More and more we keep hearing about the importance of sleep. Sleep dysfunction can be linked to a number of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, hormone dysfunction, and basically any chronic condition. Unfortunately, many people know the importance of sleep but that doesn’t mean that they are are able to sleep well. You should be able to go to bed, fall asleep within ten minutes, and not wake up until morning, after 7-8 hours. You should feel refreshed upon rising. Sound familiar? Not for most people.
The majority of people get too little sleep or poor quality of sleep. Many people do not go through the necessary 4 stages (plus REM) of sleep to keep them healthy. A sleep study may tell you how you are (or aren’t ) sleeping, but often it does little to address the issue. Medications such as Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta or herbs such as kava kava or valerian may help you sleep, but if you need them, you really need to investigate why you can’t get the adequate sleep you need on our own. If you’re addicted to melatonin (the sleep hormone made by your pineal gland) that is not addressing the problem. Taking any hormone for a prolonged period without understanding why is not healthy.
CAN’T FALL ASLEEP?
This is most commonly due to high cortisol levels at night. Cortisol, one of the hormones secreted by the adrenal glands, should normally be low at night. High levels due to stress will keep you up. Cortisol and melatonin are inversely related to one another. So high cortisol levels mean suppressed melatonin levels, and that hormone needs to elevate at night to provide restful sleep. The stress can be emotional/mental, chemical/nutritional (too much sugar or caffeine are very common – even if you only consume caffeine in the early part of the day that can affect your sleep many hours later), as well as physical (working out too hard, pain & injuries).
ALWAYS WANTING TO SLEEP?
This could be from an adrenal or thyroid issue, carbohydrate intolerance, an undiagnosed , immune system problems, or an energy production problem (lack of the proper nutrition to make energy – ATP). Often people are more toxic then they are actually tired. Tired is more of a “lack of something” whereas a toxicity will make you feel tired. Toxicity can be driven from external chemicals or internal chemicals such as hormones. Insulin from too many carbohydrate foods will make you toxic too. Not eating often and/or not consuming enough protein will make you ammonia toxic – this is very common actually. Ammonia is a byproduct of protein breakdown when protein is converted into sugar to be used for energy. Unhealthy digestive flora will produce ammonia byproducts too. Ammonia will overwhelm your system and make you feel unmotivated, sluggish, and very tired. It’s very common, especially in endurance athletes who don’t consume enough food or recover properly with the right amount of protein and carbohydrates.
WAKE UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AT THE SAME TIME?
Waking up in the middle of the night at a specific time and always at that time has a lot to do with the acupuncture meridian system 24-hour clock. For example, 3am to 5am is the time for the lung meridian to be more active. Constantly waking up during that time could very well be due to something irritating the lungs – poor air quality, lung congestion, smoking, etc. Waking up earlier than you’d like, say at 5:30am, and you can’t get back to sleep, is related to the large intestine. This could be due to something you ate, or shouldn’t be eating. The most common time someone wakes up at night is between 1-3am as this is when the liver is most active. As mentioned above, the liver can become toxic quickly for a number of reasons – caffeine, hormones, histamine from a food allergy, ammonia from overtraining or an improper diet, and of course medications.
WAKING UP THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT? TOSSING & TURNING?
Provided you don’t have all your pets on your bed, this is usually due to spikes from the adrenal gland hormone cortisol, a result of too much emotional, nutritional, or physical stress. The number one nutritional stress I would say is too much sugar, a close second is caffeine, even if you only drink coffee/caffeine it in the morning. Imbalances in blood sugar stability is a major stressor to your nervous system. If your blood sugar drops at night that will create a stress response that may wake you up. To combat this you need to become a better fat burner.
WAKING UP TO URINATE?
This is not normal; not even once to the bathroom. It’s from the hormone aldosterone, and it can be a sign of adrenal dysfunction.
WAKING UP TIRED?
This could be from all the waking up or could be from a low thyroid function or low adrenal function.
This is most often caused by congestion and/or a weight issue (overfat). Many times the congestion is a result of a food allergy, a fat metabolism issue, or unfriendly yeast/bacteria/fungus living in the digestive tract creating excessive mucous. Too much sugar can be the culprit, because that will make a person gain weight and it is the fuel (food) for all those unhealthy critters that want to nest in your gut.
