What causes insomnia? I have asked this question too many times myself. Wondering if my inability to fall asleep was related to something I ate or drank, being on the computer in the evening, a late night telephone conversation or too little or too much exercise. Most often I couldn't figure out what was causing my sleepless nights. Sometimes it can be something as simple as too much caffeine too late in the day to a combination of many lifestyle factors.
"Sleep can be a delicate process and when insomnia sets in, it can easily become long-term," says Gregg D. Jacobs, Ph.D. an insomnia specialist at the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. "We develop thought patterns and behaviors surrounding the insomnia, and those patterns and behaviors help perpetuate it."
Anxiety can develop which is perpetuated by more sleepless nights which means that bedtime becomes a source of fear rather than rest and enjoyment.
Insomnia causes fall into one of three categories.
External or Environment
Noisy neighbors, snoring bed partner, or barking dogs can keep us from falling asleep. Bedrooms that are too cold or too hot can keep us awake or wake us up in the middle of the night. Too much light coming into the bedroom or children that are still up at night all disrupt one's sleep.
Itching eczema, restless legs, low back pain, unstable blood sugar or a pounding
headache can mean a sleepless night.
Unbalanced hormones and/or a vitamin mineral deficiency can contribute to insomnia as can a lifestyle of constant stress.
A diet too high in sugar or caffeine can stimulate the body too much that it is unable to relax. A sedentary job of sitting at a computer all day following by a long commute home, with little opportunity for exercise or exposure to daylight affects our circadian rhythm and prevents a good night's sleep. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially magnesium and the vitamin B's prevent us from relaxing and nodding off.
You could always find a pot of hot coffee at my parents' house no matter if it was early morning, mid-afternoon or evening. How many cups of coffee they drank everyday, I'm not sure they could even tell you.
For years this daily habit didn't seem to interfere with their sleep. However, finally my dad became more sensitive to caffeine and to a cup of real coffee in the evening - although he wouldn't admit to it. I remember pouring him a second cup of coffee one evening at a special event and asking, "Are you sure you want more coffee? It's caffeinated coffee."
"Oh no, caffeine doesn't bother me," he emphatically stated. Of course the next morning he complained how he hardly slept the night before. He just wouldn't believe that our sensitivity to caffeine changes as we age.
Caffeine may not be the cause of your insomnia, but temporarily giving up caffeine is an easy place to start to get to the bottom of your sleepless nights.
Caffeine and insomnia go together like bread and butter for many people. Caffeine is found in many different drinks and in varying amounts.
For example according to the Mayo Clinic website, an 8 oz can of Monster contains 80 mg of caffeine and a 12 oz Diet Coke can have between 38-47 mg.
Many people will use a soft drink or energy drink as a pick-me-up in the afternoon or evening, but suffer for it later with disrupted sleep, restless sleep or the inability to fall asleep.
Find out which drinks have caffeine and which ones do not.
Perhaps your business involves late night dinners combined with drinks before and/or after your meal.
Or maybe you are having trouble falling asleep and are wondering if a drink before bedtime will help you fall asleep quicker.
Some of you are already using alcohol to help induce your sleep and finding that more alcohol is needed to get that sleepy feeling.
Find out the role of alcohol in our ability to fall asleep, stay asleep and get quality deep sleep.
Insomnia and Alcohol
Our daughter has experienced insomnia during all three of her pregnancies. Fatigue during pregnancy becomes compounded when a mother-to-be has trouble falling or staying asleep at night.
Some sleep disrupters one cannot control such as fluctuating and surging hormones and going to the bathroom every couple of hours.
But there are some things one can try to help promote sleep and help a pregnant mom stay asleep.
Unfortunately, I can write about insomnia and menopause from personal experience.
Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep was the first symptom of menopause for me. Even when I did fall asleep hot flashes or sense of being overheated interrruped my sleep as well.
Find out some tips from me how I have been able to get a good night's sleep.
Hormones play a key role in our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. The glands that are most responsible for how we handle stress and consequently affect how well we sleep are the adrenal glands.
There are two of them and each one sits on top of the kidneys.
Known as the "Fight or Flight" hormone, cortisol, when continuously
secreted over-taxes or fatigues the glands.
Find out about more about this hormone imbalance, who it affects, and how it can cause sleep disorders.
"Changing your diet so you avoid those foods you react to has the potential to lower the amount of inflammation in your body as well as to optimize your cortisol and blood sugar levels, all of which leads to a better night’s sleep."
After reading many articles on food sensitivities and how they can interfere with sleep I ordered my own test on line. Unlike food allergies, food sensitivities will show up with a delayed reaction - up to 48 hours after you've ingested the food that inflames your body, making it hard to identify on your own what foods you are sensitive to.
I found out I was sensitive to the three most commonly reactive foods - eggs, dairy and gluten. Some more severe than others.
You can order this test online and do it at home. However, I'd suggest you do it through a functional medicine practitioner who can not only help you interpret the results but can also help you can heal your gut so that you can return to eating the foods that are reacting to and currently causing inflammation in your body. I bought my test on line that included a 30 minute consult from a certified health coach at www.EquilibriumNutrition.com
Start by identifying what causes insomnia for you in order to restore good sleep. For some it may be as simple as cutting out all caffeine or alcohol, while for others it may be that hormones need to be evaluated and adjusted. Begin to sleep well so you can live well.
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