Help! Why I Can't Sleep?
Sleep is crucial. It’s so important, in fact, that there is actually a World Sleep Day which falls in March to draw attention to the issue of sleep deprivation.
Sleep is a vital part of our daily routine.
While sleeping, the brain is constantly forming neurological pathways necessary for learning, memory and daily functions. Without the proper amount of sleep, it is difficult to focus and can change overall mood patterns. New research shows that throwing off our body’s natural circadian rhythms over the long term can critically disturb the body and brain, causing weight gain, impulsive behavior, and loss of memory (1). Increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and thyroid deregulation are also side effects of not getting the right amount of sleep at night.
The other day I was having a consultation with a mom of seven children. After doing some blood work I was able to determine how to turn her body around down the healing path. Along with the fact that her kids are grown and out of the house, she is finally able to sleep. It is amazing how our bodies can survive on little to no sleep.
Good health depends on a few factors and sleep is a big one.
Natural production of leptin, a hormone produced that triggers our “fullness” or satiety feeling, is lessened when we are sleep deprived. Meanwhile, ghrelin -- a hormone which triggers hunger -- is heightened. The brain needs two big things to function, glucose and oxygen.
Results of one study conducted at the University of Chicago in Illinois showed that when sleep was restricted, leptin levels went down and ghrelin levels went up, appetite increased proportionally, and the desire for high carbohydrate, calorie-dense foods increased by a whopping 45% (2). Researchers suspect these cravings are due to the fact that our brains are fueled by glucose. Therefore, when lack of sleep occurs, our brains search for carbohydrates. So, if you are waking up because you are hungry this is a sign you have blood glucose issues. In other words, when you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels increase. As a response, insulin is then released to manage concentrations of glucose, keeping it in optimal range.
The American Diabetes Association reports that people who regularly do not get enough sleep can become less sensitive to insulin (4). This increases their risk for diabetes and high blood pressure.
Oxygen: The second biggest thing the brain needs to function well
One of the most common reasons for lack of sleep is obstructive sleep apnea. A recent study conducted that over 25 million Americans have been diagnosed with sleep apnea (5).
What is sleep apnea? There are two types: obstructive and central. The most common form is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This condition occurs when throat muscles relax during sleep. When the muscles relax, the soft tissue of the soft palate collapses and blocks the airway (6). This can lower the oxygen level in the body. The brain will then wake you up from sleeping, so that the airway opens to allow more oxygen in. Most of the time, people don’t even know they awoke during the night. However, those brief periods of awakening prevent the ability to reach REM sleep and cause drowsiness the next day (7).
Central sleep apnea (CSA) is less common. CSA occurs when the brain fails to signal the breathing muscles (5). This is different than OSA where the muscles are relaxing. Instead, the muscles with CSA are not receiving the signal to facilitate breathing. CSA has the same symptoms as obstructive sleep apnea, in that they wake up in the middle of sleep to take in oxygen. CSA is more commonly seen in people who have been diagnosed with heart failure (8).
How do you know if you’re experiencing sleep apnea?
Those that have obstructive and central sleep apnea experience the following signs and symptoms (5):
• Excessive daytime sleepiness
• Loud snoring
• Episodes of breathing cessation while sleeping
• Abrupt awakenings during the night
• Awakening with dry mouth or sore throat
• Headaches that are present in the morning
• Attention problems
Sleep apnea can affect just about anyone. However, there are certain characteristics that can increase your risk factors for sleep apnea. Those include the following, but are not limited to (8):
• Excess Weight
• Neck circumference
• Narrowed airway
• Older than 60 years of age
• Family history
• African American
• Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers.
• Nasal congestions
Did you know that sleep deprivation can affect your thyroid?
One study showed that after 6 days of only getting 4 hours of sleep, the normal nocturnal thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) rise was strikingly decreased, and the overall mean TSH levels were reduced by more than 30% (3). TSH stimulates the production of T4 and T3 which fuels the metabolism of almost every tissue in the body.
