Insomnia and Other Sleep Disturbances
It is such a simple thing but so many of us don’t get enough sound, restful sleep. This is a time in which the body and mind regenerates itself. It should not be a time to short-change ourselves. Adults need eight hours of rejuvenating sleep every night. Many people say “I only need six.” Or “I never get more than five and am fine.” Researchers have found that this is not true. You may have gotten used to less sleep but under those conditions of reduced sleep time everyone performs significantly below their best functioning on mental tests, memory quizzes, perceptual accuracy, physical performance exams, nerve response times, and health status. Our immune system is weakened. We are more emotionally irritable. We often need drugs like caffeine to keep us awake. That also means that if you get five hours sleep one day of the week, sooner or later you will have to catch up on this sleep or else adverse health effects are likely, whether they are noticed or hidden. Teenagers need at least nine and one half hours of daily sleep.
It is natural for infants to sleep about 17 hours per day in two to four hour segments. From one year of age to the teen years hours of sleep decrease from 14 to 10, and these hours congregate more at night with just short daytime nap periods. Anything that disturbs these patterns disturbs health.
There is a supreme absurdity in taking artificial stimulants to keep you up at night when your natural body rhythms are encouraging you to rest.
There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Avoid night jobs. The economic benefits are seldom worth the adverse effect on one’s health. Swing shifts are the worst. Even temporary nighttime wakefulness, like pulling “all-nighters” for school has considerable disadvantages. Ability to concentrate, attention spans, thinking accuracy, are all adversely affected. Not to mention poor coordination leading to accidents, depressed immunity leading to infections, heightened emotional irritability leading to decreased performance in any endeavor.
There are 500,000 motor vehicle accidents with 8,000-10,000 deaths
in the U.S. per year caused by sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation and biological rhythm disturbance can so adversely effect intellectual performance that it is infinitely wiser to plan a study schedule that respects biological laws. We should also mention silence as an aid to sleep. Any excessive noise disturbs sleep. Providing a bedroom that is insulated from external background noise is usually helpful in sleeping more soundly. This can be more than a minor problem for those light sleepers who have partners who snore. Earplugs are often the answer.
Overall, we seldom recognize that sleep is a major component of our total well-being.
If you have trouble sleeping at night there are many natural solutions to better sleep.
Different Types of Sleep Disturbances
There are temporary and less serious types of sleep disturbances. There are also the more chronic and more difficult to treat forms of insomnia. Discovering which type you are dealing with is essential to its resolution.
So called Situational Insomnia is due to some recent temporary external factors that disrupt our brain from relaxing into a quiet state. These external factors can include a new aggravation of pain from a recent injury; excessive worry about a recent stressful event; noise invading the bedroom; different and disruptive sleeping arrangements due to traveling; excessive light in the bedroom; consuming afternoon or evening caffeine; eating too late in the evening; jet lag; and change in medications. (At the end of this article review the list of medications that have been found to cause insomnia to make sure that your medications are not causing your problems.)
There are some easy fixes for these temporary disturbances. Make sure the bedroom is dark and quiet. Shades for the windows can be a solution. Some people do well with light blocking eye masks. Some who are particularly light sensitive even find benefits to wearing sunglasses a few hours before bed…prepping the brain that nightfall is coming. Not using the computer late in the evening can also help since the artificial light that comes from the screen can confuse the brain into thinking it is daytime. Also computer use hypes up thinking activation in the mind which can disturb sleep onset. Earplugs can effectively quiet an otherwise noisy bedroom. Don’t drink caffeinated beverages in the afternoon or evening. Don’t smoke. Don’t eat for four hours before bedtime. Pets should not sleep in your bedroom or on your bed if they disturb your sleep. Work with your health professionals to adequately control your pain so it does not disturb your sleep. Lack of sleep will aggravate pain perception so it can be a vicious cycle. Use other recommendation in the class “Harmonious Biological Rhythms” of the Stress Management Course.
Using over-the-counter sleep medications or prescription sleeping pills is NOT a wise choice for dealing with many temporary, or for that matter, chronic sleep disturbances. These drugs are often harmful to proper brain function. They often deplete brain neurotransmitters. Many can also be addictive. It is much better to employ intelligent lifestyle changes to resolve the cause of the problems.
Chronic Insomnia is sometimes caused by some underlying disease such as cancer, hyperthyroidism, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea or kidney disease so it is always important for you to have your primary care physician rule out these causes of insomnia that are not situational and due to external environmental or lifestyle factors.
Absent any underlying disease process the best way to deal with persistent sleep disturbance patterns is to engage in a step-by-step brain neurotransmitter balancing program using Monoamine Transporter Optimization. This entails a precise nutritional supplementation program to restore optimal brain biochemistry which will support high energy during the day and sound, restorative sleep at night.
Stress, poor diet, neurotoxins such as pesticides and harmful chemicals, head trauma, and many medications and recreational drugs can cause severe brain injury and dysfunction. To restore the brain back to more optimal function, higher levels of nutrients are needed as precursors to the chemical messengers that support the electrical activity of the brain such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, GABA, glycine, melatonin….
Melatonin in particular has been associated with sleep. We even see health food stores selling melatonin as a nutritional sleep aid. Unfortunately, taking oral doses of melatonin, while occasionally helping one sleep in the short term creates a chemical feedback loop in the brain shutting down the nerves’ own production of melatonin and in the long run this often makes the sleep disturbance worse.
With the protocols we use with patients we find it wiser, more scientifically sound, and longer-lasting to provide the nutrients such as 5-HTP…its balancing amino acid, tyrosine, and its cofactors for the production and stabilization of serotonin and norepinephrine which then converts and regulates melatonin. It is better to work nearer the source of the problem. This produces more stable, consistent, and cost-effective results.
If your sleep disturbances are persistent and not related to temporary external factors alone and you are effectively working with your primary care physician to deal with any underlying health issues we can assist you in optimizing your brain biochemistry with a scientifically designed nutritional and herbal supplementation program that is right for you. Go to our Nutrition Protocols web page and click on the relevant files for more information. Call for a consultation today 707-566-7396.
Medications That Can Cause Insomnia
Review the following list of medications to see if you are taking a drug known to cause insomnia. This is only a partial list. If you need any of these medications for your long-term health it is essential that you support your brain biochemistry with an optimal level of nutritional supplementation to compensate for the adverse effects of the drugs. We can help with a nutritional program that will fit your particular needs. Everyone has different nutritional needs and we can use lab tests to determine those specific individual needs.