• 15-05-2017

    Can't Sleep?: The Basics of Coping with Insomnia

    There is nothing quite so terrible as waiting away the night time hours brutally wide awake. It’s an unsettling and frustrating feeling to be incredibly tired, and ready physically and emotionally for sleep to come, and yet to be unable to cross that threshold. If this is continually happening to you, you are suffering from insomnia - a sleep disorder characterized by the inability to fall asleep, or stay asleep.

    I treat insomnia often in my practice; many people suffer (some needlessly suffer in silence) and may also find the transition to a new season a particularly unsettling time. In this season, as all year long, it is important to keep a few things in mind when dealing with chronic insomnia.

    Insomnia is often related to hormonal imbalances

    This is especially true for women experiencing progesterone deficiencies, a common occurrence in peri or post menopausal women. Women at all ages and stages need the right balance of estrogen and progesterone for optimal health; the hormonal surges of menopause can easily throw that balance off. Often it is estrogen that becomes dominant, causing insomnia and other symptoms like decreased sex drive and mood swings. I recommend Bio-Identical Micronized Progesterone to menopausal patients struggling with sleep issues. For most women, this one is a game changer.

    Insomnia has a relationship with cortisol and stress

    When our bodies experience stress we enter what is called “Fight-or-Flight” mode. For our ancestors, the resulting surge of biological processes served a very important function: to mobilize the body to flee real physical threats, like pouncing bears. Today we don’t often encounter these real threats, but nonetheless our bodies launch the same reaction. The cascade of bodily processes, marked by a release of cortisol - our stress hormone - occurs in response to looming work deadlines, partner stress and money worries just as it does when we encounter a bear in the forest.

    Over time, a stressed out individual can experience what is known as adrenal fatigue. Those important glands that work so hard to regulate our stress response just get tapped out. Those experiencing this exhaustion report they often can’t get a good night’s sleep no matter how hard they try, and how long they spend in bed. Stress also has a way of wiring us up, making it hard to shut off mind chatter and get into a deep sleep.

    In this case, it is important to treat the cortisol imbalance. I do this with an amazing supplement called Cortisol Manager, which is a mixture of phosophatidylserine, relora, theanine and ashwaganda. This blend is effective at bringing down cortisol levels at night, helping the body release itself into rest mode.  

    Many people who experience insomnia are also struggling with mood imbalances

    Insomnia can also be a symptom of depression or other mood imbalances, including Seasonal Affective Disorder. When this is the case, it is important that a patient receive specialized care to address the root problem. Once depression, anxiety or other mood imbalance is treated, we often see insomnia disappear. Taking supplements 5 HTP and L tyrosine together before bed can also be helpful.

    If you experience difficulty falling asleep only occasionally, you can try my favourite herbal blend for a more relaxing transition into sleep: valerian, GABA, lemon balm, chamomile, hops, passiflora, theanine and melatonin. These herbs will help you relax and they are also mildly sedative to give you that extra nudge. Look for a tea or capsule that offers these as ingredients. And try my other suggestions for a restful night.