Did you know that you could be getting the full 8 hours of sleep a night as recommended by doctors and still have insomnia? When thinking of insomnia, most people think of the tossing and turning, and then staring at the ceiling in bed for hours that is commonly depicted in movies. However, the definition of insomnia is much broader. Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or feel rested upon awakening. Even if someone feels as if they slept, if they are in a very light sleep or have a lot of interruptions in their sleep, it is still considered insomnia. We interviewed Dr. Vikki Petersen, certified clinical nutritionist, chiropractor, and certified functional medicine practitioner, on the effects of insomnia. Keep reading for more!
The Top Five Common Causes for Insomnia, and How to Avoid It
1) Food Allergies or Sensitivities
Your immune system works at night when you are deeply asleep. It requires a stable blood sugar level to perform its activities. If you are eating foods you are allergic to or sensitive to your blood sugar will tend to be more erratic resulting in food cravings and needing to eat more often. The unstable blood sugar will, during the night, result in a decreased melatonin level and a loss of deep sleep.
2) Hormone Imbalance
Melatonin is your sleep hormone and you need production of it at normal levels to enjoy good sleep. A variety of lifestyle factors can interrupt melatonin production including engaging in stressful activities at the end of the day, bright light before bedtime, the lack of a darkened and cool room in which to sleep, a heavy meal before bed, and more. The male and female sex hormones similarly need balance to enjoy deep and restorative sleep. Diminished hormonal levels around the menstrual cycle, during menopause along with deficient testosterone in men (for a variety of causes) all, tend to cause insomnia.
3) Hidden Infections
It is during sleep that your immune system releases cells that compose your immune defense army. It is the design of your body to “clean house” and rid you of any inhospitable bacteria, viruses, toxins, and cancer cells during rest. This is why if you have the bad flu or cold, all you want to do is sleep. Your immune system’s cells require a steady fuel source to accomplish their nocturnal activities.
If an infection or toxicity is chronic, meaning your body has been trying to deal with it for a while. There has been a long-term drain on your immune system and its cells. The added burden to “clean house” activities from these chronic issues can create a steep drop in blood sugar during the night. This is forcing your body to come out of sleep. These hidden infections or toxins must be identified and treated (naturally, if possible) to unburden your overtaxed immune system and facilitate sleep.
4) Low Blood Sugar
Your metabolic rate slows down during sleeping hours. This is so that you do not need to eat at that time. However, factors cause your blood sugar to dip too low during sleep. This will result in your body coming out of sleep to prevent a low blood sugar “coma”. It is a protective response of your body to awaken you.
5) Excessive Caffeine
12% of the caffeine contained in your coffee is still present at bedtime. For many, this isn’t enough to disrupt sleep, but it can be a component for some. If you have trouble sleeping, consider holding off on the caffeine for a week and notice if your sleep improves.