Treat Your Insomnia Naturally
- NIH estimates more than 70 million Americans are affected by sleep problems.
- Because of long term side-effects sleep meds, even OTC, are not the answer.
- Some serious health conditions can lead to insomnia and must be ruled-out.
- Most sleep issues fall into the category of HPA axis hyperactivity.
- HPA axis allows you to combat stressors in your life.
- Dysregulation of your HPA axis can lead to irritability, anxiety, and/or insomnia.
- This disorder can be diagnosed with an HPA axis salivary and urinary test.
- Armed with this information a knowledgeable doctor can restore balance once again to bring about restful sleep.
If you suffer with insomnia you know there is no greater hell on earth! This condition is extremely personal to me, for I experienced a period of my life ruled by insomnia. I learned quite quickly that sleep meds are not the answer. I’m happy to say that I now enjoy the wonderful rewards of a good night sleep. Because of my experience I have been able to help great number of patients conquer insomnia naturally and regain restful sleep and better health. If you’re not sleeping well give us a call now at 763-862-7100
Why Conventional Drug Treatment Options Are Downright Dangerous!
Despite the horrific toll insomnia takes on an individual's life, conventional drug treatment options are far from ideal. A class of sleep drugs called sedative/hypnotics, such as Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata have taken America by storm. These drugs were originally designed for short term use only, no more than 1 to 2 weeks. A research study revealed that these prescription sleep aids had more than a threefold increase risk of death. (Kripke 2012). Using sedative/hypnotics, like Ambien, for more than four weeks can damage the stages of sleep as well as cause addiction, actual physical dependence and withdrawal once you stop taking them.
Then there are the “safe” over-the-counter antihistamine sleep aids. Or are they? These over-the-counter drugs, such as Benadryl, Sominex, Unisom, Nytol, Tylenol PM., Excedrin PM. contain either diphenhydramine or doxylamine These drugs block the action of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in waking us up and keeping us vigilant. However, acetylcholine is the primary neurotransmitter of learning and memory. Therefore, blocking acetylcholine can reduce our ability to learn and form memory.
People with Alzheimer's disease show a marked reduction of acetylcholine and acetylcholine secreting nerve cells. New studies now show that taking these over-the-counter sleep aids for equivalent of three years or more is associated with a 54 percent higher dementia risk. So hopefully you are convinced that sleep is vital for good health and that conventional drug therapy is not the answer for your chronic insomnia!
So, then what are you to do? Chronic insomnia will not respond to a simple pill for an ill approach. As a Functional Neurologist who specializes in the care of insomnia, I can tell you that it is a complex issue with multiple factors that must all be addressed properly to get healthy, restorative sleep. I found that in overcoming chronic insomnia you must take an individualized holistic approach and treat the underlying factors.
What Causes Sleep Problems:
There are some serious health conditions that can lead to insomnia, which must the identified and addressed, such as obstructive sleep apnea, other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and dementia, and endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism. These conditions are identified in my clinic through neurological examination and laboratory testing. However, most sleep issues fall into the category of HPA axis hyperactivity. This a fancy way of saying stress induced insomnia. The HPA axis is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal hormonal axis that allows you to combat stressors in your life.
What Is the HPA Axis and How Does It Cause Sleep Problems
When we are confronted by forces in our life from home, family and work that pushes us to our limits or overwhelm us we persevere through our HPA axis. The healthier our HPA axis is the better we can bend and recover without breaking. However, over time the health of the HPA axis can begin to deteriorate leaving us open to mood and sleep dysregulation, with common symptoms such as irritability, nervousness, anxiety, depression, insomnia and eventually chronic disease.
It’s called our HPA axis because when we are under stress our hypothalamus sends a message to our sympathetic (Fight or Flight) nervous system and to the pituitary which organizes a full body response to the stress primarily by sending a message to our adrenal glands. The adrenal glands armor the body and brain with an immediate output of the catecholamine adrenaline, followed by the hormone response of cortisol. This stress response cranks up our physiology increasing our vigilance, heart rate, rate of breathing, sweating and inhibiting relaxation and digestion.
If this HPA axis stress response keeps happening at an increased rate of activation and/or intensity, over time this leads to physiology that no longer has the luxury of peacefully quieting down into a restful sleep. You are cranked up inside whether you know it or not. How do you find out if you are now suffering from dysregulation of your HPA axis leading to irritability, anxiety, and/or insomnia?
How You Diagnose an HPA Axis Problem to Fix Sleep Issues:
A thorough history by a knowledgeable doctor, followed by an HPA axis salivary and urinary test. This test takes four measurements of your salivary cortisol levels at 8 AM, noon, 4 PM and one before bed along with a melatonin measurement. This test also does a urinary neurotransmitter study which measures levels of your excitatory catecholamines such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (adrenaline). It also measures your inhibitory neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA. The neurotransmitter GABA is one of the most important for sleep.
One of the more common test patterns with insomnia is a stressed-out individual with dysregulated cortisol levels, generally high at night when it should be low, increased catecholamine such as norepinephrine or adrenaline, and a decreased ability to produce adequate levels of Melatonin and GABA for sleep.
How You Rebalance a Dysregulated HPA Axis and Find Restful Sleep:
Armed with this information a knowledgeable doctor can restore balance once again to bring about restful sleep. This is done through the utilization of nutritional support utilizing amino acid precursors for needed neurotransmitters along with vitamin mineral cofactors, possibly a timed released melatonin, specific herbs that support GABA and help to reduce cortisol, mindfulness training and sleep hygiene training. One of the very best treatment modalities I have found to restore restful sleep is that of traditional acupuncture. There are numerous scientific studies supporting this along with my own clinical success.
