Insomnia: When Counting Sheep Won’t Help Ewe
If you have constant trouble sleeping, then chances are you are one of the estimated 3.3 million Canadians struggling with insomnia.
‘Insomnia’ refers to the disruption of time taken to fall asleep, the amount of time asleep (versus time in bed) through the night, waking up too early, and feel unrefreshed on waking.1 Insomnia is incredibly frustrating and can be a fearful prospect knowing that it can lead to impaired memory and concentration.1
As a result, insomnia can predispose you to be more accident-prone at home, on the road, and in the workplace.1
Insomnia exists as its own disorder, but it is also associated with a significant number of physical and mental illnesses. For example, mood disorders like depression and anxiety are both associated with insomnia.1
So what can be done to help you get a better night’s sleep?
First, it is important to identify the underlying cause of your insomnia.
Light and Noise
If you are sensitive to light and sound, make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible and remove any electronics that might be distracting you from falling asleep.
The ‘blue light’ emitted from our TVs, laptops, and mobile phones all affect the release of melatonin from our brains.2
A small amount of melatonin, one of the most well known natural sleep aids, is secreted by your pineal during the day. At night, melatonin secretion spikes to help us get to sleep. Exposure to ‘blue light’ before bed suppresses melatonin secretion and tricks our bodies into thinking we should be awake.2
The long-term use of benzodiazepine medication for anxiety and panic disorders can deplete the brain’s supply of melatonin.3 Over time, a disruption in circadian rhythm reduces regular sleeping habits.
Melatonin supplementation can help with normalising circadian rhythm and alleviating withdrawal symptoms from anti-anxiety meds.3
Insomnia, fatigue, ADHD, IBS, and breast cancer risk, are all associated with melatonin deficiency.3
Symptoms of fibromyalgia, bulimia, neuralgia, certain forms of depression, and certain postmenopausal problems improve with melatonin supplementation.3
Other common underlying causes of insomnia include mood disorders, hormone imbalance, sleep apnea, chronic pain, and exercising too close to bedtime.
There are studies that show how insomnia and drug using are related, the addiction and insomnia frequently co exist as this lack of sleep comes from the many emotional issues the individuals create or have when self medicating drugs or alcohol. According to the Center for disease control and prevention half of the patients suffer from sleep disorders and regularly abuse of alcohol and narcotic drugs. It is necessary to seek for help in this situation.
Cortisol and Adrenal fatigue
The need to be busy has left us overworked and overtired.
When our bodies are in a constant state of stress, our systems shift from ‘rest and digest’ to ‘fight or flight?’.
As a consequence, our adrenal glands secrete more cortisol; a hormone responsible for increasing blood sugar, and the breakdown of fat & muscle, for the energy to get us away from danger. Normally, cortisol spikes in the morning to get us out of bed, and is very low at night to help us fall asleep.
In a chronically stressed state, high cortisol will worsen insomnia and, if left untreated, will eventually lead to adrenal fatigue.
We are here to help
Speak to your naturopathic doctor about your health concerns to assist in determining the underlying cause(s) and help tailor a treatment plan specific to your individual needs. Acupuncture, nutritional changes through diet and supplements, counselling, and sleep hygiene advice are all parts of naturopathic treatment that can help get you back to sleep and leave you feeling well rested.
- Tjepkema M. “Insomnia”. Statistics Canada Health Reports. 2005 17(1): 9-25.
- Schmerler, Jessica. “Q&A Why is Blue Light Before Bed Bad For Sleep?” Scientific American. Nature America, September 2015.
- Rohr UD, Herold J. “Melatonin deficiencies in women.” 2002 Apr 15(41): 85-10.