Recently a patient reminded me to post something regarding sleep – especially the importance of getting enough of it. This is one of the most common concerns that patients seem to have. There are two main forms of sleep disorders that I would like to discuss here.
Sleep onset insomnia – which means that there is a difficulty falling asleep. Sometimes one can lie in bed without being able to fall asleep anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. This form of insomnia is often caused by having a difficult time ‘shutting the body or brain off’. Patients who work-out late or have caffeine later in the afternoon or who have a hard time slowing their brain enough to rest, are the ones who experience this difficulty the most frequently. What I usually recommend for this is 1st to slow down your nervous system response – take the time to breathe…deeply. When you do this you help your nervous system switch-off the sympathetic (‘adrenaline driven’) response. This also distracts your brain from immediate preoccupations since the focus is on the breath. 2nd is to use diet to increase foods that are rich in tryptophan (an amino acid that is used in the conversion to melatonin – the neurohormone that helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle). The foods that contain a high level of tryptophan include egg whites, spirulina, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, turkey and chicken.
The second form of a sleep disorder is disrupted sleep. This means a person can have a relatively easy time falling asleep, but then wakes up one or several times throughout the night often experiencing the difficulty falling back asleep. This is often due to an underlying condition. It can be as simple as poor blood sugar regulation or more complex if it is from pain from another condition. This is when I prescribe homeopathic, nutritional or herbal remedies most frequently – based on the patient’s history and sensitivity.
The most important point that I like to emphasize is that it is important to be aware of how restful your sleep is or is not – and if it isn’t then when and why are you waking up?