The Role Hormones and Light Play in Sleep Problems
Also, the occurrence of sleep disturbances in women rises to 40 percent three years after menopause. (Woods, 2005). Restoring natural hormone balance in menopausal women and those in perimenopause, with bioidentical natural hormones, has been shown to significantly improve their sleep.
It is also vital to work with light therapy. Our natural sleep rhythm is actually governed by light. In a more natural environment, we are exposed to natural light in the morning that stimulates our melatonin cycle and a reduction of stimulatory light in the evening. We can replicate this by using a 10,000-lux therapy light in the morning and a reduction of stimulatory light in the evening by wearing special tinted glasses.
FAQs About Insomnia:
#1 How Can Functional Medicine Treat Insomnia?
Functional medicine helps identify and address underlying causes such as stress or poor diet and lifestyle habits, all of which can hinder restful sleep. Treatment may include dietary changes, supplementation, herbal remedies, stress-management techniques, exercise, acupuncture and more. There are numerous studies showing the benefit of acupuncture in the treatment of insomnia.
#2 What Lifestyle Changes Can Help With Insomnia?
Reducing stress, avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, exercising regularly, and creating a calming environment for sleep can all improve sleep quality.
#3 Can Diet Affect Insomnia?
Diet plays an important role in regulating the body’s natural circadian rhythm and promoting restful sleep. Eating nutrient-rich whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats can improve energy levels and boost serotonin production, both of which are necessary for good quality sleep.
Foods that are high in magnesium – such as leafy greens, nuts, and seeds – can help the body relax and wind down at night. Tart cherries are a good sleep-promoting food. They are high in melatonin, which helps regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Lastly, warm milk is a classic sleep-inducing food. It contains the amino acid tryptophan which can help induce relaxation and calmness.
#4 What Supplements Might Treat Insomnia?
Certain nutritional supplements may help improve your quality of sleep. These supplements include vitamin D, magnesium, melatonin, and L-theanine.
#5 What Herbs Might Treat Insomnia?
Valerian root has been used as an insomnia treatment in herbal medicine for centuries. Chamomile is another commonly used herb that comes from a daisy-like plant and contains anti-anxiety properties that can help with sleep troubles.
Ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic herb, may reduce stress levels and aid in better sleep quality. Other beneficial herbs include passion flower, hops, and lemon balm – all of which have calming effects on the body and mind.
#6 How Does Cortisol Affect Sleep?
Cortisol is a hormone that is produced by our adrenal glands. It plays a role in the body's stress response and helps to regulate blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and energy production. Cortisol also plays a role in sleep. High levels of cortisol are associated with difficulty falling and staying asleep. This is because cortisol suppresses the body's production of melatonin, which is necessary for good quality sleep. By reducing stress and managing cortisol levels through lifestyle changes and supplements, it may be possible to improve sleep quality.
#7 Can Blood Sugar Levels Impact Sleep?
High blood sugar levels can lead to snoring and restless sleep. Low blood sugar levels can cause fatigue and drowsiness. For those with diabetes, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is critical for a good night's sleep. Fluctuations in blood sugar can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and cause low quality sleep. Exercising regularly, healthy eating, and managing your medications is key for good sleep health in people with diabetes.
#8 Is There a Relationship Between Histamine Intolerance and Sleep?
Histamine production can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. When histamine levels are high, it can be difficult to fall and stay asleep. Reducing your intake of histamine-rich foods and taking supplements that can reduce histamine levels may improve sleep quality.
#9 What Happens When You Don't Get Enough Sleep?
Sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on all areas of your life. It can affect work, school, social activities, and relationships. It can cause fatigue and drowsiness, impair judgement and cognitive function, and lead to mood swings and irritability. In extreme cases, sleep deprivation can cause hallucinations or seizures. That is why it is important to get adequate sleep on a regular basis.
#10 Can Insomnia Cause Hormone Disruption?
Sleep deprivation can cause many hormonal changes, including increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are responsible for the body's stress response. When they are elevated, it can be difficult to fall and stay asleep. In addition, sleep deprivation can lead to a reduction in our body's production of melatonin, which is necessary for good quality sleep.
#11 How Can Minnesota Winters Affect Sleep?
Winter in Minnesota is traditionally known for cold temperatures and plenty of snow. While the January lows can often reach as low as 12° Fahrenheit (-11° Celsius), the July highs can soar to 74° Fahrenheit (23° Celsius). Along with snow, winter in Minnesota may come with a variety of other weather conditions such as freezing rain, ice, and sleet. No matter what type of precipitation or temperature you might find yourself in, it’s always important to be prepared when it comes to surviving a Minnesota winter.
The cold weather can make it difficult to stay warm throughout the night, leaving many feeling tired and unrested in the morning. Your body might be expending more energy trying to keep a stable temperature while you sleep, meaning that you may wake up feeling exhausted. Not getting enough sleep can leave you feeling fatigued and sluggish throughout the day, making it difficult to focus or even enjoy your activities.
What You Need To Do Next:
Insomnia is a condition I love to see come into my clinic because we are so highly successful with it. If you are suffering from lack of sleep and/or anxiety, please do not hesitate to give our clinic a call at 763-862-7100 and set up a free consultation to discuss your condition.
About Dr. Greg Fors
Dr. Greg Fors, D.C. is a Board-certified Neurologist (IBCN), certified in Applied Herbal Sciences (NWHSU) and acupuncture. As the clinic director of the Pain and Brain Healing Center in Blaine Minnesota he specializes in a functional medicine approach to fibromyalgia, fatigue, brain fog, digestive disorders, depression and anxiety. He is a sought after international lecturer for various post-graduate departments and state associations. Dr. Fors is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “Why We Hurt” available through booksellers everywhere.