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‘It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.’ John Steinbeck
Today insufficient sleep is increasingly seen as important to public health, with too little shut-eye linked to medical and occupational errors as well as disasters on the road and in factories.1 So our sleep quality needs to be prioritised with measures put in place to ensure a good night’s rest.
WE NEED QUALITY SLEEP Sleep detoxifies the body, particularly the brain, from the many toxins absorbed during the waking hours as a result of physical and mental activities. The entire body has to literally spring-clean itself nightly.
A lack of good quality sleep eventually takes its toll on us, at every level. We are more likely to become irritable and forgetful, experience strained relationships, perform poorly at work, and are more likely to have a car accident or injury due to loss of concentration. If the problem persists, we may put on weight,2 become diabetic,3 develop heart problems,4 and perhaps sow the seeds for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.5
THE CURSE OF INSOMNIAMost of us have trouble sleeping every now and then. But if the problem persists night after night, if we lie awake for hours before nodding off, or wake up too often or too early, then insomnia is likely to be the culprit. This ‘thief of the night’ is clearly more than a nuisance: it can wreck our quality of life, and pose a serious threat to our continuing good health. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder.
Possible causes of insomniaThere is no shortage of triggers for insomnia. Mental disharmony, whether from stress, anxiety or depression, is a common cause. Physical ailments such as indigestion, constipation, urinary problems, chronic pain and an over-active thyroid often present in tandem with insomnia.
Snoring is a common cause of insomnia. We all snore at times, but when it is regular and long lasting it can cause health problems such as daytime fatigue. And seeming character changes such as tetchiness may occur.
Another common cause of insomnia is sleep apnoea. Our breathing stops and starts when we are asleep, usually for a few seconds, and for no good reason. Unfortunately this disturbs our normal sleep pattern, leading to daytime sleepiness. Our spouse or partner will find the snores and gasps quite alarming, and they will be driven to insomnia.
Is there a role for sleeping pills?Sufferers from the above sleep disorders often seek solace in prescription drugs. However, these sedative or hypnotic drugs are usually no more effective than herbal products or non-drug methods. They may have longer lasting effects, resulting in drowsiness the next day. Others, in particular the benzodiazepines and ‘Z’ drugs, can lead to dependence, especially if we use them for longer periods than advised (as we often do). We should also be aware of withdrawal symptoms (one of which is insomnia!) when the drug is discontinued.
SLEEP SOLUTIONSPrevention is much better than cure, so we should try improving sleep hygiene first.
Sleep hygiene – the best hopeMost cases of insomnia are probably due to poor sleep hygiene: Mental over-stimulation before bedtime, poor quality bed and bedding, a noisy or too-light bedroom, unwise eating or drinking too close to bedtime (heavy meals and caffeine-rich drinks, like Coke and coffee), exercising too close to bedtime, excessive cat-napping, watching TV and following social media late at night all often bring on insomnia. Finally, there may be a medical condition responsible, or a side effect of the drugs used to treat it – especially stimulants, certain antidepressants and cough-cold remedies – in which case we should check with our healthcare practitioner.
Stop snoringLuckily, there are a number of lifestyle changes that are worth trying:Shedding excess weight improves airflow in the throat and breathing passages.Increased physical activity tones up the muscles lining the throat and breathing passages.Smoking constricts the breathing passages.Stop or cut down using sleeping pills – they relax the muscles in the throat and interfere with our breathing.
The natural approach to sleep disordersNatural medicine takes a different, holistic approach to sleep disorders. There are far better solutions to combatting insomnia than simply popping a pill.
