Put In­som­nia to Rest

Use an in­te­grated ap­proach is nec­es­sary to catch the Zs your body needs

Times Colonist - - Diversions - Dr. Marita Schauch, BSc. ND is a natur­o­pathic physi­cian with a fam­ily prac­tice at Tall Tree In­te­grated Health Cen­tre 5325 Cor­dova Bay Rd., Mattick’s Farm Ph: 250-658-9222 | doc­tor­marita.com

Sleep is fun­da­men­tal to good health; it is the time dur­ing which our body re­pairs it­self and re­cu­per­ates from day-to-day wear and tear. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Statis­tics Canada, one in ev­ery seven Cana­dian aged 15 or older (about 3.3 mil­lion peo­ple) have trouble go­ing to sleep or stay­ing asleep.

A lack of sleep puts you at a greater risk for anx­i­ety, heart dis­ease, low­ered im­mu­nity, high blood sugar lev­els and obe­sity, and causes the body’s stress hor­mones to be­come un­bal­anced.

The #1 cul­prit: stress

You’re prob­a­bly not sur­prised to learn that in­som­nia of­ten comes with times of stress. Un­der stress, our bod­ies pro­duce more stress hor­mones in­clud­ing cor­ti­sol, which in­creases alert­ness and helps us get through stress­ful sit­u­a­tions. Cor­ti­sol lev­els nor­mally are higher in the morn­ing to help us get up and go­ing, and low­est in the evening, al­low­ing us to re­lax and sleep.

How­ever, un­der high stress con­di­tions (com­mon in mod­ern so­ci­ety) peo­ple get stuck in the high cor­ti­sol mode. This is a ma­jor fac­tor with sleep dif­fi­cul­ties – we’re too alert and on guard to fall into a proper, re­cu­per­a­tive deep sleep.

Other causes of in­som­nia

Stress is by far the most com­mon cause I see in my prac­tice, but there are other un­der­ly­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions you should be aware of if you’re hav­ing sleep prob­lems.

The fol­low­ing have been known to ma­jorly dis­rupt sleep: menopause, hor­mone im­bal­ances, sub­stance abuse, chronic pain, acid re­flux, di­ges­tive dis­or­ders, sleep ap­nea, rest­less leg syn­drome, al­ler­gies, blood sugar im­bal­ances, and even some med­i­ca­tions pre­scribed to treat other con­di­tions.

There are also life­style and men­tal health causes for in­som­nia. If you’re a shift worker, for in­stance, your cir­ca­dian rhythm can be thrown out of whack, and anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion can be huge con­trib­u­tors to rest­less nights.

How to treat in­som­nia

In­som­nia is a com­plex prob­lem and needs to be treated as such, through care­ful eval­u­a­tion of its causes and a holis­tic ap­proach to heal­ing.

Due to the role stress plays, stress man­age­ment tech­niques are a great place to start. Try deep breath­ing, med­i­ta­tion and mind­ful­ness.

Sleep hy­giene is also an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant com­po­nent of rest­ful sleeps. If you’ve never heard this term be­fore, it refers to the care we take be­fore ac­tu­ally go­ing to sleep. Sleep hy­giene can look dif­fer­ent for every­one, but some rec­om­mended prac­tices across the board in­clude turn­ing off all screens at least an hour be­fore bed, elim­i­nat­ing caf­feine too late in the day, hav­ing a con­sis­tent bed­time, leav­ing the phone on air­plane mode overnight, and en­sur­ing your room is dark and quiet enough for a proper sleep.

There are also a se­ries of nat­u­ral sup­ple­ments and herbs I rec­om­mend to my pa­tients with sleep prob­lems, in­clud­ing:

• Adrenal sup­port such as adap­to­gens: Rho­di­ola, Ash­wa­gandha and Siberian gin­seng pro­vide stress re­duc­tion to help pre­vent the over­pro­duc­tion of stress hor­mones that can keep you wired even though you are ex­hausted from lack of sleep. Adrenal reg­u­la­tion is nec­es­sary in order to stop the vis­cious cy­cle of stress and in­som­nia. Stress is a very real fac­tor for many peo­ple with in­som­nia. • Pas­sion­flower (Pas­si­flora in­car­nate) has been used tra­di­tion­ally for anx­i­ety dis­or­ders, gen­eral ner­vous­ness, at­ten­tion deficit hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der and in­som­nia. • 5-hy­drox­ytryp­to­phan (5-HTP) may prove to be bet­ter than mela­tonin at treat­ing in­som­nia in some cases. In many cases, in­som­nia has been as­so­ci­ated with a tryp­to­phan de­fi­ciency in the tis­sues of the brain. Tryp­to­phan is the pre­cur­sor to 5-HTP, which is con­verted into sero­tonin and then into mela­tonin. • Mela­tonin helps main­tain the body’s cir­ca­dian rhythm, an

in­ter­nal 24-hour clock that plays a crit­i­cal role when we fall asleep and when we wake up. The body pro­duces more mela­tonin when it is dark and less when it is light. Be­ing ex­posed to bright lights too late in the evening can dis­rupt mela­tonin pro­duc­tion. Older peo­ple typ­i­cally ex­hibit poor sleep due to re­duced mela­tonin lev­els. A dou­ble-blind placebo-con­trolled study ex­am­ined the ef­fects of mela­tonin in doses rang­ing from 1-3 mg. in sub­jects over 50-years of age. Both doses im­proved sleep. • Va­le­rian (Va­le­ri­ana of­fic­i­nalis) has been proven ben­e­fi­cial for sleep dis­or­ders, es­pe­cially those as­so­ci­ated with stress and anx­i­ety. • Phar­maGABA con­tains GABA, the most im­por­tant in­hibitory neu­ro­trans­mit­ter in the brain. It acts like a brake in times of in­creased stress, elic­it­ing a sense of calm. Low lev­els of GABA have been linked to anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and in­som­nia. GABA in­creases the pro­duc­tion of al­pha brain­waves char­ac­ter­ized by be­ing re­laxed, as well as greater men­tal fo­cus and alert­ness. In ad­di­tion, it has been shown to pro­duce re­lax­ation by re­duc­ing stress mark­ers such as heart rate, cor­ti­sol lev­els and pupil di­am­e­ter. • Mag­ne­sium has been found to be ef­fec­tive for treat­ing de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, in­som­nia, short-term mem­ory loss, ir­ri­tabil­ity and ag­i­ta­tion. Peo­ple suf­fer­ing from headaches also ben­e­fit from mag­ne­sium sup­ple­men­ta­tion.

If you’ve em­ployed all of these tac­tics and are still strug­gling to get a peace­ful night’s sleep, it may be time to visit an nautro­pathic doc­tor or your fam­ily physi­cian. Sleep is so in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to our good health and some­times a more in­te­grated ap­proach is nec­es­sary to truly catch the Zs your body needs.

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