Getting Enough Sleep

Homeopathy. This method - originating in Europe several hundred years ago - dilutes a substance to an extraordinary degree. For example, a remedy that is "30C" means that the original substance was placed in a pure water and alcohol solution, diluted to one percent and shaken intensively, then that solution was diluted again to one percent, and then again and again for a total of thirty times; at this point, there cannot possibly be a single atom left of the original material. Paradoxically, the more times it's diluted, the more powerful a remedy is considered to be. It is unclear why homeopathy might work, yet some well-controlled studies have found significant effects (for a review, see Dr. Kenneth Pelletiers book. The Best Alternative Medicine: What Works? What Does Not?), and many individuals - including ourselves - have observed or experienced dramatic benefits.

Homeopathic remedies usually come in the form of small sugar pills upon which the remedy has been "inoculated." These are available in health food stores at dosages up to 30C (a person should generally use more potent remedies under the care of an experienced homeopath). Different kinds of sleep disturbance call for different remedies. See which overall pattern below best fits you; you might try the remedy before going to bed or in the middle of the night, and then see if it helps.

  • Sepia. This is the classic remedy for a worn-out mother who has given it all for her children. She feels irritable, drained, worn out, or exhausted most of the time. She may be emotionally flat, or have become indifferent to those she loves the most. Regarding sleep, she may awaken around 3:00 a.m. and be unable to return to sleep; she's often still tired after a night's rest.
  • Arsenicum Album. This is for a mom who is neat and fastidious no matter what is going on. She is anxious and restless during the day, perhaps with a sense of agitation. She could experience burning sensations in the hands or joints, perhaps comforted by applying warmth (like a hot water bottle). Regarding sleep, she often wakes in the middle of the night and is unable to stop worrying.
  • Nux Vomica. This is a remedy for a hard-working, hard-playing, ambitious, take-charge mother. She may be very irritable, intense, or tense. She could drink alcohol or eat too much. Regarding sleep, it's hard for her to fall asleep, and she may awaken between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., and not be able to go back to sleep. She may also have nightmares.
  • Coffea. This is for the person who has lots of activities and lists of projects, and whose mind won't stop planning and problem solving. There is a zippy, buzzing quality to her dally life. She may feel like she's had too much coffee.
  • Cocculus. This is for the mother who is used to being up at night, such as while taking care of a sick child. She could feel too tired to go to sleep. She may be irritable or giddy.

How to Use Homeopathic Remedies
To take a homeopathic remedy, you typically place three to five of the little sugar pills under your tongue and let them dissolve. Do not eat or drink anything for fifteen minutes beforehand or afterward. Try not to touch the sugar pills with your hands; pour them onto a spoon or into the plastic cap of the vial the remedy comes in, and pop them into your mouth from there.

If you are using a remedy for an acute situation - such as a single sleepless night or a particularly upset stomach - a 30C remedy is a good place to start. Take the remedy every twenty or thirty minutes for a few doses; next spread the doses out to once per hour for a few hours, and then decrease to three times per day. If you are using a remedy for an ongoing problem - like chronic insomnia - you can still try a 30C dosage, three times a day for several weeks. A trained homeopath will probably be most helpful for an ongoing problem, as well as be able to give you a higher potency remedy (e.g., 200C), which you would probably take less frequently.

Most homeopaths feel that some remedies can be antidoted if you drink coffee, or eat or use menthol products, so these should be avoided if possible. Also, because of the potentially electromagnetic basis for the as-yet-unknown mechanism of action of homeopathy, remedies should not be stored near equipment (like computers) that puts out electromagnetic fields. Finally, do not use a remedy that has gotten wet or been placed in a hot place or in the refrigerator.

Ask Your Doctor
If these interventions don't help, you should speak with your doctor. Perhaps an illness is disturbing your sleep, such as hormonal disturbance, diabetes, or clinical depression. For example, a patient of Ricki's, Mary, came for her first visit since her baby was born, looking extremely pale, worn out, and depressed. She said: I'm just not sleeping. My head seems to bounce off the pillow when I lie down, my mind's in a whir, and there's a pounding in my ears like a drum beating. As it turned out, the mild anemia (shortage of iron) she had during pregnancy had worsened when she bled heavily after the birth. So busy with her baby and getting everything organized, Mary grabbed snacks on the run and didn't get much iron in her diet. But now her heart had to race - keeping her awake at night - because her blood was less able to carry oxygen. By eating iron-rich meats and taking supplements with iron, Mary soon felt - and was sleeping - much better.

Additionally, you may want to talk with your doctor about sleeping pills or certain antidepressants that aid sleep. These can help get your brain back in the habit of sleeping soundly, enabling you to stop taking them. But please ask about their potential side effects. In particular, if you are nursing or could be pregnant, you should not take any medication, including sleeping pills, without your physician's knowledge.


From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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