TibbA Tibb practitioner views sleep disorders in most cases as a prime example of internal imbalances in the basic qualities of life – heat, coldness, dryness, and in this case, moistness. These come about mainly through a faulty way of life, especially regarding a number of what Tibb terms the Lifestyle Factors – nutrition, physical activity and emotional stress, compounded by bad habits like smoking and drinking unwisely. Tibb also takes into account the sufferer’s temperament, or personality. For example, a person who is melancholic in temperament is apt to be cold and dry quality-wise, and will suffer from poor, fitful sleep. He or she also needs more sleep time. On the other hand, someone who is phlegmatic usually sleeps soundly, is inclined to snore and need, more than normal sleep time. A Tibb practitioner therefore adjusts treatment to suit the person’s temperament by appropriate changes to lifestyle, and by the use of herbal and other therapies.
For more information on Temperament and Tibb’s Philosophy of health and disease, visit the Tibb website: www.tibb.co.za
HerbsHerbal baths and teas help you relax and calm your mind in preparation for a good night’s sleep. Chamomile and valerian are the queens of bedtime teas and with a touch of honey will bring you sweet dreams. You can also try a cup of warm milk with ginger and honey to de-stress before you put your head on the pillow.
Warm baths with a few drops of chamomile or lavender essential oils should also contribute to a good night’s sleep.
MusicWhile you are sipping your herbal tea or relaxing in your lavender-infused bath, listen to soft and gentle classical music – clinical research has proven that the soothing notes relax taut muscles and block out stressful thoughts.7
CONCLUSIONGood, regular sleep is essential for our best health and quality of life. Poor, disturbed sleep is a threat to our health, both now and in the future. So any of us suffering from insomnia, and from common causes, such as snoring and sleep apnoea, need to put sleep-friendly measures in place. Disturbance to a sensible lifestyle is often the root cause of sleep disorders. Subjecting the brain to regular doses of ‘new-to-nature’ drugs for days, weeks, or even years on end is not the way to go as it inevitably creates problems for us.
Both men and women have more and more sleep problems as they age, especially after they reach 65.6
Top tips for sleeping well
A list of references is available from the Natural Medicine office. Tel: 021 880 1444
Testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen are the sex hormones belonging both to males and females. These hormones, like the many others in our bodies, act as messengers and need to be kept in balance to ensure a healthy mind and body.
Hormonal balance is always the key when addressing symptoms that might arise from hormonal problems like pre-menstrual tension (PMS), infertility, and various perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms.
Every winter flu myths abound, leaving confusion in their wake. Dr Sandi Nye helps you sort out the facts from the fiction.
It’s that time of your year again and you are doing your best to give everybody who has a red nose and weepy eyes a wide berth. What, you wonder, is the best way to avoid getting the flu this winter? Well, a little knowledge goes a long way in staying healthy.
Want to join a yoga class but feel completely daunted by the thought of super-supple, lean yogis flanking your stiff, inflexible form during practices? Your worries are over with the arrival of Hotpod Yoga, a new, down-to-earth form of yoga for everyone.
Hotpod yoga aims to make you better equipped to tackle de-stressing a busy mind, releasing the cyclist’s hamstring, reviving the partied-out festival goer and re-aligning the child-bearing arm.
The textile industry has had an adverse effect on the environment. On the one hand it has created jobs for thousands, but it has impacted, and is continuing to impact, the environment in a negative way.
Producing textiles uses an extremely large amount of energy and water resources. This results in environmental pollution not only during production, but even afterwards when we continue to use these resources by washing our clothes in toxic washing powder and throwing old clothes away. The chemicals used during the growing, manufacturing and care of textiles are responsible for many health problems among people and for damage to Mother Earth as well.
It is our responsibility as human beings to replace, reduce or eliminate anything that might remotely affect the environment in a negative way. We are the only ones able to create this change and although the transition might cause social and economic unrest, it will ensure sustainability in the long run for every living thing on Earth.
THE PROBLEM‘Fast fashion’ leaves a deep and harsh pollution footprint, which is very hard to recover from. Low prices have lead to disposable clothing, but the impact that the disposal has on the environment is predominantly negative. Textile manufacturing facilities have become hazardous waste generators.
