Insomnia, or difficulty falling and staying asleep, affects many people at various times in their lives. This can be caused by pain, stress, hormones, caffeine, over-stimulation, improper “sleep hygiene”, medications, and other issues. Regular chiropractic care may help people who suffer from short-term or long-term insomnia. Insomnia might be described as difficulty sleeping, including trouble falling asleep, or problems staying asleep. It could occur in anyone, at any age, but it is most common in the elderly. The poor quality of sleep can lead to impairment during waking hours. “Transient insomnia” is a short-term problem (less than a week), which is often caused by depression, stress, poor sleep timing, or a change in the sleep environment. “Acute insomnia”, which persists for less than a month, can include poor sleep quality, and it could also be caused by stress. “Chronic insomnia” lasts more than a month, and it can also be caused by stress or other disorders. This may lead to hallucinations and muscular fatigue –far more serious than the average case of daytime sleepiness. Caffeine and other medications, Restless Legs Syndrome, pain, hormone shifts (such as menstruation and menopause), life stressors, jet lag and “swing shifts” at work, and even exercise might cause insomnia. Insomnia affects any type of person from all walks of life, regardless of inherent physical factors.1
Typically, when the insomnia has proven to cause enough discomfort, a patient will seek some form of help. Doctors will try to identify the cause and determine if it is medical or psychiatric in nature. Some of the treatments will be non-pharmacologic, while others will be medical in nature.2 Doctors may encourage proper “sleep hygiene”, which includes sleeping enough (but not too much), exercising daily 4-5 hours before bed, keeping a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes, adjusting the sleep environment, decreasing stress, and avoiding stimulating activities in the bedroom. Stimulating activities include the use of devices with screens, such as a laptop, and sometimes even reading is too stimulating for some people. Additionally, waking activities, like using a smartphone, should not be performed in bed. The brain begins to associate the wakeful actions with the bed, making falling asleep in the same bed more difficult later. If sleep is difficult, staying in bed is not always the answer, either. Sometimes getting up, using the bathroom, or getting a drink gives the mind enough time to calm down and be ready to fall asleep when the patient goes back to bed.3 There are also medications that may be prescribed; however, even traditional medical doctors note that medications work best with the behavioral changes. Sedatives might be addictive, and they can have serious side-effects. Some of the prescriptions include benzodiazepines, nonbenzodiazepines, Ramelteon (which stimulates melatonin receptors), antidepressants, and even over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines (i.e., Benadryl), melatonin, and herbal remedies (i.e., Valerian).4
Chiropractors will, like many medical doctors, encourage prevention of insomnia by advocating proper “sleep hygiene”. Patients may prefer not to take habit-forming medications, and they might not be comfortable with side-effects of the pills. For these patients, chiropractors may recommend natural products, such as melatonin, and chiropractic adjustments. “In a recent study of 221 chiropractic patients…98% recorded improved results with chiropractic versus those whose sleep patterns did not get better”.5 Chiropractors could also recommend an ergonomic pillow, a better mattress, avoiding “blue light” in the bedroom (from cell phones and televisions, for example) which affects melatonin, reducing distractions, and keeping the bedroom cool (between 67-72 degrees F).6 Regular chiropractic adjustments will also keep the body in proper alignment, which could reduce pain and lead to a more comfortable night’s rest.
Yoga Poses that Promote Sleep
Yoga is a supplementary way to promote easier and more restful sleep. The patient can perform the following moves right before bed. The yoga begins with a short meditation, where the patient just takes a moment to sit, cross-legged on their bed, in the darkness, and just breathe for a few minutes. This is followed by a seated twist, where the patient stays in their cross-legged position and twists their torso to one side, takes a few deep breaths, and then switches sides. Following this is a cross-legged bend, where the patient just has to lean forward, hands straight out to touch the bed, torso lowered over their crossed legs for a couple of breaths. Seated forward bend follows the same concept as the cross-legged bend, but this time the legs are stretched out straight in front of the body, toes pointed to the ceiling while the arms and body reach forward to hold the feet. Lying flat on the bed, the patient should bend one knee and hold it to their chest before switching legs and then holding both at the same time for the knee-to-chest pose. The reclining big-toe hold is similar, but this time the legs are straight and pulled as far back as is comfortable. In the reclining twist, the patient has to cross one bent leg over the body using the hand on the opposite side to hold the position while the arm on the same side is straight out and flat on the bed. The position is held for a few moments before switching. Following this series of yoga poses, the patient could find falling asleep to be easier.7
Learn more about different sleeping disorders.