications of medication withdrawal or elimination.

Insomnia Progression & Prognosis

Acute Insomnia

For many people with insomnia, the symptoms last a few days to weeks, and then resolve spontaneously.

In many of these cases, the underlying cause of insomnia can be seen to be a transient life stress or change in daily routine.

Chronic Insomnia

However, for those who have chronic insomnia - which is defined as persisting for three months or longer = the effects of poor sleep can take a significant, sustained, and unrelenting toll on quality of life and general well-being.

The effects of chronic insomnia may include:

  • Reduced quality of life
  • Impaired social functioning
  • Diminished work productivity
  • Missed work days
  • Impaired memory and concentration, and
  • Depression

In essence, chronic insomnia can rob individuals of their ability to function both socially and professionally.

In addition to decreased job performance, insomnia is associated with increased absenteeism.

People with insomnia are at increased risk for various kinds of accidents, both at work and while operating motor vehicles.

Treating Insomnia by Treating The Whole

In a case such as this, in which the patient’s presenting symptoms are relatively common and have vast differential diagnoses, particular attention must be paid to the naturopathic principles of treating the whole person.

If, for instance, the patient’s insomnia is rooted in a childhood trauma or personal loss, suppressing these symptoms may actually act as an obstacle to curative healing.

Persistent insomnia and anxiety may, for instance, hint at underlying unresolved grief and pain.

Suppressing such symptoms with a superficial treatment - whether pharmaceutical, herbal, or homeopathic - would prevent such a patient from true emotional healing.

That is not to say that pharmaceutical, botanical, and/or homeopathic remedies do not have a place in such patients.

Simply that they must be targeted.

And deep-acting.

Sedate or Tonify - Nervines vs. Adaptogens 

For instance, from a botanical perspective, a patient whose insomnia is associated with anxiety and nervousness may respond most optimally to particular, individually-selected botanical sedatives and nervines.

On the other hand, insomnia stemming from adrenal fatigue may respond better to the introduction of adaptogens with overall relaxing properties to balance and tonify the nervous and endocrine systems.

Examples of such potentially soothing adaptogens include:

  • Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha)
  • Elethrococcus senticosum (Siberian ginseng), and
  • Bupleurum falcatum (Chinese thoroughwax) 

Please note that, in contrast to the sedating adaptogenic properties of Siberian ginseng, the related, similarly-named, but decidedly-distinct species commonly known as Korean ginseng or simply "ginseng" (Panax ginseng) is generally quite stimulating.

Every patient is unique and will respond to a given herb, drug, or homeopathic in their own unique manner.

That notwithstanding, however, herbal Panax ginseng is generally ill-advised for insomnia, as it may even worsen sleeplessness due to its generally-stimulatory nature.

Insomnia, Cortisol, and Adrenal Fatigue

In early stages of adrenal stress, cortisol levels rise while DHEA levels fall.

In more chronic stages of adrenal burnout, both the cortisol and DHEA levels are decreased.

Cortisol varies during the day and night according to a predictable 24-hour cycle.

It is typically at its highest around 8:00 am, and lowest between midnight and 4:00 am.

A single sample of cortisol does not tell the full story because, depending on the individual’s stage of adrenal exhaustion, cortisol values can be either above or below normal ranges.

Therefore, to accurately access adrenal function, specialized labs have developed a 24-hour cortisol profile using saliva samples taken at four different times during one 24-hour day.  

Fortunately, the degree of adrenal fatigue can also be assessed with simple, quick, and non-invasive in-office testing.

For instance, I generally provide such testing to my patients as a component of their visits, for no additional charge.

Essential Oils for Insomnia

Note that, for skin application, the essential oil must be diluted in a vegetable carrier oil, such as cold-pressed sunflower oil or sweet almond oil.

Accordingly, please be advised that none of the information provided constitutes treatment advice, as individual responses to generally-safe treatments and posologies may vary widely.

Additionally, as you are an individual, your optimal treatment involves individualized dosing of an essential oil that is likewise individually matched to your unique constellation of symptoms by an experienced and knowledgeable health care professional.

