My partner suffers from depression and has quite a hard time sleeping. We don’t want to try sleeping pills as I’m worried that she may become addicted. We’ve tried lavender oils, chamomile teas and relaxing baths but I think it’s time to look into something that will help her – I hate to see her this exhausted, it’s affecting her time with our kids. Are there any home remedies or products that you know of to help with sleep issues? We’re starting to think of trying hypnotherapy so that she can get some rest.
There are 2 issues here… depression and sleep. The 2 are probably impacting on each other unfortunately.
Hypnotherapy works really well for some and not so well for others so certainly if it is something she is keen on trying give it a go, if it turns out not to be the solution for a good nights sleep a good Hypnotherapist will at least be able to give her some support with the depression as well as help her with relaxation.
With regards to sleep there are some obvious lifestyle tips that might not be so obvious! Having a regular schedule each day can be the key for some, so rising at the same time each morning and going to bed at the same time each night with other regular patterns throughout the day gets the body used to knowing when its sleep time. Avoiding bright lights and exercise a couple of hours before bed time is a really good idea (eg computer screens, TV, bright lamps etc) – light and exercise stimulate the ‘awake’ hormones in our brain. Relaxing in dim lighting / candle light while reading a relaxing novel (maybe in bed so she can drop off when ready) might be a good alternative to checking facebook or watching the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy! Bright light and exercise (approx 45 mins) early in the day is a great idea though – it makes your brain produce a nice burst of serotonin which makes you feel good and gives you a better chance of having a deep sleep that night so going for a walk in the morning sunshine is a great idea! She can further boost her internal serotonin production with a natural supplement called 5-HTP (provided she is not on anti-depressant medication).
It’s also important to avoid other stimulants such as lots of sugar or caffeine – some people need to avoid these after dinner, others need to start avoiding it earlier in the day. Excessive alcohol can also affect sleep, it can make you feel sedated early on but it may result in waking in the middle of the night. A drop in temperature can trigger sleep, so ensure the bedroom isn’t too hot and stuffy (but not freezing as that will deter sleep also), also did you know that sleep is like a bus? The opportunity to fall asleep comes on schedule every 90 – 120 minutes… if you miss the bus you have to wait for the next one, so when feeling sleepy it’s time to close your eyes and not try to finish reading the chapter…
A good quality, concentrated fish oil high in EPA and DHA is also well indicated for depression and mood support, there are many studies done with fish oils in this area showing they are of great benefit. You might also want to investigate specific herbal formulations for sleep, there are different formulas to help with onset of sleep (herbs such as Valerian, Kava, Hops) vs waking up in the middle of the night (herbs such as Magnolia and Ziziphus). A quick delivery system such as liquid herbs or liquids in a capsule if taste is an issue might be pertinent in this situation. Seeing as your wife has depression I would suggest the formula with Magnolia and Ziziphus as the other herbs mentioned may not be suitable for someone with depression.
*Please note that the information provided above is only to educate, not to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please seek advice from your own healthcare provider before embarking on any treatment/health program.
By Michele Wilton
ND, Dip Med Herb
Michele is a Naturopath, Medical Herbalist and works as a Technical Advisor for NaturalMeds.