Tell people that you suffer from insomnia and you might get a mildly sympathetic response but only those people who really suffer sleep problems night after night know what coping with insomnia is really like.
Reflexology is not a cure for insomnia but it will help to prepare the mind for sleep and, when used in conjunction with other sleep aids, materially assist to banish, or at least, reduce the problems.
In most people's mind, insomnia is the inability to get off to sleep but in fact, the symptoms can go far deeper than this and include any, or in some cases most, of the symptoms mentioned below.
1. Lying in bed for more than 30 minutes wanting, but unable, to get off to sleep
2. Waking without reason in the night and then having problems getting back to sleep again and maybe not being able to get back to sleep
3. Periods of real tiredness during the day when you either doze off or feel as if you would like to
4. Waking too early in the morning and then being unable to settle and go back to sleep
5. Feeling still tired and unrefreshed on waking and then feeling the same for most of the day
It is unfortunately true that people in the Western World often choose, as a part of their lifestyle, not to allow themselves the amount of sleep that their bodies require and thus can exhibit some, or all, of these symptoms simply through their own lack of proper sleep. Although this is, in a way, what I call 'self-inflicted' insomnia, the effects of it are still the same.
Lack of sleep, even total lack of sleep, for a day or so seems to cause no harm and the sleep pattern is usually soon restored as soon as you are able to get back to your bed. But lack of proper sleep over a longer period of time is a different matter. This can be so even if you almost sleep the required amount each night. There are people who sleep less than they need during the week but who seem to manage to 'catch up' by sleeping longer at the weekend. Although for some this works it is not a good practice to follow unless circumstances mean that you have to.
Although science has little idea why sleep is necessary, it does seem that we need a minimum of around seven or eight hours sleep a night to function properly. The actual amount varies with the individual and for most people this mechanism seems self-regulating and to work very well. That is, we know what time we will need to awaken in the morning and we feel sleepy and go to bed at a time which allows us to get the sleep we need.
However some people, and estimates range to as high as a quarter of the population, find that some fault in this regulation machinery means they cannot sleep the required hours. Either they are unable to fall asleep or else they awaken too soon and then are unable to go back to sleep. It is these people to whom the term insomnia really applies.
Treatment for insomnia consists of three separate routes which usually are, and probably should be, all used together. Firstly, there is medication available which will help induce sleep and which can treat any other medical problem thought to be causing an inability to sleep.
The second route is the environmental one where attention is given to the conditions of the bedroom and to lifestyle. These changes are often small changes, such as making the bedroom cooler or warmer or changing the mattress or perhaps putting a lock on the door. These changes can help a lot to 'prepare' the mind for sleep and make the area more sleep-friendly.
The third route is relaxation. As we all know, before you can sleep you must be relaxed and at peace in your mind and it is here that reflexology steps in!
One of the first things that people often notice about reflexology is how well they sleep the evening after a session. The simple act of sitting down and having a foot massage is a marvellous way to induce a feeling of relaxation and of preparing the mind for the business of sleeping but reflexology will do much more than this.
Along with the massage, the skilled reflexologist will stimulate the reflexes in the feet connected to the various areas of the body. This action restores and balances the energy, also called 'chi', within the body itself.
The effect of this is to enhance and strengthen the body's own renewal and healing processes. These are processes which are going on all the time but which seem to be hindered or weakened by stress.
However, reflexology is not a 'magic bullet' and the effects take time to work so a course of treatment is often recommended. After which, treatment can be maintained at the same level or, if it seems appropriate, continued less frequently.
So the effect of reflexology is twofold, to relax the body and thus aid and prepare the body for sleep and also to assist in the renewal and self-healing processes. This may well be useful in those cases where there is a physical cause for sleep problems or where sleep is difficult because of the presence of pain.
Insomnia can be a debilitating and lonely problem but reflexology can help to slowly banish the effects by relaxation and preparation of both the mind and body. However, even if insomnia is only an occasional problem, reflexology is a beautifully relaxing and yet invigorating process that, as well as aiding sleep, helps you and your body to feel at your best.
By Mike Taperell
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