- Leslie Deems LAc.
Do you suffer from Insomnia?
Sleep is one of the most important contributors to our overall health and well being.
8 hours per night is the suggested dose of zzz's for adults. Are you getting 8 consecutive hours of sleep per night? If not, this article might shed some light as to why AND what to do about it. I often tell my patients the three most important things to have a handle on in your life are: eating, sleeping, and pooping! Eating nutritious healthy food three times per day, sleeping 8 hours per night, and pooping at least one time per day.
One of the chief complaints that I hear over and over again is patients who are unable to sleep well. This can present as difficult to fall asleep, difficult to stay asleep, or both. Believe it or not, it is important to make this distinction to better diagnose what is behind your lack of sleep. Below I break it down, making it a little easier to figure out what is behind YOUR inability to sleep and how you can best help yourself.
Difficult to Fall Asleep:
This is usually a hypercortisol issue. Cortisol is an adrenal glucocorticoid. It helps your body to handle stress and glucose. It's normal for our body to produce cortisol but imperative that it be in certain amounts at specific times. When in balance, the body produces higher levels of cortisol in the morning and lower levels at night. People who have a difficult time falling asleep may have higher than normal production of cortisol at night.
Treatment focuses on lowering cortisol levels by addressing the HPA axis, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Adrenal support is given in supplement form in am and 12 noon. Acupuncture is used to tonify Kidneys and help shift the body from operating in a sympathetic state to a parasympthetic state.
Difficult to Stay Asleep:
This is related to a blood sugar imbalance. The body wakes you up with a burst of cortisol, due to low blood sugar levels, which then has the individual lying in bed with a very active mind. In some schools of thought, it is said that the subconscious wakes you up in order to help you resolve an emotional issue. The idea is that the person is still in conflict over one or more issues and the body is assisting you in resolving this issue by waking you up. If you are someone who wakes every 15-60 minutes in a night, sleep apnea should be ruled out and a glucose blood test should be ordered in order to check for diabetes.
Treatment for difficulty in staying asleep includes 1) making sure the person is eating enough protein. If you are a vegetarian, you might want to re-think this decision or at the very least make sure that you are getting adequate amounts of whole vegetarian protein. I recommend eating higher protein meals before bed and even nibbling on nuts or seeds upon waking.
2) Getting enough fat is also important. Look at supplementing with essential fatty acids; omega 3, 6, and 9. Add to your diet, coconut oil, flax oil, ghee, avocado oil and avocado fruit, and extra virgin olive oil. Supplements that help balance blood sugar like chromium picolinate or that combine vitamins, minerals, and glandular support can be beneficial. 3) Sorry to say that those of you enjoying alcoholic drinks in the evening or before bed are running risk of low blood sugar during the night. If you are having an alcoholic beverage before bed, try eating a small high protein snack before bed. Better yet, don't drink before bed and see if you are still waking in the middle of the night.
Your body has a balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters working for you all the time. These regulate our mood, how we respond to overall stress, how well we sleep, and much more. For example, serotonin is a one of the main neurotransmitters that regulate the sleep/wake cycle. Dopamine is said to control the sleep cycle and if you do not get enough sleep, your dopamine levels drop.
Treatment consists of supplementation for where the body needs assistance; for example, 5-HTP increases serotonin production. Herbs that help minimize anxiety and feelings of stress can be used accordingly. One of Chinese Medicine's claim to fame, so to speak, is the balancing of hormones, so again, acupuncture and herbs are a great tool for balancing overall body hormone levels.