6 Sneaky Causes of Insomnia and What to Do About Them
When it comes to aging, we face all sorts of challenges. Aches and pains, declining physical abilities, and changing brain chemistry. The worst, however, might be insomnia.
Lack of sleep can make everything seem more frustrating, even hopeless. But girlfriend, that’s just exhaustion talking. We may be getting older, but that’s no reason to throw in the towel.
Here are some common causes (and solutions) for the bedtime blues.
While many people will point to menopause as the cause of your insomnia. A common, though lesser known cause, is the thyroid. The thyroid regulates our energy levels, so if you’re tired during the day or have trouble sleeping at night, you may have an underactive thyroid. As we age, our chances of developing an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s disease (where the body begins attacking the thyroid) increase as well.
Get your thyroid tested by a doctor who looks at the whole picture, not just your TSH levels.
Blood Sugar Issues
Pasta. Potatoes. Bread. Soda. Delectable desserts. What do they all have in common? Lots and lots of carbs. We eat far more than our bodies were designed to handle, and a lifetime of this type of diet can cause full-blown diabetes in some. In others, simple insulin resistance is enough to wreak havoc on adrenal stress hormones, giving us trouble when we turn out the light or waking us up in the middle of the night.
Try cutting your carbohydrates. In most cases, 150 grams a day is ideal and eat them earlier in the day. If you do wake up in the middle of the night, eat a small amount of low-carb protein, like a handful of raw almonds.
Imbalanced Brain Chemicals
Did you know that your brain sends out neurotransmitters to tell your body to go to sleep? The sleep hormone, melatonin, peaks around 9 PM for most people and continues to be released for another three hours. Serotonin, the feel-good transmitter, also helps your body fall asleep. Sometimes, however, poor nutrition, toxic exposure, chronic stress, or even genetics can cause low levels of these dreamy hormones.
Take advantage of maximum melatonin levels by going to bed early and getting your hormone levels tested. Be wary of sleep-inducing drugs because they rarely address the underlying issue and can further upset your brain chemistry.
Poor Gut Health
When you look at your body, it may seem like your belly and your brain aren’t very closely related. Distant fourth cousins (twice removed), perhaps. But the two are much more closely connected than you think. A poor diet, stress, and other challenges can tip the balance in your digestive system, allowing unchecked growth of bacteria and fungi. This creates high levels of cortisol that make it hard for your brain to shut down at bedtime.
Saliva and stool testing can identify gut infections. From there, it’s often just a matter of taking the right botanical compounds and changing your diet to get your gut back on track.
Unidentified Food Sensitivities
Think you might have a gluten allergy? How about dairy, nuts, or eggs? Food allergies aren’t always obvious, but they can send your body into a fight response that impairs your ability to relax and slip into dream land.
Get tested for food allergies or try out the anti-inflammatory diet for a few months to see if you sleep any better.
Out of Whack Hormones
At our age, our hormones have seen a lot of changes. Lower levels of estrogen since menopause (or from stress) can cause anxiety, moodiness, and poor sleep.
If a hormone imbalance is causing your insomnia, your doctor may recommend bioidentical hormone replacement. It’s best to try solving your sleep issues with the solutions above first, however, because hormone replacement therapy can be tricky and cause more issues of not used cautiously.
Feel better about your chances of hitting the hay tonight? I do. Just knowing that you can take action toward a healthier, more energetic you might be enough to keep some stress or anxiety at bay while you work to banish your insomnia for good. Keep it going by getting tested and treating your body kindly!
Do you have trouble with insomnia? What techniques do you use to get to sleep? Do any of these suspects sound like they might be the cause of your sleeplessness? Please share your comments below and let’s start a conversation.
Dr. Joni Labbe, DC, CCN, DCCN is board certified clinical nutritionist, functional wellness practitioner, thyroid specialist, speaker, and author of the book Why Is Mid-Life Mooching Your Mojo? She is also certified in functional endocrinology and functional neurology. Dr. Labbe offers non-invasive, natural methods for managing thyroid disease, balancing hormones, and preserving wellness. Learn more at www.mojogirlfriends.com.