Sleep problems

Dr Richard Robinson on how homeopathy can help 

A couple of months ago I saw a 29  year-old woman who had been having sleeping problems for 12 months as a  result of a lot of stresses in her life, including business and  financial worries which had eventually involved a court case with the  Inland Revenue. She had become depressed and wanted to sleep for hours  on end; she was not sleeping at night and then felt very tired in the  daytime and could happily go back to bed for several hours.

She went to her GP who prescribed her the sleeping tablet, Zimovane,  and when I saw her she had been on them for six months. They had helped  her but when she tried to come off them her sleeping was terrible again;  she would go to bed at 11pm and would get to sleep quite easily but  would wake up at 3.30am and lie awake for two hours before she could get  back to sleep. She didn’t feel too bad when she woke up but by one  o’clock in the afternoon, she said that she has absolutely had it and  could quite happily go to sleep. She felt like this for the rest of the  day and when she got home from work in the evening, if she sat down on  the sofa she could quite easily go to sleep. She even felt like this at  weekends.

Her confident, extrovert, high energy but impulsive nature, with  liking a lot of stimulation and a lot going on around her was very  suggestive of Medorrhinum and I prescribed three doses of this in high  potency. When I saw her again three weeks later, she announced that she  had “been great on those tablets”. Apparently her sleeping had returned  to normal, and has been normal ever since.

Having problems sleeping, whether it is  difficulty in getting off to sleep, waking up through the night, or  early in the morning, is an extremely common complaint these days. If we  go to our GP we will almost certainly be prescribed some type of minor  tranquilliser, which often can be helpful, but if used for anything more  than a very short period of time can, as in this woman’s case, create  dependence, with a resulting rebound effect when the patient tries to  stop the tablets, with their sleeping getting a lot worse; they have to  be weaned off the tablets over a prolonged period of time.

Lifestyle changes

Simple measures to help insomnia that patients often find helpful  include not drinking tea or coffee in the evenings or stopping tea and  coffee completely and changing over to one of the coffee substitutes  made from cereals available from health food shops. Certain herbal teas  such as lemon balm have a relaxing effect and can be helpful.

Going to bed on a full stomach is not conducive to a good night’s  rest and it is always best to have the evening meal at least three hours  before going to bed. Eating chocolate after the evening meal can slow  digestion by as much as twelve hours, but going for a walk after the  meal instead helps digestion, and makes getting off to sleep easily more  likely.

Some people find that reading in bed for a while before trying to get  to sleep helps take the mind off the stresses of the day and helps them  unwind and feel more relaxed, and if a lot of mental stress through the  day has led to tension in the neck and shoulders, massaging the aching  area can help.

Constitutional remedies 

If these simple measures do not help, then, as always, the  constitutional remedy tends to be the most effective approach. I saw a  three year-old girl a while back who had had sleeping problems since  birth, and her parents were at their wits’ end – she would go to bed at  8.00pm and go to sleep pretty quickly, but then would wake up at 3.00am  and be hysterical, crying for her mother and shouting herself hoarse –  she would be wide awake and would get up and play, talk, and go into her  parents’ bed where she would moan and cry, fidget and kick. This would  go on for about three hours, until she eventually went back off to  sleep. She would then wake up and be ready to get up at 7.30am. Not  surprisingly, she would often be tired and irritable during the day, and  her parents were absolutely exhausted! Her mother was a GP and had  tried every possible form of treatment both behavioural and medicinal,  but nothing really helped.

After taking her homeopathic history, I prescribed Pulsatilla 200c,  three doses to be taken in 24 hours, and when I saw her again after two  weeks she apparently has been much happier, calmer and content – she had  slept well the next night after the remedy and was now sleeping through  the night and waking up refreshed. Her parents said that this was the  best two-week period she had had for eight months. A few weeks and  another dose of the remedy later, her parents felt that both her  sleeping and her general well-being were now 100 per cent.

Another patient, a 36 year-old secretary, had suffered sleeplessness  since she had changed jobs one year previously. She had been working for  a small family business, but was now working at the head office of a  major company in a fast and furious “I want it now” atmosphere. She  described the changes in working environment as “like being hit by a  fast-moving train”.

As a result of the stress she was having difficulty sleeping. She  would go to bed at 10.30pm, but usually wouldn’t get to sleep until  2.00am, and then would sometimes wake up in the night as well, and then  be fully awake at 6.00am.

I took a full homeopathic history as a result of which I gave her  Ignatia 1M. When I saw her again, after three months she said that she  was much, much better. After the Ignatia she had felt very emotional for  a few days as is often the case as a constitutional remedy begins to  get to work, and then her sleeping had been getting steadily better –  she was able to get off to sleep much easier, if she did wake up in the  night she would rapidly turn over and go back to sleep, and she would  wake up in the morning feeling refreshed.

She was still feeling very tense and finding it difficult to relax as it  was very stressful at work because her boss was about to leave – Dysco  (one of the bowel nosodes) got her feeling totally back to normal, and  the best she had felt since she had changed jobs one year previously.

Local remedies

These patients obviously had very severe insomnia, but often in milder  cases a more locally acting remedy can be sufficient. I once had a  patient from Brazil who told me that when she was growing up, her family  would use local, traditional herbal remedies for many different  conditions, and that the one they always used for sleeplessness was the  passion-flower. As she was suffering from mild insomnia at the time, I  prescribed her the passion-flower in potency – Passiflora incarta 30c,  one to be taken one hour before going to bed, and to be repeated  half-hourly if necessary if she was having trouble getting off to be  sleep.  Her insomnia cleared up completely.

While one doesn’t have to come from Brazil to benefit  from  Passiflora incarta, most  patients appear to do very well on the less  exotic, but just as  effective Valeriana 30c in the  same dosage  regime.

Richard Robinson MBBCh  BaO DRCOG MFHom