Subject to the above caveat, typical essential oil posologies are as follows:

  • Adults: 7 -10 drops of essential oil to 25 mL (5 tsp) of carrier oil
  • Children (between ages 3- 7): 3-5 drops of essential oil to 25 mL (5 tsp) of carrier oil
  • Infants (between age 2-3) 1-3 drops of essential oil to 25 mL (5 tsp) of carrier oil
  • Newborns (under age 2): None / do not use.

Inhalation is generally an effective mode of essential oil delivery.

One or two drops of relaxing oil may be placed onto a handkerchief and tucked inside your pillow to aid your sleep.

A relaxing bath with soothing essential oils, such as Chamaemelum nobile (Roman camomile) and Pelargonium graveolens (geranium) may also assist in unwinding before sleep.

A nervine effect may be provided by many oils, including: 

  • Chamaemelum nobile (Roman camomile),
  • Lavender angustifolia (lavender),
  • Citrus aurantium subsp. amara / Bigaradia (neroli),
  • Rosa damascena (rose), and/or
  • Origanum majorana (marjoram).

A few drops added to your bathwater or sprinkled on a handkerchief and inhaled may produce calming or nervine effects.

The following essential oils may be useful for management of sleep.

STYRAX BENZOIN (BENZOIN

Benzoin is generally a sedative, warming, and relaxing essential oil.

It may be useful for sleeplessness caused by worry, emotional exhaustion, or tension, as well as for other symptoms such as bronchitis and coughs.

However, note that benzoin sensitivities and allergies are not uncommon, and this oil should only be used under direction of an experienced health care professional.

MATRICARIA CHAMOMILLA (GERMAN CHAMOMILE)

Chamomile generally calming for both the nervous and gastrointestinal system, is often helpful in promoting sleep, and is especially indicated for children.

It may be useful for insomnia, anxiety, and gastrointestinal upset.

However, as chamomile is a member of the sunflower / ragweed (Asteraceae) botanical family, sensitivities and allergies - particularly those producing dermatitis, sinus congestion, and even fevers, have been reported. 

JASMINUM OFFICINALIS (JASMINE)

Jasmine is typically relaxing and soothing, and has antidepressant, sedative, aphrodisiac, and expectorant actions.

It tends to be non-toxic and non-irritant in most individuals.

Jasmine may be useful for insomnia, depression, apathy, nervous exhaustion, stress, catarrh, and breathing difficulties.

LAVENDULA OFFICINALIS (LAVENDER) 

Lavender is generally soothing to both nervous and gastrointestinal systems, and has pain-relieving, antidepressant, and antihypertensive actions.

It also tends to be non-toxic and non-irritant.

Lavender may be useful for insomnia, tension, depression, headache, catarrh, stomach cramps, shock, and earache.

MELISSA OFFICINALIS (LEMON BALM) 

Lemon balm is generally relaxing and uplifting, lowers blood pressure, and may have additional benefits for digestion, menstruation, and the nervous system.

It may be useful for insomnia, nervous tension, depression, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, indigestion, coughs, colds, shock, and anxiety.

However, as Lemon balm may precipitate skin irritation, small amounts only are advised.

CITRUS AURANTIUM AMARA (NEROLI)

Neroli is often relaxing, non-toxic, and non-irritant.

It may be useful for insomnia caused by anxiety, depression, irritability, panic, and shock.

SANTALUM ALBUM (SANDALWOOD)

Sandalwood is typically relaxing, and has aphrodisiac, antidepressant, expectorant, and gastrointestinal-calming actions.

It tends to be non-toxic and non-irritant.

Sandalwood may be useful for insomnia, depression, nervous tension, catarrh, and colic.

CANANGA ODORATA (YLANG YLANG)

Ylang ylang is generally relaxing, and has aphrodisiac, antidepressant, antihypertensive, and nervous system tonic actions.

It tends to be non-toxic and non-irritant.

Ylang ylang may be useful for insomnia, depression, stress, nervous tension, and excitability.

MISCELLANEOUS TIPS

  • If unable to sleep, don't stay in bed - get up and do something both physically and mentally non-stimulating until you feel as if you can sleep.
  • Get up at the same time every day, including on the weekends.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine in the hours before bedtime.