TEETH GRINDING (BRUXISM)?
This is usually reported by your significant other, or your dentist when he/she tells you you’re wearing your teeth down and prescribes a night guard. The number one reason for grinding your teeth is too much stress and close to second is bruxism due to a medication. Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that when you grind your teeth at night it is around three times more force than what you are possibly able to do while you’re awake? That’s amazing. Remember, a night guard saves your teeth, but it actually doesn’t fix the grinding – which can still result in jaw (TMJ) problems, headaches, neck pain, and other ailments. Women – your TMJ is loaded with estrogen receptors which is why more women have TMJ problems than men. If you’re producing too much estrogen, not properly detoxifying estrogen, or taking estrogen (hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills), you’re much more likely to have a TMJ problem and bruxism!
NEUROTRANSMITTERS AND SLEEP
Many of the medications to help with sleep problems are directed towards neurotransmitters. The drugs Ambien and Lunesta are used to stimulate the neurotransmitter GABA. GABA is the inhibitory (calming neurotransmitter) of the central nervous system. Therefore it makes sense that this will help with sleep other GABA drugs are used for anxiety or nerve pain (many people taking neurotin or Lyrica for fibromyalgia). But ultimately the goal should to understand why you need these drugs to fall asleep. There can be a number of reasons why someone is GABA deficient – ammonia toxicity, Magnesium or B6 deficeicncy, or an excess in stress. If someone is pumping out stress neurotranmitters (Nor-Adrenalin and Adrenalin) all the time then they will have a relatively low GABA. Everything with hormones and neurotransmitters is all about balance. Also GABA and progesterone work synergistically. Many women have low progesterone levels often driven from too much stress. Therefore if you have sleep issues, PMS, or painful periods there is a good chance you have a progesterone imbalance.
Glycine is another neurotransmitter that acts as a calmer to the system. Glycine deficiencies are often driven from ammonia toxicity, methylation problems, or connective tissue damage.
Serotonin and Dopamine levels can affect sleep as well. Low dopamine has been linked to restless leg syndrome and low serotonin can cause anxiety.
WHAT ABOUT MELATONIN?
The function of the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin, is very important for sleep. While all the other hormonal glands turn themselves down at night for a rest, your pineal wakes up. You can easily measure melatonin levels as well as cortisol levels via saliva through certain labs. Many people take high doses of melatonin for extended periods of time. This is not a good idea – you’ll throw off your hormonal balance. I consider a high does to be over 1mg of melatonin and an extended period of time to be more than 3 days. A lot of people take over 3mg of melatonin for months, even years. Not a good idea. Figuring out why you’re not sleeping is a good idea.
CREATE A GOOD SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
Help turn your pineal on at night by eliminating all light sources from your room, including most alarm clocks (cover it up). Also recommended is removing all electronic devices from your bedroom – specifically TVs and computers. Those electromagnetic waves can disrupt hormones. So no TV or laptop in bed and also have the room as dark as possible.
You can see that there can be many causes of sleep disturbance. Hopefully, you are not reading this late at night when you should be sleeping. Understand that there is usually a “why” to your issue and I encourage to work with a professional that will help you dig for those answers.
Many of the concepts presented in this article are from Dr. Gangemi’s website (Dr. Gangemi.com)
About the Author:
MEET DR. COOLEY
He is a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic who specializes in treating individuals through the identification of neurological stressors. Once the stressor has been identified, he then trys to eliminate that stressor by the most conservative means. He applies a holistic treatment that attempts to treat the person and not the condition or diagnosis.
In order to accomplish the above statement he utilizes a number of assessments (Patient History, Lab Work, etc.) and treatment techniques. However, his main diagnostic tool is Applied Kinesiology and the Manual Muscle Test.
Applied Kinesiology allows him to look at each patient individually. He prides himself on spending time with each patient while at the same trying to find out “why” a specific problem exists. For each patient the “why” can be very different and it requires him to be well versed in a number of different topics.
Cooley Natural Health Solutions
1515 Kensington Ave. Buffalo, NY 14215
716-253-6548 x210 Fax: 716-768-0428 firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Hours: Monday & Wednesday: 1pm — 7pm Tuesday: 7am — 1pm Friday: 9am — 5pm Saturday & Thursday: by Appointment Only