Getting a good night sleep is not only glorious; it is essential for our health. Most people experience an occasional night or two of sleeplessness due to stressful life situations. More serious is prolonged sleepless nights that leave you exhausted, and for some, the chronic tiredness is debilitating.
It is now well documented that sleepy drivers can be as dangerous as drunk drivers!
While men can suffer from insomnia too, it is more common in women. In fact, one of the main reasons patients come to see me is for insomnia. Around the age of menopause sleep issues increase for many women. Fluctuating hormones can be part of the problem.
Often, simple strategies will work including herbs, B vitamins, massage, chiropractic and acupuncture treatments. However, for those who have serious sleep disorders the simple things do not solve the problem. Over-the-counter medications and prescription medications are often over utilized and still don’t work for many people and if they do work, patients may feel groggy the next day. If simple remedies do not work then the question is, what is underlying the condition. Here are some of the possibilities.
- Sex Hormone imbalances including: female and male hormones
- Adrenal dysfunction or exhaustion: elevated or decreased cortisol levels
- Thyroid disease – hypothyroid and hyperthyroid can lead to insomnia
- Anxiety and depression – may be due to an imbalance of neurotransmitters.
- Poor nutritional balance
- Lack of exercise
- Digestive disorders – gluten intolerance and other problems of the digestive track
- Circadian rhythm problem
- SAD – Seasonal Affect Disorder may include insomnia
- Vitamin D and other nutritional deficiencies
- Gastric Reflux
- Sleep apnea
If you are having ongoing sleep problems, find a practitioner who will diagnosis the problem and work out a treatment plan to restore your sleep. For those of you who are reading this with propped up eyelids, there is an answer and a way to resolve your sleeplessness. It will take a good diagnostician and work on your part too.
Tips to help you sleep:
One of the most important things to consider is whether or not you are eating a balanced diet. Nutritional support should be the foundation of any treatment program for insomnia.
- Did you know the adrenal glands store more vitamin C than any other gland in the body? Humans, unlike most mammals do not make their own vitamin C and therefore must obtain vitamin C from the diet. Vitamin C is one nutrient that is essential for people suffering insomnia. 500 mg every 4 hours is important.
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day. Eat dinner 4-6 hours before bedtime. If you eat before bed avoid sugar unless it is an apple. Apples gently raise blood sugar.
- Avoid processed foods – cakes, cookies etc.
- Decrease caffeine intake – keep in mind caffeine is a drug. Start by cutting the amount you drink in half and stop drinking any caffeine after noon. Yep, I know you are using it to stay awake. Caffeine can be part of the vicious cycle I mentioned earlier.
- Avoid sugar drinks of any kind – fruit juice too. Read labels and look for the sugar in grams. 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. Now go look at some of the labels in your refrigerator. Even a drink such as Juice Squeeze can contain as much sugar as a Coke – a whopping 10 teaspoons.
30 Questions I ask my patients to help me sort out what might be causing the insomnia:
- How many hours of sleep do you get each night?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- How long does it take you to fall asleep?
- What time do you go to bed each night?
- Do you go to bed the same time every night, including weekends?
- Do you go to bed at the same time every night?
- What time do you get up in the morning?
- Do you get up at the same time every morning?
- Do you wake up with an alarm clock?
- Do you feel rested?
- Do you take naps during the day?
- If your sleep is interrupted what is causing the interruption? Hot flashes, animal in bed, children waking you, snoring partner, loud noises etc?
- How many times a night do you get up to urinate?
- Do you have trouble getting to sleep? If the answer is yes why do you think that is?
- If you wake during the night and you are unable to get to sleep, what is going on? Is your mind busy with a To Do list, or other stressful thoughts or are you simply awake?
- Do you think your sleeplessness is due to stress over something in your life? If so, can you name it?
- Do you remember your dreams?
- Are you a light sleeper?
- If you are a light sleeper what age did that begin?
- If you are having sleeping difficulties how long has this been so?
- If you have had problems in the past and resolved it, what helped you?
- Are you on any medications now for sleep?
- List all medications and doses (many times the side effect of insomnia may be due to a medication)
- List all supplements you are taking?
- Do you have gastric reflux?
- Do you have digestive problems? Bloating, excessive gas, odorous gas, burping, diarrhea or constipation?
- Do you have a burning sensation in your stomach?
- Do you have stomach ulcers? Have you ever had stomach ulcers?
- What do you believe is the cause of your insomnia?
- Have you been diagnosed with sleep apnea?
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