It’s estimated that more than a quarter of Americans are suffering with insomnia. Are you? Did you know that all troubled sleeping is considered insomnia?
In this episode, we’re going to solve the mystery of sleep troubles and share valuable information about natural supplements that can help get you back to healthy sleep patterns.
Two Types of Insomnia
Many people are surprised to learn that there are two types of insomnia. Type 1 is when you have trouble falling asleep. Type 2 is when you can fall asleep but you struggle to stay asleep through the night. Specifically, if you wake up and struggle (for 20 minutes or more) or are unable to get back to sleep.
Causes of Insomnia When You Can’t Fall Asleep
There are many reasons someone may struggle with falling asleep. Common reasons are stress that has caused a high cortisol level. Low melatonin (which may be a result of low serotonin related to gut issues like dysbiosis) is a common factor in difficulties falling asleep. Did you know that bright lights used too close to bedtime (yes, that includes your TV, laptop, smart phone) can destroy melatonin? Mineral deficiencies, especially calcium and magnesium are also potential contributors to the problem.
Causes of Insomnia When You Can’t Stay Asleep
If you fall asleep but then wake up in the middle of the night (especially from 2 – 4 am) then the biggest suspect causes are high cortisol and liver issues.
Cortisol is our stress hormone, and while we hear about it a lot, it’s a little more complex than just having too much. Our hormones need to be in balance throughout the day in order for us to function optimally – and that includes being able to stay asleep.
The liver also plays a key role in a good night’s rest. If the liver is sluggish (overburdened) or toxic it can turn into physical stress that will wake us up.
Natural Treatment Options for Insomnia
The first part of determining how to treat your sleep issues is to determine what might be causing them. If stress is part of the problem (as it is for most people) you want to look into ways to down regulate your sympathetic nervous system. I recommend a dual pronged approach – mind & body and food & nutrition.
Meditation for Sleeplessness
Meditation is one of my favourite ways to address sleep issues. I encourage you to listen to episode 5 which dives deeper into meditation for insomnia featuring my meditation teacher, Emily Fletcher. Even if you are resistant to meditation or you think it’s too hard, this method of meditation can help you break through and really implement meditation as a treatment for sleep issues. Other things that can help with sleep issues are journaling and doing visualizations.
Supplements for Troubles Sleeping
From a supplement perspective, one of my favorites for lowering cortisol levels at night is phosphatidylserine. I use a product called PS150. It lowers cortisol and helps balance the adrenal gland. Typically, a 130 pound person can take 300 mg of phosphatidylserine. If cortisol is part of the issue, results can be expected in 1-2 weeks. I mentioned that a magnesium deficiency is a common cause for insomnia, so taking a supplement can often help. Magnesium helps with stress as it calms and relaxes the body. My favorite form of magnesium supplement for sleep is the glycinate form because it gets into the tissues much better than magnesium citrate. We all have different magnesium levels in our bodies and some people may need more than others, but for most of the clients that I see, a 300 mg dose can be a great start. There is another form of magnesium called Magnesium threonate and that is magnesium bound to the amino acid threonate. This form of magnesium is great for the brain and can also be helpful for sleep when there is an overactive mind.
Liver Detox for Better Sleep
First, you will want to determine if the liver is a potential cause for your insomnia. You can test this with an organic acid test which will look at certain liver pathways. However, if you have a history of consuming alcohol 3 or more times per week there is a good chance your liver detox pathways may be sluggish. Other causes of liver sluggishness are certain medications (even NSAIDS or birth control pills), eating out at restaurants several times per week or if you have not cleansed your liver in the last year. Herbs such as milk thistle and dandelion are wonderful to support the liver. I typically like going with synergistic formulas because all the ingredients work together. Some of my favorite combinations are the Push Catch Detox from Quicksilver Scientific, LV GB from Designs for Health and Livton Complex from Standard Process.
Additional Supplements to Support Good Sleep
If lowering cortisol (through meditation or other exercises) and liver supporting supplements don’t work, there are many other options.
Valerian root and lemon balm are two herbs well-known for their nerve calming properties. Many people have found success with a synergistic formula called Myosedate which includes those from Designs for Health.
Another good option is GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is the brain’s major inhibitory neurotransmitter which prevents overstimulation and therefore promotes calm. GABA works best sublingually (hold it in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing). I have great results with a liquid and chewable form of it. The liquid is the Liposomal GABA from Quicksilver Scientific and the chewable is the Pharmagaba from Designs for Health.
If you have tested low for melatonin (a urine test can determine this) you can also try taking Melatonin. If you’re under the age of 50 I don’t suggest melatonin unless you know for sure your levels are low. Taking melatonin when you are not deficient can reduce your body’s ability to naturally produce the hormone. Melatonin only helps you fall asleep, so if your struggle with waking up in the middle of the night, this likely won’t help.
CBD for Improved Sleep
Another supplement that might be helpful is CBD. CBD oil comes from the hemp plant and is extracted in a way that removes the THC. This means that you don’t have to worry about ‘getting high’. CBD doesn’t just help with sleep, it also reduces inflammation. There are a lot of options in the marketplace but look for a brand that’s organic otherwise, you might be ingesting pesticides and toxins.
Can Food Give You Insomnia?
What and when we eat can impact how well we sleep. Eating a heavy meal two hours or less before going to bed can hinder sleep. Your body needs three hours to digest before it can rest for sleep. Make sure your evening meal is balanced, including a clean protein, plenty of non starchy veggies, and a wholesome carb if needed. Avoid large portions of red meat in the evenings and try not to eat too many carbs for dinner, especially if they are not balanced with a good fat and protein.
Bedtime Routine is Important
What you do for the hour before bed can affect how well you fall asleep and stay asleep. A good bedtime routine takes about an hour and includes dimming the lights, avoiding anything stimulating on TV, and staying away from your electronic devices (remember, that lowers you melatonin). If you really need to be on your devices, consider using blue light blocking glasses to protect your melatonin.
Eliminating Health Mysteries
Sleep is a cornerstone of health. If we suffer too long with insomnia, it can cause all kinds of other issues. Fixing sleep problems quickly can save us from developing a health mystery down the road.
Thanks for Listening
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