Dr. Nikolas R. Hedberg, author of the book “The Thyroid Alternative,” says any patient who suffers from insomnia and other sleep problems also present with low thyroid symptoms and abnormal TSH levels (9).
Lack of sleep can also result in difficulty recalling facts and information as well as reducing the ability to focus attention. Elizabeth Gould, lead researcher from a study done by the Princeton University concluded that sleep deprivation decreases neurogenesis by elevating stress hormones (4). The stress hormones accumulate in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which stops the growth of cells that lay down new memories.
There are four different stages of sleep, each one deeper than the last.
During the deep stages of Non-REM sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and appears to strengthen the immune system. REM sleep plays a key role in learning and memory. During REM sleep, your brain consolidates and processes the information you’ve learned during the day. So next time you want to pull an all-nighter to prepare for the following day’s work, you’ll be better off going to bed sooner in the night to wake up early the next day!
Certain medications may interfere with your sleep.
“Certain heart medications for blood pressure, arrhythmia, and angina have been reported to increase your change of insomnia and nightmares,” says James Wellman, MD, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Georgia in Augusta (10). Patients taking stimulant-like medications for ADHD to boost alertness have been reported to spend more time in non-REM sleep and less time in REM sleep (10). Of 25 drugs that are currently used to treat depression, 22 suppress REM sleep (11). Medications used for asthma, pain relief, colds and allergies also can affect sleeping cycles.
Melatonin: Recommended - or not?
Many people will try taking the hormone Melatonin as an aid used to help with going to sleep. Melatonin is naturally produced by the body.
“Melatonin is a sleep and body clock regulator, not a sleep initiator” says Dr. Michael Breus, seen on the Dr. Oz Show (known as The Sleep Doctor). According to research conducted at MIT, the correct dosage of melatonin for it to be effective is 0.3 - 1.0 mg. Dr. Breus explains that many commercially available forms of melatonin contain 3-10 times the amount your body would need! In fact, there is some evidence that higher doses may be less effective. In Europe, melatonin at very high doses has been used as a contraceptive (12). If you supplement with melatonin regularly your body’s natural production will lessen, creating even greater need for the hormone. So, taking melatonin is not recommended.
Here are some tips for a better night’s rest
- Exercise: Aerobic activity can help stimulate circulation, hormones and serotonin production. Serotonin is associated with mood, sleep, appetite, memory and learning.
- Find a bedtime routine that makes you feel relaxed and repeat it each night to regulate your internal clock. Examples include reading, taking a hot bath, writing in a gratitude journal, deep breathing exercises, and prayer.
- Avoid drinking a lot of liquid right before bed to reduce the number of times you get up to urinate.
- Avoid stimulates such as caffeine several hours before bed.
- Avoidance of dairy products is important as they contribute to airway inflammation and swelling.
- Avoid alcohol which will also keep you from entering the deeper stages of sleep.
- I have a relax essential oil blend formula which I use to help calm my nerves and mood. It has chamomile, frankincense, sandalwood, lavender, orange, and juniper berry in it.
- Sleep with forgiveness. Forgiving others and letting things go is worth it. It is not worth arguing with your spouse or kids before bedtime.
- Upper cervical chiropractic care can help your brain and body communicate better.
- Neurofeedback therapy can retrain the brain pathways to a more relaxed state.
- Vitamin D levels should be checked. Lower levels of Vitamin D have been linked towards depression and low serotonin levels.
- Magnesium and B-Complex: Lower Magnesium levels have been linked to anxiety and B-Complex can optimize Magnesium performance.
Is it just the lack of sleep you are suffering from, or is there something more serious going on?