Treating Chronic Insomnia Naturally 

Fortunately, there is natural, safe, and effective treatment available to treat insomnia.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) insomnia treatment

Research and clinical experience alike has demonstrated that - when combined with appropriate and individually-selected remedies - cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be very effective in the treatment of sleep disorders, including insomnia.

CBT is a series of behavioral interventions used to improve your ability to initiate and maintain sleep.

Specifically, CBT is a group of techniques that can be learned to help you sleep better.

Generally, CBT is conducted in individual or small group formats over a period of several weeks.

As alluded to above, CBT is most successful in conjunction with individually-selected medication - herbal, homeopathic, or pharmaceutical - for the treatment of chronic insomnia.

That notwithstanding, treatment with medication is not required in every case.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Insomnia Treatment Techniques 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) encompasses several different techniques, which may be used together or individually.

These techniques include:

  1. Sleep hygiene training
  2. Relaxation therapy
  3. Stimulus control therapy
  4. Sleep restriction, and
  5. Cognitive therapy 
1. Sleep Hygiene Training

Sleep hygiene training refers to introducing and relearning habits that encourage and promote your sleep.

For instance, maintenance of a quiet sleep environment may mean excluding your pet from the bedroom, or getting your partner to receive treatment for a chronic snoring problem.

2. Relaxation Therapy

Relaxation therapy helps you to reduce physiologic and cognitive arousal at bedtime.

You may be surprised how much even seemingly-minor subconscious tension and stress can negatively impact your sleep.

3. Stimulus Control Therapy

Stimulus control therapy works by limiting the presence of external stimuli or factors that may bring anxiety or stress into the bedroom environment.

Implementation of this technique can help to establish your bedroom as a place to relax and unwind, away from the stresses of the world.

4. Sleep Restriction

Sleep restriction limits the amount of time you spend lying awake in bed.

This technique requires close oversight by a physician or psychologist, using sleep diaries, to ensure successful treatment.

5. Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy works to refute an individual's thoughts about sleeplessness and the fear and anxiety related to these thoughts.

Cognitive therapy provides practical and effective tools to help alleviate or eliminate insomnia.

Botanical Remedies for Insomnia 

WITHANIA SOMNIFERA (ASHWAGANDA) 

Ashwaganda is a useful sedating tonic for many patients with adrenal fatigue.

Despite its relaxing activity, this herb is otherwise regarded as having adaptogenic potential equal to that of Panax ginseng, in terms of its tonic, stamina-improving properties.

Ashwaganda has the ability to slow various aspects of the aging process, stimulate the endogenous production of melanin, normalize low sperm count, improve sexual performance, and increase general resistance to stress - physical, chemical, and/or biological.

Ashwaganda may also be useful for treating connective tissue disorders, hypotension, and cancer.

It is highly praised in Ayurveda as having broad uses for multiple ailments.

This herb also exerts anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, hepato-protective and anti-bacterial actions.

Finally, Ashwaganda is high in several nutrients, including iron, arginine and ornithine.

SCHIZANDRA CHINENSIS (SCHISANDRA / WU WEI ZI)

Schisandra - known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as wu wei zi - is traditionally used as a blood purifier where the liver is under functioning.

It is often applied in cases of both acute and chronic liver disease, particularly when the liver requires protection and detoxification.

Schisandra would be particularly indicated if the patient were under stress, especially if this stress had to do with liver impairment.

Such liver impairment may be induced by a variety of factors, including drug, alcohol, and/or environmental toxicity, as well as specific infective organisms.

Schisandra may also improve memory and brain functioning, co-ordination, and sensory functions, due to the apparent actions on the central nervous system that it exerts.

Other conditions that may benefit from using Schisandra include wheezing, spontaneous sweating, nocturnal emission, chronic diarrhea, insomnia, and forgetfulness.

In TCM, wu wei zi is thought to act on the kidneys, thereby regulating the flow of Qi through the body

ASTRAGALUS MEMBRANACEUS (ASTRAGALUS, HUANG QI)

Astragalus has a revered reputation as an adaptogen for chronic stress, and as a specific tonic for strengthening resistance to disease.

