Today I was discussing with my 81 year-old grandma her insomnia. She has had insomnia for years and years. Normally falling asleep isn’t her problem; sleeping through the night (more than 4 hours) is. She gets plenty of sun (living in Phoenix), some exercise or at least movement cleaning, cooking, running errands, and doesn’t nap. Yet still, she can’t sleep very much. She has been to countless doctors and used all kinds of prescription sleep aids, including ambien and Trazodone (50mg), etc. For her, taking melatonin is like taking a sugar pill.
Coincidentally, I came across Harmony and Health Acupuncture’s post on relieving insomia today. There is some very good, very simple advice there. But what interests me most is the combination of acupuncture and herbs to ease insomnia. From the post,
TCM treatments do not rely on drugs; they work with your body’s own energy, Qi (pronounced Chee) to solve the cause of Insomnia, rather that just treating the symptoms.
There are a number of factors that can lead to an imbalance of Qi. Factors include stress, anxiety, depression, pain, or simply having a very busy mind. I will ask you a number of questions to determine the underlying causes of your insomnia as there are many possibilities from a Chinese Medicine perspective. Once I make a diagnosis, I will use very fine sterile needles to restore balance and renew the flow of Qi in your body. It is possible that you may benefit from taking a Chinese herbal formula to aid the process. I will determine which formula is appropriate, and will prescribe the formula only until balance is achieved and regular sleep is restored. Most Chinese herbal formulas are not associated with significant side effects, but I will check your medication history to avoid the possibility of a reaction with other medications you may be taking.
While my grandma does experience a slight temporary relief when using new sleep medications, after about 1.5 months they’ve lost their effectiveness. Obviously her body builds up a tolerance to it and she needs to ease off or switch medications for a few days or weeks before going back.
The ultimate test would be to see if the TCM combination of acupuncture and herbs would provide lasting relief for my grandma and cure her otherwise intractable insomnia. It would make me very happy to get her off the prescriptions and let her have a good nights sleep.
In the discussion with her, I also mentioned the insomnia cure Tim Ferriss mentioned in his new book, 4 Hour Body: Philips goLITE. He asserts that using that device only 15minutes a day decreased his time to sleep to under 10 minutes. I suspect it works similar to melatonin in that regard, such that your body gets enough ‘sunlight’ during the day and therefore is ready for sleep at night. Given that melatonin tablets do nothing for my grandma, I doubt how much this device could help her.
Next mission: convincing my grandma to go see Dr. Rea at Harmony and Health. Second mission: getting her to drink the herbs.
Update: Mission 1 Accomplished!