Sleep is one of the key elements of optimal health. If you cannot sleep, you cannot heal. When I see clients for the first time, I will always review the state of their digestive system and the quality of their sleep. In my opinion, these are the two most important areas, which can prevent homeostasis and self-healing.
Regarding sleep, it is a medical fact that poor sleep will impact health in the long run. For example, statistics show that people in the UK who are short of sleep are more likely to suffer from an accident in the workplace.
So, what is good sleep?
Medically, sleeping patterns are considered to be driven by the hormonal system: the levels of cortisone (“stress hormone”) in the blood tend to rise just before waking up, and fall before going to bed. In parallel, the pineal gland secretes melatonin (“sleep hormone”) when it gets dark around us. However, it is not as simple as that: many people can sleep in full light, or during daytime, and with practice most people can achieve very effective and refreshing “power naps” (a 15/20 minute sleep).
As a rule of thumb, if your patient feels sleepy during the day, or cannot wake up refreshed and full of energy, then some work needs to be done to improve their sleep pattern.
It is however important to understand that individual requirements for sleep actually vary widely. Some people do well with a full night of 9 hours, while others may be happy with 4 hours, with possibly a nap after a meal. A “normal sleep” pattern can also vary depending on the season or the profession of the client.
When querying my patients, I would first ask about their perceived quality of sleep, their state and levels of energy when waking up and also 6-8 hours later (broadly speaking what should be the middle of their waking day).
If I feel that the quality of their sleep is not optimal, I would try and get more details and also investigate more broadly their lifestyles.
Obstacles to cure for chronic sleep
If your patient comes with sleep issues that are recent and have a known trigger, then a prompt return to healthy sleep is possible with homeopathic treatment only.
For more long-standing or chronic issues, I have found it necessary to address lifestyle or deeper emotional issues. At least in Western Europe, a combination of stress, emotional issues, poor lifestyle and a diet rich in carbohydrates may need to be addressed.
In terms of lifestyle, it is worth asking your patient to review what they do during the last two hours of their waking time. Review everything with them to see what can be done to promote a relaxed mind before going to bed. Here are some suggestions that can help:
– If your patient watches TV, computers or plays video-games 1-2 hours before going to bed, and has sleep issues, then suggest they stop, at least a few days a week and instead take a walk or read a book.
– If this is something, you are attracted to, practice some form of relaxation or meditation to train your mind to “calm down”.
– Alternatively, some people may feel better after some strenuous exercise, and for them, doing some active sports one or 2 evenings a week may help.
The typical modern Western diet can be an obstacle to good sleep. Higher levels of insulin and cortisone tend to reduce the ability of the body to produce melatonin. If this is the case, then improving the diet and the digestive system may be required. Here are some simple suggestions:
– Suggest a diet low in refined carbohydrate, soft drinks, coffee or tea, at least for the latter part of the day.
– Artificial additives like glutamate (MSG) have been linked to sleep issues, and I have found this especially true for children. So if you suspect this to be an issue, suggest that your patient to stay off them for a couple of weeks to see if it makes a difference.
– Drinking at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day is a necessity for most people. More than half of the daily fluid intake should be taken before noon to reduce the occurrence of nocturnal urination.
– Finally, recreational drugs or conventional medications may impact the sleep pattern of your clients. If so, you may need to help them wean off, or suggest they take these at earlier parts of the day. Tautopathy (which is giving the drugs back in a homeopathic potency) may be a good approach.
People who are also taking medications for their sleep tend to have poor-quality sleep. Many feel drowsy during the day or feel un-refreshed after 8 hours of sleep. They need to understand that their quality of sleep is still not optimal, and they need further support in this area. Showing them the list of side-effects from their medications may help.
Acute and Chronic Issue – A case
In my experience, homeopathy is one of the best therapies to help people with sleep issues. My suggestion to fellow homeopaths is to become very well acquainted with the Sleep and Dreams sections of their preferred repertory. This will help you to ask the right questions leading to the correct remedy. As usual, confirm symptoms with the Materia Medica. Some information to gather is :
– Any known cause or traumas, which have triggered the sleep issues.
– Time of going to bed, time of falling to sleep, time when awakening during the night, time when getting up.
– During these key times, are there any significant emotions, thoughts, worries present in the mind of your client?
– Is there a variation of the quality of sleep during weekdays and weekends, holidays and working days?
– Any other issues / information during poor sleep.
My therapeutic approach
For sleep issues, I usually suggest a therapeutic to take before going to bed and at night. To help with deeper and broader issues, I will often complement this with lifestyle advice and a more general treatment to be taken during the day, usually in water.
For chronic insomnia, the homeopath will often need to help the client come to terms with the past or reduce their fears towards the future, and this can take some time.
As a short description of my approach, I would first decide if the issue is either a combination or one of the following: physical, emotional, known cause/trigger. I would always repertorise the main remedies, using around 6-7 rubrics. I would also complement with a set of acute remedies if relevant.
If the issues are emotional or have a known cause, I would use single remedies and high potencies, or LM. If the issues are more physical, then the chronic support may contain vitamins and multiple remedies in low potencies for “organ drainage” or to support the body.
Here is a case of a lady of 28 years old, in good health, who came to see me after a severe bout of insomnia: Unfortunately, I did not keep the repertory rubrics and sheets as I use a repertory software and rarely store them for reference. The summary below is taken from the notes of the consultations.
Anna was working as an engineer in a firm in Cambridge (UK). For the last 2 or 3 weeks she had severe problems falling asleep. She tries to go to bed at 10PM, but cannot sleep until 3 or 5AM most nights, mainly “thinking” or tossing about. She would do her best to wake up at 8AM. She felt it was getting worse now.
She had a good diet but a stressful job, and she had been required to travel a lot over the last year to France and China, almost on a monthly basis. She told me that she had suffered from poor sleep on and off all her life. She had tried to self-prescribe herbal and homeopathic treatment. She was seriously considering taking a conventional medication, but was worried about the side effects.
Her timeline was as follows:
Born in Belgium, breast-fed, no major health problems
Child Orthodontist work done – BAD TEETH AS A CHILD
13 Menarche – Never on Birth Control Pill
Teens Had Mercury fillings – REMOVED a few years ago
17 Father dies (heart attack)
20s Sleep issues during examinations – student time, took medications for it.
23 Tiredness after vaccination (tetanus)
24 Moves to UK to work
25 Cystitis – bladder infection had antibiotics
28 (now) Sleep
She was also feeling stress in her tummy, and a mild digestive disturbance like bloating. This had been for several years already, but it got somewhat worse with the sleep issue. Over the last 3 weeks, she was also noticing some heart palpitations when under stress.
She was blaming her stress and work for all her issues. However, those had not increased significantly over the last few months. It was only at the end of the consultation that I got my breakthrough. I kept looking for a 3-4 week-old trigger to the worsening of the sleep as there was no other obvious cause, and then, she said she had gone into a romantic/platonic relationship with an older colleague. The relationship started a few months ago and her colleague decided to have a break up about 3 weeks ago.