If you are suffering from insomnia, you understand how the sleepless nights can be frustrating. You get it when I mention feeling like a zombie in the morning, and dragging yourself all day long. Not getting 6-8 hours of REM sleep effects every aspect of your life.
Luckily, there are some great solutions that you may not know about.
But first, I think it is important to talk about the mental and emotional aspect of insomnia. Insomnia is usually the last symptom in a stress response. After a long bout of stress or life changes, the mind can have a hard time shutting off. This is usually due to cortisol (our stress hormone) and a brain that has been wired for stress. The first step in battling insomnia is to look at your life from a new perspective.
- Are you doing things that you don’t like doing?
- Are you a people pleaser?
- Do you over extend yourself to meet deadlines?
Insomnia is a symptom that should prompt you to re-evaluate your life. Not only should you re-evaluate your life, but re-training your brain to slip into the healing and relaxation response is necessary.
There are two kinds of insomnia. The kind where you can’t seem to fall asleep no matter what you do, and the kind where you fall asleep but wake up frequently.
Frequent waking can be a sign of high blood sugar or hypoglycemia, too much alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods and even stress. It can also be a sign that you are deficient in minerals like chromium, vanadium and manganese and other nutrients. A deficiency in these minerals can cause you to wake every few hours with a hard time falling back asleep.
Then there is the “happy hormone” serotonin, which is a hormone that is a precursor to melatonin. You make serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan. But, when you are stressed for an extended period of time, serotonin depletion can happen.
Did you know that 95% of serotonin is made in the gut? Because the gut and brain are so closely linked, both stress and poor diet can lower serotonin.
There are literally dozens of studies that show low serotonin and tryptophan levels lead to insomnia. Some of the symptoms of low serotonin are waking feeling unrested, inability to stay asleep after getting there, and lying awake all night.
For many years now, studies have proven that the amino acid tryptophan (which is a precursor to serotonin), produces great sleep. In fact, it has been shown to improve mental clarity in the day. It can also be helpful for depression, pms, fibromyalgia, and anxiety as well as carbohydrate cravings and alcoholism.
Recently, I have learned through Functional Medicine that zinc or B6 deficiency can lead to insomnia. When you are deficient in B6, it can literally keep you awake all night. Or, low zinc can cause a B6 conversion issue, which is needed to make more tryptophan and serotonin.
6 STEPS YOU CAN DO TO FINALLY SLEEP
1 . De-stress – Try to turn off all electronics an hour before bed. Meditate and deep breathe. Both of these techniques have been shown to reduce the stress response in the brain. You can also try to laugh more during the day. Laughter will help to reduce over all stress. Lastly, re-evaluate your life and make sure you are leading from your heart not your head.
2. Stay away from PLASTICS – Too many plastics in your body lowers zinc. Zinc is needed to convert B6 to an active form to produce tryptophan and serotonin. So, Cut Plastics Out!
3. Optimize your gut health – 95% of serotonin is made in your gut. If you have gas and bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhea, indigestion etc. The chances of curing your insomnia are not high. Make sure you are eating whole foods, cutting out sugar, alcohol, caffeine, wheat and all gmo foods, corn and corn derivatives and soy. Contact a good practitioner to help put a plan together for yourself. I can certainly help!
4. Optimize your minerals – Make sure you are eating foods and even supplementing with a good multi-mineral. Healthy chromium, vanadium and manganese help prevent blood sugar imbalances and frequent wake up.
5. Eat plenty of B Vitamin rich foods - You can increase B Vitamins using foods like nutritional yeast, nuts and seeds, fish, chicken, meat, eggs etc.
6. Try out Tryptophan or 5-HTP – These are supplements that are a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin which is our sleep hormone.
*I should mention that if you are on SSRI’s or anti-depressants you should not supplement with Tryptophan or serotonin as they interact. *
*Of course, you should not start any new supplement or health regime without contacting your doctor.
There are so many root causes to insomnia! If you would like help to get to the root of your insomnia along with a health protocol, contact me!
Click here to contact Keri Dennis-Fulmore