Lack of sleep is used as a form of torture. Without sufficient sleep your body cannot repair itself properly, the liver suffers, adrenal glands become depleted, you crave carbohydrates and stimulants to keep yourself going and find it hard to cope with any tax on your emotions. Yet sleep deprivation can be an inevitable part of child raising, the menopause and periods of anxiety. So what can you do if you've hit a bumpy patch?
Although the root cause needs to be addressed by sorting your child's sleep routine, dealing with life stresses or balancing your hormones, there are also some simple ways to help yourself through a period of bad sleep.
Foods that Replenish and Support
Lack of sleep taxes both your adrenal glands and your liver so you need to support them as much as you can and diet can be a great way to do this.
Maintain Blood Sugar and Hydrate Yourself:
Eat foods that have a slow transit time to ensure that your energy stays as constant as possible through the day and you avoid that awful morning nausea that comes with exhaustion. Avoid sugar, refined foods, white flour, white rice, coffee, strong tea and coca cola and drink no more than one glass of wine per day - with food. Eat whole grains, fresh meat and fish, lots of vegetables, pulses, cultured dairy products and a piece or two of fruit a day. If you need a pick me up then a small handful of dried fruit and nuts should help - the nuts help moderate the sugar in the fruit.
Drink at least 8 glasses of pure water a day - or take in the same amount as herb tea. A good alternative to a cup of tea is a large glass of sparkling water with the juice of a quarter of a lime, or lemon squeezed into it. It can be a real pick me up! Don't drink carbonated water for prolonged periods, or if you know you have low bone calcium as it can deplete this if drunk long term.
Replenish B Vitamins, Chromium and Magnesium
These trace elements are used up very quickly under a period of bad sleep so you need to take in more than usual. You can take supplements for a while, but it's always preferable to get your vitamins from food. Make sure you include a few of these from each list every day.
B Vitamin rich foods:
Liver, Red Meat, Green Leafy Vegetables, Yeast, Wholegrains, Brown Rice, Pulses, Berries, Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Butter, Peas, Peanuts and Egg Yolks.
Magnesium Rich Foods:
Dark Green Vegetables (Spinach, Broccoli, Savoy Cabbage etc), Wholegrains, Pulses, Nuts, Seeds, Oysters, Halibut and Salmon.
Chromium Rich Foods:
Romaine lettuce, Onions (ideally raw), Garlic, Mushrooms, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Potatoes, Wholegrains, Green beans, Raw Tomatoes, Grapes, Turkey, Pork and Beef, Vitamin C and B vitamins aid absorption of Chromium so make sure you have plenty of wholegrains, fresh vegetables and fruit in your diet.
Herbs and Homeopathy:
You should seek professional help if your bad sleep extends beyond a couple of weeks, but for a temporary bout you can try a little self medication with homeopathy and herb teas.
The calmer you are before bed, the more likely you are to retire at a sensible time and get as much rest as you can in the early all important part of the night. The more sleep you get before midnight the better you'll feel in the morning (unless you're a rare natural night owl). Calming and restorative herb teas include: Chamomile, Lemonbalm, Lemon Verbena, Lime Blossom, Rose Petals, Valerian (tastes horrible though!), Skullcap (only in a blend), and Hops (not for menopausal or pregnant women). To support your adrenal glands drink liquorice root tea, or even nibble a little liquorice (the health food shop type - not full of sugar), you can often find herb tea blends that include liquorice and drinking these throughout the day can help.
Tissue salts can be a great support at times like this because they enable the body to take what it needs from the diet and provide a gentle level of background support. You can buy specific combinations for exhaustion or nervous exhaustion from New Era or look at which of the following suits you. You should be able to buy these from a health food shop, or order online from Helios or another homeopathic pharmacy. Take tissue salts 3-4 times daily or as directed on the pot.
Phos-ac 6x: Complete apathy and exhaustion, often after caring for someone else, lots of emotional drama or too much contact with other people. Everything seems like too much effort. Craves refreshing things like fruit juice, fizzy drinks and fruit sweets.
Kali-Phos 6x: Nervous exhaustion, especially when accompanied with backache and poor sleep in the very early hours (2-4am). Usually capable sensible people who feel their nerves have been stretched to breaking point.Ferrum-Phos 6x: Anaemia from long periods of stress and effort. Circulation affected by exaustion. Irritated by inability to concentrate and get things done.
Calc-Phos 6x: Exhausted by grief or break up of a relationship. Restless exhaustion. Everything seems worse when you think about it. Sighing a lot. Headache when you have to go to work.
Other remedies that can be useful are listed below. Take them between 3-6 times daily for not longer than a week at a time. Do not take them if you are not suffering the symptoms anymore, only when your symptoms are current as they won't prevent a problem taken this way:
Pic-ac 30c: For business exhaustion bought about by too much mental stimulation and not enough exercise. Terrible headaches when trying to concentrate.
Gelsemium 30c: Flu-like exhaustion. Head feels hot, bones and muscles ache and legs feel wobbly. Just want to lie down in a darkened room.
Cocculus 30c: Seasick type symptoms, nausea, aversion to food, dizziness and a desire to lie down which does not improve things. Especially from lack of sleep due to caring for a child at night.
Nux Vomica 30c: Hang-over symptoms, nausea, billiousness, headache and irritability with a craving for stimulants or alcohol. Classic monday morning feeling from lack of sleep over the weekend. Can be awake half the night or stay up really late even though exhausted and then have real trouble waking in the morning.
Coffea 30c: Oversensitiveness due to nervous stimulation. All senses seem more acute as though nerves are on end - even the lightest touch is too much or the mildest perfume. Sleepless, hurried, headache from mental exertion, hysterical weeping or laughter. Full of ideas and plans that prevent sleep.
Finally, if you are having trouble sleeping at night then make sure you try and grab any opportunity you can to sleep in the day - even ten minutes relaxing in a darkened room will do something. Don't sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time though or you will throw your sleep clock out. Meditating can also take the place of sleep if you do this.
If your symptoms persist then seek some professional help from a homeopath or naturopath, or enlist a friend to take your child for an hour so that you can recuperate. Don't struggle on alone, there is hope out there.
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