A number of sleep treatments focus on providing rapid sedation or sleep. These treatments may include pharmacological preparations or herbal preparations. Behavior treatments, on the other hand, are based on the knowledge that problems with sleep are inseparable from difficulties with the sleep wake cycle, so they offer suggestions on how insomnia suffers can re-arrange their daily schedule to best induce night time sleep. Unfortunately, most people find the behavioral techniques too exacting. Many insomnia victims are so pressured by lack of time to complete their daily responsibilities that they fail to follow through on the suggestions.
Other approaches to insomnia seek to tonify the sleep'”wake cycle using herbal preparations, and they are gaining in popularity. Some herbs, such as Gingko biloba and Ginseng, are specifically known as tonifiers. These remedies purify the blood and energize the body. Users live more intensely during the day and sleep better at night.
Scientific research into the circadian cycle demonstrates that daytime activity plays an important role in setting the timing of our internal sleep clock. The circadian rhythm is based on the inflow of light from the retina to brain centers that regulate sleep. Just a few short hours after sunset, a brain center known as the SCN evaluates signals coming in from the retina and determines that the day has ended. In response, it sends signals to the tiny brain nucleus called the pineal gland. The pineal (pine cone shaped) secretes the hormone melatonin which causes drowsiness and desire to sleep.
Melatonin starts to rise a couple of hours after sunset and is called “dim light melatonin,” and is essential in helping the body prepare for sleep. Importantly, day time exposure to lighting has an effect on the timing of dim melatonin release. Research has shown that “students who experience disruption in lighting schemes in the morning subsequently experience disruption in sleeping patterns.” While short naps during the day, known as “power naps,” have not been shown to impinge negatively on the sleep wake cycle and, in fact, can increase productivity, longer periods of day time sleep can have a deleterious effect on night time rest. People who are depressed, for example, and sleep a lot during the day, may have trouble getting productive sleep at night because their whole cycle is reset.
Some healers recommend using herbal sleep preparations that strengthen the Qi, the body’s vital energy so as to provide healthy daytime activity. Users of these types of herbal products start to have more active days that translate into a healthy sleep-wake cycle and proper refreshing sleep. Some people taking these types of remedies experience restlessness and inability to sleep for a night or two. However, once the sleep-wake cycle is readjusted almost all users report a decrease in insomnia symptoms.