Insomnia is habitual sleeplessness. In other words, the inability to sleep at night. In contrast, hypersomnia is excessive sleepiness during the day. Some insomnia patients cannot get sleep either during the day or at night whereas some others get hypersomnia during the day and insomnia at night.
The latter condition is a wrong habit. But the former condition is serious for health. Insomnia reduces the efficiency of mental activity and makes one susceptible to fatigue, weakness, and infection. It suppresses the immune system and increases the blood pressure.
Sleep is our natural condition. In order to be wakeful, we must be stimulated by sensory experiences, muscular activity, and chemicals such as caffeine. Without such stimulation, we stay asleep.
Control Of Sleep By The Brain
It may not be exactly correct to say that the brain has some sleep centers. The brain has regions for wakefulness. In order of importance, they are in the brain stem, in the thalamus and in the hypothalamus. Wakefulness results from the enhanced activity of these regions, while sleep represents a lack of adequate brain excitation.
Loss of sleep is due to a number of causes. Mental overactivity, worries, tension, and anxiety and re-emergence of agonizing experiences stored and buried in the Subconscious or Unconscious are the major cause of insomnia.
Emotional stress is a cause of insomnia. Any sort of worries, tension, and anxiety can affect the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal medulla. Periods of bereavement, grief, loss of job, family problems and any type of intense mental agony and stress causes insomnia.
Sometimes a person suffers from insomnia without cerebral over-work and emotional stress. Many agonizing experiences, dreadful and unpleasant, rise to the surface of the mind. They had been stored in the Subconscious or the Unconscious and very often deeply buried. Some current situations and circumstances may provoke the re-emergence of these buried emotions. The result is sustained wakefulness and loss of sleep.
The pineal gland is situated inside the brain. It is the biological clock of the body. It regulates the biological rhythms through its hormone ‘melatonin’. This hormone-secretion is decreased in old age. Melatonin-deficiency is a potent cause of insomnia.
Chronic Insomnia Treatment
Yoga Asanas have a calming effect on the cerebrum through the optimization of the secretion of acetylcholine*. The Nadi-Shodhana Pranayama, with or without retention of breath, calms the cerebral cortex and balances the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system. Meditation, in any of the meditational yogic postures with chin-mudra or jnana-mudra, has a great therapeutic value in chronic insomnia treatment.
Sitting in vajrasana, with nose-tip-gazing, is very much helpful in the restoration of sleep. The combination of vajrasana, khechari-mudra, and Ujjayi pranayama is beneficial. Savasana and ajapa japa, combinedly done, would definitely give benefits. Any yoga technique that induces relaxation is helpful.
One has to avoid over-working the brain and give some rest to it by relaxing in the midst of work. To get rid of worries and anxieties or at least to minimize them, one has to change one’s philosophy of life. If some problems are unsolved or partly solved, bear with them and do not recognize them as problems.
Live a detached spiritual life. If you are a believer in God, surrender to Him, and accept His verdict without grudge and grumblings. Live for some nobler purpose. Do not magnify your suffering and agony and accept them as a part of life.
Yoga-Nidra for the Treatment of Chronic Insomnia
Yoga-nidra can cure chronic insomnia due to any of the three major causes. Whereas the other treatments are not very efficacious to cure insomnia due to the re-emergence of agonizing subconscious or unconscious impressions, yoga-nidra is the specific treatment for this. The following sankalpa is suggested.
“All the agonizing samskaras* are erased from my subconscious and unconscious. I am free from tension, worries, and anxieties. My pineal gland is secreting enough melatonin. I will have sound and deep sleep.”
*Acetylcholine – It is an organic chemical that functions in the brain and body of many types of animals, including humans, as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other cells.
*Samskara – Karmic impressions stored in the Subconscious and the Unconscious.
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