Integrative Ways to Help with Insomnia

Heather Auld, MDInsomnia is a common problem. Heather Auld, MD, an integrative medicine specialist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM), says about 90% of the people she sees in her Fort Myers practice, SWFL Integrative Medicine, experience some form of the condition, whether acute or chronic. Defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, insomnia is linked to myriad causes.

“Pain can cause insomnia,” Dr. Auld says. “Certain medications can, too. Even having to urinate in the middle of the night can cause it.”

Many of her patients who struggle with insomnia complain about being unable to shut off their thoughts at night. Often, if they do fall asleep, they wake up with their heart racing, thoughts whirring, and their cortisol levels “through the roof.” Our levels of cortisol – known as the stress hormone because of the important role it plays in helping the body regulate stress – are supposed to decrease at nighttime. But high levels can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. In addition to cortisol levels, anxiety, stress, and low melatonin levels can also lead to insomnia.

Fortunately, there are a number of natural remedies that integrative health experts can recommend to treat your insomnia and help you get the restorative sleep your mind and body needs. For instance, health experts can measure your melatonin and cortisol levels to determine the root cause of your insomnia. If tests confirm your cortisol levels are high or your melatonin levels low, experts may recommend natural remedies, like herbal supplements and teas, to help you regain balance. One widely used herbal supplement for insomnia is passionflower, which works by boosting certain neurotransmitters that can help us sleep.

Sleep experts may also recommend ear seeds. An ear seed is a small seed attached to a bandage that’s placed in specific acupressure points of the ear. To help calm the mind and restore the body’s balance, patients press on the seeds throughout the day.

Patients can also utilize breathing techniques to relax the mind and body, as well as tapping techniques to distract the mind from a constant stream of thoughts. “By focusing on tapping your feet together, you get your mind off your thoughts, and your body relaxes,” Dr. Auld explains.

For a better night’s sleep, Dr. Auld advises her patients to keep cell phones and computers out of the bedroom. These appliances emit blue light, which suppresses melatonin. “You have to unplug,” Dr. Auld says. “Don’t go on your computer, don’t watch television, don’t have your cell phones near you, and don’t put on a lot of lights.”

While the reasons for your insomnia may vary, experts say small and integrative changes to your nighttime routine can make a big difference.

If you would like to learn more about the integrative therapies that Dr. Auld utilizes in her practice, visit The ABOIM is a Member Board of the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS). The ABPS is the only multi-specialty certifying body that offers physician board certification in integrative medicine, which takes into account all aspects of a patient’s life and focuses on evidence-based therapies and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.

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