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Home > Research Department  > Health Concerns Articles > Insomnia
    Health Concerns Articles  
INSOMNIA
Articles by a Naturopathic Doctor ( N.D.)
Last Updated: July 23rd, 2015

WAKEY, WAKEY

Sleep deprivation can cause serious consequences for your health. There are many effective natural alternatives to conventional sleeping medications.
Counting sheep may not help, but the correct nutritional supplements and the right herbs can provide significant support if you are battling insomnia...

Insomnia is a condition of habitual sleeplessness that affects approximately one in ten individuals and becomes more common as we age. It can involve either the inability to fall asleep, or the inability to stay asleep, or both.

Causes of Insomnia
Many factors can affect whether or not you are able to get to sleep deeply and soundly on any given night.

Some causes of insomnia include: use of stimulants like caffeine or nicotine, evening eating, evening exercise, shift work, an uncomfortable sleep environment, a weak bladder, and mental-emotional causes, such as worry, grief or stress. Stress can have a large impact on your ability to relax and subsequently get to sleep. Chronic neurotransmitter deficiencies can make it difficult to get to sleep no matter how well you arrange all other factors, and nutritional deficiencies can reduce your body's ability to produce these important brain messengers. Chronic insomnia is usually caused by a medical condition such as: hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, restless leg syndrome, arthritis, indigestion or breathing disorders like sleep apnea. Not getting enough sleep can have harmful affects on your over all well being. Half of all chronic insomniacs suffer from depression or another psychological disorder.

Nutritional Support
Nutritional support for insomnia should include supplements to address each of the potential causes of insomnia including: stress reduction, optimizing neurotransmitter production, and addressing potential sleep disorders. See our article on sleep for more information on sleep disorders
.

What you can do to sleep better:

- HELP YOUR BODY CONTROL STRESS WITH EXERCISES LIKE TAI CHI AND YOGA.
- TAKE SUPPLEMENTS TO OPTIMIZE NEUROTRANSMITTER PRODUCTION LIKE MELATONIN AND 5HTP.
- TAKE SUPPLEMENTS TO SUPPORT ADRENAL HEALTH.  (SEE LIST BELOW)
- DO NOT DRINK COFFEE, BLACK TEA, OR COLA;  THEY ALL CONTAIN CAFFEINE
- EAT PLENTY OF FRESH VEGETABLES
- DO NOT EAT TOO LATE IN THE EVENING.
- MAINTAIN A REGULAR SLEEP CYCLE.
- USE RELAXATION TECHNIQUES LIKE SELF HYPNOSIS

DID YOU KNOW?
(SLEEP FACTS)

- MANY INSOMNIACS GO YEARS WITHOUT A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP.
- PEOPLE WITH CERTAIN SLEEP DISORDERS CAN WAKE UP 20 OR 30 TIMES A NIGHT.
- THE WORLD'S RECORD FOR THE LONGEST DURATION IS 80 HOURS.
- SLEEP DEBT REFERS TO THE AMOUNT OF SLEEP THAT YOU NEED TO CATCH UP ON IN ORDER TO FUNCTION NORMALLY AGAIN.
- WITHOUT ENOUGH DEEP SLEEP, DEPRESSION CAN RESULT.

Stress reduction can be supported with a number of effective and safe nutritional supplements and herbs.  A foundation for any stress reduction program should always include nutritional and herbal support for your adrenal glands. Use a combination of B complex and vitamin C along with a herbal adrenal formula that includes Siberian ginseng, licorice, and ashwaghanda or rhodiola. Most people notice that this combination helps to take the "edge" off of their stress. For more information on reducing stress, please click here.

Optimizing neurotransmitter production is crucial, as these are the chemical messengers that tell your brain when it's time to go to sleep.  Melatonin is a neurohormone that regulates your sleep cycle. Often used for jet lag, this supplement helps to "reset" your sleep cycle when it has been disrupted by travel or irregular sleeping.

The amino acid 5HTP is the direct precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is partly responsible for sound sleep, healthy mood and for feeling calm and happy. The herb St. John's wort can also help to elevate neurotransmitter levels and reduce anxiety and nervousness.  Please note that none of these supplements should be taken with prescription antidepressants.