It possesses antiviral activity, which it appears to generate by enhancing the production and secretion of interferon, increasing the function of natural killer (NK) cells, and increasing IgA, IgE, and IgM antibodies.

Astragalus also exerts an invigorating action on cell metabolism and aids adrenal function.

Astragalus is used in states of chronic debility, fatigue, and where restoration to immune function is required.

It is reputed as an anti-aging tonic, assists in relieving menopausal symptoms such as night sweats, and has applications in supporting cancer treatments.

Studies using extracts of Astragalus on sperm production has shown outstanding results.

Some studies suggested that Astragalus outperformed all other herbal medicines in its potential to increase sperm number and motility.

Astragalus also may help to expel toxins and pus.

It is a lung and cardiac tonic, and has applications for conditions such as nephritis, hypoglycemia, and fungal infections.

AVENA SATIVA (OATS) 

Oats - particularly in forms such as oat seed or milky oat straw - is considered very useful for soothing and restoring the action of a debilitated and overtired nervous system.

Consequently, oats tend to be most indicated in of insomnia secondary to exhaustion, nervous debility, and/or depression.

Oat seed also has beneficial applications in reproductive dysfunction, particularly where nervous system involvement is indicated.

Like many seeds, it exerts actions on the genitourinary system.

ELEUTHROCOCCUS SENTICOSUS (SIBERIAN GINSENG) 

Siberian ginseng has a reputation as a rejuvenator of general health, longevity, and memory.

It tempers the over-activation of the adrenal cortex in response to stress and prevents thymus and general lymphatic damage.

As a relaxing adaptogen, Siberian ginseng may also permit greater levels of stress-inducing stimuli from adverse physical conditions to be withstood.

It may yield increased mental activity and improved athletic performance.

Siberian ginseng tends to be notably less stimulating than its relative Panax ginseng (Ginseng / Korean ginseng) 

As a result, Siberian ginseng may prove more beneficial at reducing fatigue and enhancing chronic immune function.

This herb also has ability to improve kidney function and regulate blood pressure.

Finally, Siberian ginseng demonstrates activity as an immune stimulant - most notably by increasing Helper T-cells and Natural Killer (NK) cell activity.

Individualized Insomnia Treatment with Naturopathic Medicine

The cognitive, herbal, and behavioural treatments mentioned above represent just the tip of the iceberg for the naturopathic treatment of insomnia.

All such treatments have accumulated evidence of success in treating insomnia in a given subset of patients or for large cohorts.

However, please note that this does not guarantee that any given treatment - behavioural, cognitive, herbal, homeopathic, or pharmaceutical - will work for a given individual.

Likewise, just because a certain botanical or other naturopathic treatment is generally safe for the vast majority of patients does not guarantee that you are not the rare individual who is sensitive or allergic to such a substance.

Consequently, while the above provides a useful didactic introduction into common botanical insomnia treatment options, it does not constitute treatment advice, or even guarantee that all such treatments may be safely and effectively employed by all individuals.

If you are truly serious about your health, and interested in safe, effective, and lasting treatment for your insomnia - as well as for any other conditions you may wish to have treated - please contact a trusted and experienced healthcare professional.

Such a trusted and experienced healthcare professional will not only help you avoid adverse events and herb-drug interactions, but ensure that you receive the best treatment for your unique constellation of symptoms and conditions.

By identifying and targeting the core of your complaints, such professional, individualized naturopathic treatment avoids the ceaseless trial-and-error, escalating doses, dependence, and requirement for lifetime dosing associated with superficial treatment.

Ultimately saving time, money, and your health.

Your sleep has the ability to exert profound, all-encompassing effects on every aspect of your overall health and, consequently, on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being

Your quality of sleep determines your quality of health.

And your quality of health determines your quality of life.

So don't be penny-wise & pound-foolish.

Invest in your health, and you will reap the ongoing rewards in improved quality of life and happiness.

Fail to do so, and all your material possessions will pale in the face of chronic debility and dis-ease.