The manufacturing of polyester contributes to air pollution by releasing gas, causing respiratory disease. The chemicals in the wastewater produced during production contribute to water pollution and have possible carcinogenic properties. Synthetic fibres may be ‘economic’ to use for anybody interested in making a lot of money very quickly, but they are destroying the planet. With its high levels of emission and energy consumption, this non-renewable resource essentially becomes quite uneconomic to use.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONSMany people argue that the production of textiles made from natural fibres is better for the environment, but this is not always the case. Non-organic cotton requires copious amounts of fertilisers and pesticides during the growth stage and uses defoliants during manufacture with the emission of toxic fumes and dust during ginning (a process during manufacture where seeds and other impurities are separated from the cotton fibres). Cotton also requires an extremely large amount of water to grow, which contributes to drought.
Organic cotton might be free from pesticides and fertilisers, but it still requires large amounts of water to grow and keep the clothing prices low. It is usually exported to China to make use of the low labour costs, but at what cost? Poor working conditions and exploitation still govern the industry.
Work quality issues impact the textile industry on a large scale. Unreasonable work hours, fatigue, mistreatment of women, child labour, forced labour, harassment and abuse are the unpleasant conditions workers in the textile industry experience. Low wages are not enough to sustain even one person, let alone their families. These workers are expected to be highly skilled and trained, never receiving any type of valid or significant reward for their efforts and talents. Are we really getting anywhere by overlooking the exploitation of human beings just for the sake of having successful businesses?
THE REAL SOLUTIONEducation regarding the purchasing, use and disposal of clothing is of crucial importance. We need to understand that following trends and considering clothing to be disposable is not the mindset that would put the human race on the path of being self-sustainable. Somebody else's opinion of what is trendy is overruling the fact that the very thing that is keeping us alive is being destroyed. We are essentially investing in our deaths and the death of generations to come when we buy into fashion trends and fads.
The main solution is finding alternatives for existing raw materials, like hemp and organic cotton. Our resources for textiles should be renewable considering all aspects of the product life cycle. By using the least amount of energy possible and eliminating toxic substances and waste, we will create life with each product that we sell instead of death. Hemp meets all of these requirements.
Sustainable resource management and raising awareness is the only way forward. It is crucial to the survival of the textile industry. This can only be accomplished through an increase in demand for products that protect us in all ways. This increase in demand will be a result of understanding the importance of sustainability in the textile industry. Quality of life will improve with each garment sold, contributing to a well-functioning society.
WHAT CAN WE DO?Care for our clothing differentlyThe way that we look after our clothes needs to change. Washing and drying clothing at high temperatures results in large amounts of energy consumption. Try natural alternatives to washing powders and fabric softeners and set up your washing machine's outlet pipe to water your garden.
Support local designersBy supporting local designers we can decrease the demand for the ‘made in China’ products, putting a stop to the brutality of the working conditions and saving our local textile industry, which cannot compete with the low prices of products from overseas.
Question everythingAre the companies that you buy from transparent about where their clothing is being manufactured? Are your purchasing decisions contributing to the environment in a positive way? Who and what are you supporting when you buy from company A, B and C?
Investing in hemp and organic cottonOrganic cotton's ecological footprint is much lower than its counterpart. Hemp has emerged as the ultimate solution by having the lowest ecological footprint. • It requires much less water than cotton to grow. • It takes about 9 000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of cotton, whereas hemp only requires around 2 000 litres per kilogram. • Cotton also requires twice as much land to equal the productivity of hemp. • Hemp is 700% stronger than cotton, making it durable and economic to use. • It also requires no herbicides or pesticides.
Hemp is extremely comfortable to wear and is well suited to the South African climate in all its seasons.
INSPIRE OTHERSWe can certainly create change by doing more research and asking more questions. As we find the answers, we can offer more solutions for an industry that is seriously lacking in promoting environmental sustainability. It is time that we take the first step towards change and stand up for what is truly beneficial for our planet. Buying into consumerism is empty and short-lived. Sustainability is forever.
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