Taking A Broad Approach To The Problem Of Insomnia

Insomnia is a more widespread problem than most people think, with nearly 40% of people experiencing some symptoms in any given year, according to US statistics. Alarmingly, as many as 15% of adults experience this problem in chronic form, which can have a devastating effect on their daily life and wellbeing. In order to avoid the problems of drug dependency, complementary and alternative health techniques are now widely recommended for solving sleep problems.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School worked together with John Hopkins University School of Medicine to outline the different categories of wellness techniques used to combat insomnia. They concentrated on Complementary and Alternative (CAM) methods to establish four main categories:

Alternative and mind-body medicine – traditional forms of movement meditation such as yoga and tai chi, as well as basic sitting meditation.

Manipulative practices – techniques relying on contact with a holistic therapist, including massage, chiropractic end osteopathy.

Natural products – a range of dietary supplements and natural tranquilisers such as melatonin and valerian root.

Other CAM practices – a range of complementary therapies including acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy and Ayurveda.

The research project looked into the proportion of CAM users who inform the doctor of the alternative therapy they are using. Sadly, it seems that very few people actually share this knowledge with their doctor; a fact probably down to the tension that still exists between complementary and modern medicine. It is important that GPs open their mind to the field of complementary health in order to provide the best guidance to their patients, many of whom can be saved from the side effects of a pharmaceutical drug prescription by trying natural methods first. Responsible health care should include having an open mind to every therapeutic solution – after all, there are as many paths to health as there are individuals.

It is important that doctors inform themselves of the whole range of complementary therapies and work together with their colleagues across the divide in order to bring a full choice of healthcare to the public. This could well lead to the promotion of greater responsibility over individual health, where the convenient option is not always the one chosen – after all, it’s a lot easier to take a valium to get to sleep than to go out to a local yoga class. At minimum, all doctors should have a ready toolkit of self-applied techniques to teach their patient; covering muscle relaxation exercises, deep breathing and visualisation techniques.

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