Whatever you decide, I will be here to assist you on your path to optimal, vibrant health.

Naturopathic Medicine & Homeopathy Testimonials

My husband and I both had fertility difficulties for years before meeting Dr. Somody. The few times we managed to conceive, we'd lose the pregnancy. But then three weeks after Dr. Somody's homeopathic treatment, I became pregnant again, and we now have a beautiful baby boy!

G.A., Coquitlam, BC

I don't get the tingling, throbbing, or burning herpes nerve pain in my back and pelvic area since your homeopathy treatment!

The blood pressure is getting lower, especially the diastolic, and my blood sugar has gone down with the neuroemotional releases.

Jackie, Port Moody (Anmore / Belcarra), BC

I'd had ingrown toenails and fingernails for my whole life, but they were getting worse, and it was getting to be a major problem.

They'd get infected, and I'd need to keep getting antibiotics to clear them up.

It was painful and was kind of disgusting and pissed me off.

Your homeopathic therapy and the bowen releases made my nails seem less fragile and breakable.

Over the next couple of weeks, I noticed that the infections hadn't happened so much and weren't so bad.

I appreciated that I didn't have to stop running or playing tennis.

When you asked me about my jaw after the 2nd or 3rd treatment, I realized that I hadn't been grinding or having any jaw pain for weeks.

D.S., Port Coquitlam, BC

I've always had an addictive personality, which can be great when I put it towards something productive, like work.

Last year, before your homeopathic prescription and the neuro-emotional treatment, I was a full-blown alcoholic, and smoked four packs a day.

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Now I only drink or smoke socially and irregularly ... once or twice a month maximum.

And I'm in control the whole time.

The doctor tells me my liver is doing much better too.

I'm also not coughing or hacking up stuff like I had.

C.P., Parksville, BC

I passed the stone with much less pain this time thanks to your homeopathic and neuroemotional treatment.

And I haven't had any stones since.

My muscles and sciatic nerve are not so inflammed since your Bowen technique therapy.

W.B., Maple Ridge (Haney), BC

My moods aren't nearly so volatile now and I don't get the sudden spinning attacks of vertigo since Dr. Andy's homeopathic treatment.

The biofeedback has helped cure my hormonal problems, which has allowed me to conceive finally after years of trying!

The pain in my temples and big toe also went away after the Bowen therapy sessions.

G.M., Abbotsford, BC

I visited Dr. Andy for depression and after a thorough interview and muscle resistence testing I was prescribed a remedy and given a Bowen treatment.

I was literally a new person the morning after the treatment and felt ready to tackle the world again.

Dr. Andy is sympathetic and intuitive as well as knowledgeable.

His intense desire to help his patients and deep compassion brought about these quality results.

I have and will continue to recommend Dr. Andy to my friends and family.

Pam Johnson, Vancouver (Kerrisdale), B.C.

I'm the master of order, and I'm generally happy about this.

But when it got to the point of literally pulling out my hair ... well, I knew I needed help.

Andy's homeopathic treatment and mental-emotional exercises helped me change somehow.

I still have urges once in a while, but they're much weaker and more fleeting than they had been before.

The Bowen therapy sessions also helped my ankles and wrists.

This may even be the reason I have more energy and drive.

B.I., Victoria (Saanich), BC

I haven't had any nerve pain, numbness or hand coldness since the Bowen therapy.

My skin and liver don't burn from the toxicity any longer, and I don't get the burning, red, itchy bumps on my face now either.

I've lost 48 pounds since the treatment started, and the signs of toxicity, like ringing in my ears, are now getting better too.

Kelly B, White Rock, BC

My MS had gotten almost uncontrollable before I saw Andy. I was losing control of my body - my muscles, balance, and even my bladder.

And when my body wasn't failing me, I was in excruciating pain from the muscle spasms.

Dr. Somody's homeopathic remedy and biofeedback have helped me regain a huge amount of control over my body.

And the Bowen Technique that he uses helped my muscle spasticity and paralysis.

All my symptoms have decreased by more than 80%.

If everything keeps getting better at this rate, I'll be totally cured in a few weeks!

Gail, Chilliwack, BC

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