Insomnia effects millions of us every year. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, Americans are sleeping about 2 hours less a night over the past 40 years. Generally, 7-9 hours a night is recommended. Weight gain? Brain fog? Hormone imbalance? Poor immunity? Insomnia could be the culprit, when our ‘brain rejuvenation time’ is lost. Many OTC and prescription sleep medicines don’t work, or have serious long-term side effects. None of them correct the underlying causes.
Here are common causes and insightful remedies for insomnia, whether the issue is falling asleep or staying asleep (it may be both).
FALLING ASLEEP - Assuming you don’t drink caffeine at night, or are having side effects from prescription medicines, many cases are due to:
1) Excess cortisol. The stress hormone. Stress can be mental/emotional, biochemical, or physical. Either way, cortisol stimulates the hippocampus (brain processing center) and keeps us alert and awake.
2) Blood sugar imbalance. Excessive sugar consumed at night or throughout the day.
3) Too much light in the bedroom.
4) Too much stimulation (mental or physical activity) before bed.
5) Not enough daylight/sunlight exposure.
6) Insufficient exercise during the day.
7) Low levels of serotonin.
8) Brain and/or Gut Inflammation.
For the above issues, consider (each action may effect multiple causes):
1) Herbal Adaptogens: holy basil, magnolia bark extract & ashwaganda. L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea can be very helpful. A favorite formulas is *Cortisol Calm. Don’t exercise late at night - although any exercise is better than none.
2) Avoid all sweets and refined foods, including flours (pasta, breads, crackers, muffins, croissants, white rice, cake, chips, tortillas, roti, etc), sodas, candy, chocolate, juices, ice cream, etc. for at least 2 days. If this is too challenging, at least stop these after 2pm. Whole fresh fruit is OK. About 10-20 minutes before bed, eat a small serving (½ fist-sized) of protein only, such as raw nuts/seeds, or 1 piece of non fat organic string cheese or a slice of organic turkey. It may take a couple nights to notice, but if helpful, it’s a blood sugar issue.
3 & 5) Go for 20+ minutes of daily, direct sunlight exposure, without wearing glasses. The most important times are sunrise and sunset to take advantage of the orange wavelengths of light! (other times are better than none at all). Keep your bedroom dark when sleeping. This helps your pineal gland secrete melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep. Close the blinds, turn off the computer, dim any alarm clock display, and turn off all lights. These help balance the circadian rhythm.
Try *Liquid Melatonin. Start at 1-2mg, 20-30 minutes before bed. If no results in 2 nights, increase to 5 mg. If you take too much, you might feel groggy in AM. If it's going to work, you'll notice it within a few nights.
4) Avoid all TV, computer activities (social media, games, online searching and checking email), video games and smartphone for at least 2 hours before bed. JUST SAY NO. These stimulate excitatory centers in the brain with unseen ‘blue light’. Use the NightShift app for Apple products; NightLight for others to block the brain-disrupting blue light. Keep any cordless phone, computer, router, or wi-fi component at least 15 feet away from your bed! EMF radiation is serious. If you use a smartphone for your alarm, put it in airplane mode before bed. For more science, go to www.lessemf.com, www.magdahavas.com, and www.createhealthyhomes.com. Got a smart meter? Neutralize it! Buy a shield at www.smartmeterguard.com. This is MAJOR!
6) Exercise is key to re-establish normal circadian rhythms (bio-clock), as is sunlight. Try not to exercise at night. A great way to work on multiple mechanisms is go for an am or post-lunch walk, outdoors, without sunglasses, in the sunshine.
1,7,8) Get grounded every day! This means bare feet on sand, grass, dirt, or cement, ideally at least 20 minutes. If too cold, buy a grounding mat. For more info, go to www.earthing.com. This could be your time for exercise or daylight/sunrise/sunset exposure time.
Try some *5-HTP, a building block for serotonin (a happy hormone) and melatonin, a sleep hormone. Start at 50 mg, 30 minutes before bed. Increase to 200mg in 50 mg intervals every few days if needed. If no change in a week, it won’t work.
More helpful options:
Take a warm Epsom salt bath (2-3 cups per tub), listen to classical music, or read a relaxing book (no action, drama or suspense).
Use essential oils! Consider any of the following: a few drops into an Epsom salt bath, diffuser on nightstand, rubbed into feet soles, or rub hands together, then rub onto pillow (optional: spray a few pumps on pillow – 5 drops per oz. of water in spray bottle). Best oils include: lavender, clary sage, ylang ylang, Roman chamomile, and jasmine.
Avoid known food allergies. Many people find success by eliminating common inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, corn, eggs, soy or others for 60 days. If you’ve not had an IgG blood test (NOT skin scratch), consider getting one, which eliminates guesswork. Correct a possible leaky gut/leaky brain barrier (requires an office visit and testing). These situations are significant causes for brain and neural inflammation, creating insomnia.
STAYING ASLEEP - This is often due to, besides those in Falling Asleep:
1) Hypoglycemia. See #2, above. This stabilizes blood sugar during the night. How? If you’re hypoglycemic during the day, we feel tired, brain fog, irritable or have a headache. During sleep, low glucose stimulates brain centers via catecholamines (adrenaline) and we awaken. The adrenals pump out adrenaline to break down liver and muscle glycogen to keep blood sugar levels up. Protein before bed keeps stabilizes sugar. If it’s the issue, you’ll feel better in 1-2 nights.
2) Liver/Gallbladder congestion. This does not mean pathology. According to Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, ‘stagnation’ or ‘congestion’ in these organs can cause waking from sleep, especially from 1-3 am. You may not have pain, jaundice or other symptoms typically seen with overt problems in the liver or gallbladder. Rather, see if the following basic steps can help reduce the stress or sluggishness in these areas. Consider:
OK, I've provided many amazing options to try. However, I realize many of us don't want to 'dig deep' and find the cause of our insomnia. We want the 'quick fix', a much as it pains me to admit it. If you've tried all the above options and they did not work, or you simply want to sleep without finding deeper roots of the problem, then this product is for you!
Try the amazing *INSOMNITOL capsules (Virtual Pharmacy code: INSM60). Most adults do well taking 2 caps, 15-30 minutes before bed. Stubborn cases may require 3-4 caps, but start at the lower dose. It's simply the best sleep support product we've ever experienced. Talk to your doctor first if you are taking any RX medicines.
To summarize this article, Ive personally seen these techniques work wonders for many years on my patients, and I hope they can help you too. Experiment and see what works best. Results may come quickly, or take some time. For cases requiring further investigation, a consultation with me is recommended.
*Products are available on our web Virtual Pharmacy at a 20% discount.
If you are a first-time visitor or a patient, a helpful resource guide is our web article titled 'Virtual Pharmacy Products & Ordering', located in the article section under our Learning Center (as are all our articles). It shows how to quickly set up your secure account, plus numerous product categories, complete with our most effective, lab-tested recommendations for various health topics.
1)Journal of Sleep Research, volume 16, Issue 4, p. 372-380. December 2007.
2)International Neurology: A Clinical Approach, by Robert P. Lisak, MD, and Daniel D. Truong, MD. Chapter 142, May 2002.
3)Holistic Nursing Practice, volume 25, Issue 5, p 266-269. September/October 2011.
4)Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival. T.S. Wiley and Brent Formby, PhD. 2001.
5)Textbook of Ayurveda – Fundamental Principles. Vasant Lad. 2002.