There’s nothing like crawling in between two cool sheets and falling into blissful slumber. Maybe it’s been easy for me because I keep so busy during the day that it’s never been a problem. I feel for those that have trouble. There are many things you can do to improve sleep. No, not smoking pot!

Let’s start with the environment: Cold dark room is most important. Keep the activity nice and slow at least a few hours prior to turning off the light. Exercise is not a good idea before turning in. No housecleaning or cocktails at lights out time.

Some people may be able to fall asleep with noise, but some seem to wake with every little sound. Others sleep through all kinds of noise. Much has to do with your central nervous system (CNS). If you’re primed to jump, if your CNS is on edge, your sleep won’t be restful. Make sure there are no electric appliances or wiring that run within 3’ of your head. This can mean taking a gauss meter to the walls near your bed. This may not be affecting your sleep, but it most certainly can affect your health. Remember you spend around 8 hours in this environment, it should be healthy. If you’re sensitive to chemicals, organic sheets and non-toxic detergent are a must. Of course, be sure to choose a mattress and support that is conducive to your comfort. For many years I thought I liked a hard mattress, only to find when I traveled, I slept more soundly and woke feeling better with a softer mattress. Essential oils may be soothing. Lavender should not be used with young boys, so keep it away from the children, it affects hormones.

Light is very important to eliminate at night. Research has shown that light shown on the small area in the hollow of the knee on sleeping subjects decreases the level of melatonin, the hormone that puts us to sleep and keeps us there. So don’t think a mask is helping, it’s just one small part of the problem. Our levels of cortisol have something to say about our sleep as well. The higher the level of cortisol, the more melatonin we need to sleep. Where the rise in melatonin crosses the decrease in cortisol is where we fall asleep, conversely, the rise in cortisol crossing the decrease in melatonin is where we wake. Hopefully these will be in the proper settings, when we’re expecting it. If you have high levels of stress, some extra melatonin may do the trick. When first marketed, manufacturers used 3 and 5 milligram doses, much too high for most users. Now it is available in 1 or 3mg doses, and in liquid. Try ¼ mg to start. Most early users complained about vivid dreams and groggy mornings. They were taking too much, or not allowing a full 8 hours for sleep. Don’t expect to wake rested if you take melatonin and allow 4 hours to sleep. Your body doesn’t like shortcuts!

Next, let’s look at food and drink. As we get older, we have less room to store liquids. Once I had a hitch in my hip, and went to see a rolfer. An unintended consequence was that I no longer got up at some point in the night to use the bathroom. That was over two years ago. Not drinking water after a certain time doesn’t work for me; if I’m thirsty, I drink. Some people swear no water after 6pm works. Food can sometimes also have an effect on sleep. If you have acid reflux, when you lie down you may have an esophageal sphincter that is relaxed, allowing acid to seep into the throat. This can possibly cause problems with the esophagus or larynx down the line, not to mention disrupting sleep. What foods can cause this problem? Many sources say peppermint, chocolate, coffee, fried foods, and other items should be avoided. Some problems have more to do with digestion than acid reflux; your body doesn’t want to be digesting food when you’re going to bed. Many can’t digest fats on a good day! If you have this problem, often bitter foods can help the bile flow, getting digestive juices flowing to enhance the absorption of your food. And if you’ve had your pancreas out, you need bile acids! Don’t let this one go. Your body had a pancreas for a reason, it’s not expendable.

Your immune system is most active at night while you’re sleeping. That’s why we often see people with poor immune response that don’t sleep well. The cause can be lack of sound sleep. Also, if you take calcium, it should be taken at night, when your body uses it. Calcium circulating in the blood is not where you want it, which is what happens when you take it during the day. Sometimes it ends up in your blood vessels, creating – guess what – hardening of the arteries. Your body may excrete it, and is not beneficial to your bones and teeth.

Say you have all of the above problems under control and your sleep is still bad. Do you lie awake at night and can’t fall asleep? Do you wake during the night and are unable to fall back to sleep due to thoughts? What about waking – you hide your head under the pillow hoping the light and alarm will go away? These are probably symptoms of anxiety. Think about why you are having this problem. Think of a solution to what is causing the anxiety. See if that helps; if not, try writing before bed. I’m not a writer (OK, I do try), but I have read enough about anxiety to know that it can help.

Do you have dreams or nightmares? Sometimes they can indicate what is going on upstairs. Do you have dreams of being pursued? This is often a fear that something bad will happen. In homeopathy, there are many remedies associated with particular dreams. You may think your problems are unique, but a quick look at the repertory will surprise you. I’ve heard stories that help point out the correct remedy, or confirm my choice when I’m not sure.

Homeopathy can help most of these problems people have with sleep. I’ve seen sleep improve with the first remedy quite often. Of course, some of the work I do is with homeless people, and it is a difficult road. These are people that must sleep with lights on, or uncomfortable cots, people making noise, snoring, or they may be having CNS hyperactivity, a feeling of not being safe when trying to sleep. This is so very important for many, as a lack of sleep can cause psychotic behavior in the most stable person.

If you’ve had bad sleep, now’s the time to figure out why. Sleep is so important to your health. Once it is good, you’ve unlocked the door to better health. Work on that now, saw those logs!

Author's Bio: 

After becoming interested in the alternative medicine field while still an airline pilot, I studied during layovers and received my MS in Natural Health (summa cum laude), but I felt I still did not understand homeopathy, and it intrigued me. Signing up for a four-year program at the Institute of Classical Homeopathy, I thought I would finish a year or so, and be satisfied. No such luck. Homeopathy had me in its thrall. The four years went by so fast, I could scarcely believe I was done. With 2 years of clinical experience under my belt, I volunteered at a local San Francisco clinic once a week, for lack of something to do with my newfound skills. I have been at the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center since 2005. As I gathered clients, I realized how valuable this modality, homeopathy, can be. I never looked back. I have seen it do things I never thought possible, and have learned so much since my Master's. I have done research for my PhD in the field of sleep, and feel it is one of my specialties.