Are you struggling to get enough good-quality sleep? Having trouble falling or staying asleep? You’re not alone!

Almost a third of Indians struggle to get eight hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation can significantly impact your metabolism, hormone production, cognitive performance, and increase the risk of many non-communicable diseases. Let us take a look at some of the underlying causes of insomnia.

Nutrition – Nicotine, alcohol and caffeine can all cause or exacerbate insomnia. The refined sugar that is found in sodas, desserts and white bread can impact your sleep pattern negatively. How, when and what you eat also interferes with your sleep. Ask any licensed naturopath and they will tell you how sleep deprivation fundamentally alters the microbes in the gut. A lower quantity of microbiota is associated with bad sleep quality. To correct the microbiome imbalance, add fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes to stimulate the bacteria in the gut.

Environment – Light, noise, room temperature, and other environmental irritants have a marked effect on the sleep pattern. Naturopaths thoroughly examine the environmental irritants that cause inflammation and irritation, affecting your circadian rhythms. Statistically, some of the most common irritants are dander, pollen, blue light from screens and mobile phones, and noise. Your naturopath will either prescribe a melatonin supplement or ask you to get adequate exposure to a full-spectrum light, which will help maximize the production of melatonin.

Psychological causes – The intricate relationship between mood and sleep is also a complicated one. Sleep disruption can cause emotional changes, anxiety or clinical depression, and all these conditions further disrupt your sleep pattern. It is a vicious cycle and if you find yourself a victim, then you need to think about making an appointment with a naturopath. Research has demonstrated that insomniacs suffered more anxiety and depression compared to the ones who sleep normally.

Hormonal imbalance – An imbalance in the level of cortisol, serotonin, estrogen, melatonin, and testosterone can all cause sleep disturbances. If you suffer from hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland does not produce sufficient thyroid hormones, and you stand the risk of developing sleeplessness. Talk to your physician about changing the medication schedule if you want your sleep quality to improve.

Side effects of medication – Medication used for nasal allergies and the common cold, heart disease, hypertension, birth control, thyroid disease, depression, and asthma can all cause insomnia. Side effects depend on the prescribed dose. Some drugs that are prescribed for patients with sleep problems can also affect sleep quality.

The naturopathic approach

The good news is naturopathy has comprehensive treatment modalities designed to address most of these health causalities. Its patient-centric approach focuses on changing the lifestyle that includes optimizing the diet, sleep hygiene and the environment, removing stimulants, creating routines, and increasing the amount of physical activity. The microbial imbalance is addressed via better clinical nutrition, including fermented foods and probiotics. To address psychological factors, naturopaths work with trained professionals to address anxiety, depression, and stress. Behavioral medicine practices including breathing techniques, meditation, and mindfulness in conjunction with botanical medicine, including L-theanine, GABA, passionflower, and adaptogens like ashwagandha have been shown to be effective at addressing insomnia. If there is a hormonal imbalance, nutraceuticals such as glycine, melatonin, and tryptophan will help address the problem. Naturopaths can also help figure out if prescription medication has a negative impact on your sleep, and they will work with the prescribing physician to change the regimen and improve sleep patterns.

Does acupuncture help?

Acupuncture is another alternative medicine system that has proven to be effective at treating insomnia. Stimulating specific points in the body can have sedating and analgesic effects through the release of opioid peptides. The points differ based on the imbalance that is responsible for insomnia. Research has also found that acupuncture is effective at treating insomnia stemming from mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. A case study found that 500 schizophrenic patients reported an improvement in their sleep pattern after acupuncture sessions.

By–Dr.HP Bharathi, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jindal Naturecure Institute.