Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when you have the chance to do so)

Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when you have the chance to do so)

Many of us will have experienced insomnia at some point in our lives.

Acute insomnia is when you experience temporary sleep problems, the night before an exam for example or when you have suffered a bereavement. 

Chronic insomnia is when sleep is disturbed at least three nights a week for at least three months.  The result of this is obviously fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and decreased performance in work or at school.

Ultimately lack of sleep can have a drastic impact on our physical and mental health.  It’s a big subject so I will be including just the most important facts in this article.

We need to sleep to sustain life, its as simple as that.  Its important to remember thatyour system is programmed for effective sleep; its the most natural thing in the world!  However, feeling pushed for time (have you ever cut short your sleep because there was too much to do?  I know I have) and the habits of modern day life often impact on our ability to achieve good quality sleep. 

If you think your sleep quality could be better, have a look through these two checklistsand what you can do to make things easier for yourself….

DO:

  • Keep a regular routine in terms of timings and go to bed when you feel tired.
  • Manage those stress levels (more on that later)!
  • Relax for at least an hour before bed
  • Your bedroom should be dark, quiet and cooler than daytime temperature (but not cold)
  • Exercise regularly during the day
  • Ensure your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable
  • Try to get 30 mins exposure to natural sunlight per day – this helps to remind your body which is day and which is night!  Artificial light is not the same!
  • Have a hot bath before bed to relax, plus the drop in your body temperature will aid sleep.
  • Remove distractions from your bedroom: screens, phones, clocks

DO NOT:

  • Do not smoke, or drink alcohol, tea or coffee at least 6 hours before going to bed
  • Do not eat for about 3 hours before bed, especially sugars / carbs
  • Do not exercise late in the day (that is, less than 4 hours before bed)
  • Do not watch screens in the 2 hours before bed – they block the release of melatonin by 23%, interrupting your normal sleep rhythms
  • Do not nap during the day
  • Do not sleep in after a bad night’s sleep – stick to your regular sleeping hours instead
  • Do not drink too many fluids before bed as you will need the loo in the night!
  • Drugs – clearly recreational drugs will impact sleep, but often prescription ones can too, so speak to your pharmacist about this, it may be that taking your tablets at a different time of day may help
  • Don’t lie in bed awake.  This breeds anxiety and makes it even harder to get to sleep.  Get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.
  • Try to avoid sleeping tablets if you can, even those you can buy over the counter.  They can help in the short term, but they do not induce natural sleep and can make the insomnia worse.

Back to the big issue of STRESS.  Stress clearly impacts on our ability to sleep and then insomnia tends to increase our stress levels further – argghhhh!!  I quite often see people suffering with insomnia and Craniosacral Therapy often helps them.  In fact, people often report that their sleep has improved since they started Craniosacral Therapy, even when that was not the main reason they started coming to see me!

The point is, that when our systems are hyper-vigilant, or in fight, flight or freeze, of course it is often hard for us to ‘switch off’ at night. A good example of this would be a man I worked with a long time ago who had been in the forces for many years who had big sleep issues.  He said, ‘When you’ve slept with a gun in your hand every night for so long, its kinda hard to get any kind of deep sleep’.  And many of us (albeit for other reasons) have systems which are equally on ‘high alert’. 

The best way to address the stressed / hypervigilant system is to show it how to down-regulate from ‘fight, flight or freeze’ to ‘rest and digest’.  This is of the main things we do in Craniosacral Therapy.  The system is being shown the ‘off switch’ and little by little, it gets easier and easier to access the ‘off switch’, until the system is generally much calmer and sleep becomes much easier.  Plus of course, the person feels less stressed / anxious generally!

If you have taken board all the suggestions above and are still struggling with your sleep, please do seek the advice of your GP.

Colic, reflux, irritability, difficulty settling / feeding?

Colic, reflux, irritability, difficulty settling / feeding?

Newborn baby

Craniosacral Therapy is often the therapy of choice for a newborn because it is so gentle and in my experience, so effective.  Babies often experience stress and trauma during the birth process, and may not be able to resolve this trauma without assistance.

Common symptoms that parents report their baby having when there first come to see me are:

  • Colic (regular inconsolable crying)
  • Reflux (pain after feeds, sometimes there are regular spit-ups and vomiting, sometimes not)
  • Allergies / intolerances
  • Irritability / baby seems angry or tense
  • Difficulty settling / getting to sleep / staying asleep (wakes in pain)
  • Baby prefers to feed on one side / prefers head laid to one side when laid on back (causing flat spot)
  • Difficulty latching / gulping / baby slurps or ‘clicks’ when feeding
  • Torticollis

In extreme cases, parents report that the baby cannot be put down, in other words, cries unless they are being held (and often even then). Parents of babies with symptoms such as those listed often worry that there is something seriously wrong with their child. They understandably keep looking for reasons and keep talking to health visitors and doctors, trying one thing after another in an often desperate attempt to resolve the situation, such changing bottles, changing formula, and often using medication.

The babies that I see often have been through all of this and still nothing has helped. I have known babies to have their formula type changed 6 or 7 times! Parents are often told by doctors that despite the struggles and distress still going on, nothing further can be done. Although some health professionals are aware of cranial treatment and how it can help babies, many are not, which is a real shame. Because, as I have already said, even when every other option has been exhausted, I usually find that a short course of cranial treatment improves or eradicates most of the symptoms above. Improvements can often be seen after just one session! So if you know any young babies struggling, please do share this blog with Mummy/Daddy!

To have a baby who struggles to feed, cries inconsolably for hours on end or cannot be put down is very distressing and worrying for everyone around, especially Mum and Dad. And all this when perhaps mum is still trying to recover from the birth herself (I will write another blog about helping mums), the parents are just starting to learn how to look after a newborn baby, they are usually very sleep deprived and perhaps there is post natal depression in the mix too.  Often the families that I see are really feeling the strain.

When a baby first comes to see me, I carry out an assessment to see if there are any tensions / restrictions held in their body (these will often be a result of birth trauma). If there is (and there nearly always is, in the babies that I see), then very carefully and gently, I help that tension to release from the system at a pace that feel okay for the baby.

Most babies appear to really enjoy their sessions, and they will be far more relaxed at the end of the session than they were at the beginning. Parents often comment at the apparent connection between the therapist and the baby.  I often have a little ‘conversation’ with the baby about what is going on during their session. If they show distress at any point, lots of support is provided from Mum/Dad and they can even be treated whilst sucking a dummy, or feeding if that helps them to be calm and allow the process of release. The baby’s progress is monitored throughout the course of sessions.

My work with babies is so rewarding; I just love it. Perhaps because one of my daughters suffered in a similar way when she was a baby, which is how I found out about this therapy all those years ago!

So, there you go, a little overview of why and when to seek help for a newborn. Oh, and another question that I get asked a lot is, whether it is ever too late for birth trauma to be released. The answer is definitely not!  So if you have a child, of whatever age and you suspect that the symptoms that they have could be a result of birth trauma, please do give me a call and I can advise you as to whether I might be able to help you (Sarah – 07956 390419).