Underlying deficiencies and toxicities can be determined with a comprehensive blood test which, in turn, can direct you towards the proper nutrients you need for your body. By getting a comprehensive blood panel and tissue mineral analysis performed by an experience healthcare professional, an individualize program can be compiled for you to prepare you for your new healthy lifestyle. That way you won’t have to guess what you may need to eat or supplements that you should be on. You can take the guesswork out by getting tested objectively. Get tested today and see how to enhance your body’s foundation towards optimal wellness … and a full night’s rest.
I hope my column speaks to you and you can wake up each morning with a purpose and full of energy. What I do every day is a calling, and I give God the glory for allowing His gifts to work through me. I do believe in miracles, because I get to see them every day! If you would like to contact me with your health concerns email me directly at Dr@drcorinneweaver.com. For more information you can go to www.DrCorinneWeaver.com or sign up for my closed Facebook group #NoMoreMeds-Community for more healthy tips https://m.facebook.com/groups/1845828392308723.
Dr. Corinne Weaver
Dr. Corinne Weaver is a compassionate upper cervical chiropractor, educator, motivational speaker, mother of three, and internationally bestselling author. In 2004, she founded the Upper Cervical Wellness Center in Indian Trail, North Carolina. Over the last 13 years, she has helped thousands of clients restore their brain to-body function. When she was 10 years old, she lost her own health as the result of a bike accident that led to having asthma and allergy issues that she thought she would always have to endure. Then, after her first upper cervical adjustment at age 21, her health began to improve thanks to upper cervical care and natural herbal remedies. This enabled her to create a drug-free wellness lifestyle for herself and her family, and she also enthusiastically discovered her calling to help children heal naturally.
Dr. Weaver was recently named one of Charlotte Magazine's "Top Doctors" in 2016 and is now a number-one internationally bestselling author to two books: Learning How to Breathe and No More Meds.
Upper Cervical Wellness Center is known for finding the root cause of health concerns through lifestyle changes, diagnostic testing, nutraceutical supplementation, and correction of subluxation (as opposed to just medicating the symptoms). The practice offers cutting-edge technological care at its state-of-the-art facility, including laser-aligned upper cervical X-rays, bioimpedance analysis (measures body composition), digital thermography (locates thermal abnormalities characterized by skin inflammation), and complete nutritional blood analysis, which is focused on disease prevention.
1. Society for Neuroscience. “Disruption Of Circadian Rhythms Affects Both Brain And Body, Mouse Study Finds.” ScienceDaily, 28 Oct. 2009. Web. 30 Nov. 2012.
2. Bouchez, Colette. Losing Weight While You Sleep. WebMD Jan 1, 2007. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/lose-weight-while-sleeping. Accessed on 29, November 2012
3. Van Cauter, Eve. Knutson, Kristen. et.al The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism. Medscape Neurology. 2005;7(1)
4. The Franklin Institute Online. Renew-Sleep and Stress. 2004. Accessed on 28, November 2012
5. Javaheri, Shahrokh, MD. "Medscape Log In." Medscape Log In. N.p., 2005. Web. 28 July 2015.
6. "Best Diets for Sleep Apnea: What You Should (and Should Not) Eat!" Apnea Treatment Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 July 2015.
7. "Sleep Apnea." - Mayo Clinic. N.p., 29 July 2015. Web. 29 July 2015.
8. McLaughlin, August. "Foods That Help Sleep Apnea." LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 18 Dec. 2013. Web. 31 July 2015.
9. Dr. Hedberg, Nikolas. The Thyroid and Thyroid Hormones. The Immune Restoration Center. February 8, 2011
10. Sheehan, Jane. “Is Your Medication Making You Lose Sleep?” Everyday Health Media. August 18, 2010. Accessed on 29, November 2012
11. Smith, Mark. Hurd, Cameron, et.al. Sleep Deprivation. Macalester College.
12 .Dr. Breus, Michael. Melatonin: Not a magic bullet for sleep. September 24, 2010. http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/melatonin-not-magic-bullet-sleep. Accessed on 28, November 2012