Conventional Treatment

Conventional treatment of insomnia involves sedative or tranquilizing medication. Sedatives make insomnia worse because they induce a sleep that lacks normal REM patterning. They also are psychologically and physically addicting and can increase the risk of certain sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. Tranquilizer side effects include: confusion, sluggishness, restlessness, anxiety and dependency. Over the counter sleep medications have side effects such as agitation, confusion, depression, dry mouth and a worsening of prostate conditions. Overall, individuals on sleep medications are 50% more likely to die in accidents than those who are not on such medications.

Sleep Hygiene
Maintaining regular sleeping habits is an essential component of healthy sleep. There are a few simple tricks you could try to help improve your sleep. Go to bed only when you are tired and do not stay in bed if you are not sleepy. If you are having difficulties sleeping try getting out of bed and doing something relaxing like reading in another room. Only use the bedroom for sleep and sex. Get up at the same time each day to establish a healthy routine. Do not nap unless it is a daily routine and if possible keep it to a maximum of a half hour. Exercise during the day but not before bed. Exercising may stimulate you and make it hard to fall asleep. Experts suggest not exercising for at least three to four hours before the time you go to sleep. Take a hot bath or shower 1-2 hours before bed. Keep the bedroom quiet and comfortable. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, or a fan. Put worries out of your mind and focus your thinking on positive things.

Eating for Sleep
Nutritional considerations for insomnia are as follows. Eat foods containing tryptophan at dinner and for a bedtime snack, such as: warm milk, bananas, dates, figs, nut butter, tuna, turkey and yogurt. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin, which induces sleep and prevents waking.  Avoid taking stimulants, tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, heavy meals and cold/flu medications in the evening. Also try to avoid eating a heavy meal before bedtime.

Important Information
Insomnia is a frustrating and trying condition that can often leave sufferers feeling hopeless and without the restorative time needed to approach their problem productively. If you, or someone you know is overwhelmed with insomnia, reach out to local support programs or a healthcare practitioner to help you get back on the road to health.

The following list of supplements can be used for insomnia.  Adult doses are given. (CLICK SUPPLEMENT NAME FOR PRODUCTS).

SUPPLEMENT DOSAGE THERAPEUTIC EFFECT
chamomile 1-2 cups tea before bedtime.  Capsules as directed Calms and relaxes.
St. John's wort 300-900mg daily or as directed Helps calm and reduces anxiety,  Elevates mood. Do not use with prescription anti-depressants.
Adrenal support formula As directed Helps the body cope with stress effectively. Use one with licorice, ashwaghanda, and siberian ginseng.
rhodiola As directed A herb that supports the adrenal glands.
Pantothenic acid 500-1000mg daily Supports the adrenal glands.
5HTP 100-200mg daily Boosts serotonin production, a neurotransmitter partly responsible for healthy sleep.
Calcium and magnesium Calcium 2000mg daily, Magnesium 1000mg daily Are natural tranquilizers. Calcium deficiency causes restlessness and wakefulness. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant.
Melatonin 1-3mg before bedtime A natural hormone that induces sleep and helps to regulate a healthy sleep cycle.
Vitamin C 3000-6000mg daily Needed for the body to cope with stress
Vitamin B complex plus niacinamide 100mg 1-3 times daily depending on stress level,  plus niacinamide 100mg daily. Many of the B vitamins are involved in nervous system regulation and the production of neurochemicals. B3 increases serotonin levels.
Valerian As directed It is a sedative that has no addictive or sleep altering qualities.
Also beneficial for INSOMNIA SUPPORT: Multivitamins, catnip, chamomile, hops, lemon balm, kava kava, passionflower, skullcap, homeopathic remedies and tissue salts.
For informational purposes only.  Please consult your health care practitioner before taking natural health care products. Click here for full disclaimer.


All articles copyright National Nutrition 2001 - 2015.  For educational purposes only.  Please note that while National Nutrition supports your right to use natural health care products for any therapeutic purpose that you see fit, that the information on this website should not be considered as a claim or as a substitute for medical advice.

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