Posts Tagged as: Insomnia
If you’re still feeling knackered from the time change with daylight saving you’re not alone. Changing the time throws a kink in the fragile and sensitive human biological clock, leaving many people feeling continuously jet lagged for a few weeks.
An hour of lost sleep might not sound like a big deal, but if you or your friends and coworkers are any indication, it makes for some groggy and grumpy days, bouts of insomnia, and feeling generally off.
It’s not just a hunch — scientific studies have demonstrated various ways in which the bi-annual time change messes with our health.
The body has genes that flip on and off to keep us in a steady rhythm of sleeping and waking. When we throw those genes off beat by artificially changing the time, the effect extends into the rest of the body, including muscles, the skeleton, the pancreas, etc. The disruption is felt body-wide.
How daylight saving time can impact health
This disruption dulls the brain and throws the body’s systems off, resulting in serious and even fatal consequences for some people.
For instance, past studies have shown driving fatalities, workplace injuries, and heart attacks go up after the spring-forward change in time. An Australian study found that even suicides increase after the time change.
Unsurprisingly, work productivity goes down as well, causing losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Night owls, people who naturally are more inclined to stay up late and sleep later in the morning take the longest to recover.
Worst of all, some studies suggest our bodies never really adjust to time changes. We’re designed to sync with natural changes in light throughout the year, not artificially inflicted ones.
How to recover from daylight saving time
Although people complain and we see a spate of news stories every spring bemoaning the change in time, we’re nevertheless stuck with it until politicians add it to their to-do list.
Understanding the effect of the time change on your body can help you better know how to ease the transition into suddenly waking up an hour earlier.
Avoid overdoing it for a while. Because you know your whole body is struggling to adjust to being thrown out of whack, don’t expect too much from yourself. Avoid scheduling high-risk or energy demanding activities the week after the time change. And be extra careful driving.
Schedule in some naps and restful mornings. If you’re like most people, you’ll be sleep-deprived for a week or two. Take a lunch nap in your car at work, let yourself rest on a weekend morning, and be extra disciplined about getting to bed early enough.
Wear orange glasses at night. Wear some orange safety glasses a couple of hours before bed to shield your eyes from artificial blue light from light bulbs, the TV, and computer and phone screens. This facilitates production of sleep hormones and will help ease you into the new schedule.
Get some sunshine during the day. Our bodies were designed to wake and sleep according to the light of the seasons, not an industrialized schedule. Get as much natural light as you can during the day and avoid artificial sources of blue light (computer, TV, smart phones) in the evening.
Weathering one of the most acrimonious elections in U.S. history can be hard on health. Fortunately, functional medicine offers some strategies to help take the edge off.
Prolonged heightened stress, fear, anger, and negativity have been shown to harmfully impact the body in the following ways:
Raises inflammation. Heightened stress and negativity can inflame joints, cause skin breakouts, disrupt brain function, upset the stomach, provoke respiratory problems, and trigger headaches.
Triggers anxiety, depression, and/or insomnia. People have lost sleep and become anxious and depressed this election year. Chronic stress keeps the central nervous system in a heightened state, chipping away at your health.
Causes stomach aches and abdominal symptoms. Chronic stress ravages the gut, predisposing one to pain, inflammation, and digestive upsets.
Tightens muscles. Chronic stress keeps the body in fight-or-flight, with the muscles constantly tense.
Imbalances hormones. Stress hormones can devastate the delicate balance of hormones in both women and men. This can impact menstrual cycles, libido, and the brain.
Causes brain fog and memory loss. Because chronic stress and negativity are so inflammatory, the brain may become inflamed as well. Common symptoms of brain inflammation are brain fog, depression, and memory loss.
Weakens or over stimulates immunity. Chronic stress weakens the immune system so that you’re more susceptible to illness. It can also over stimulate it so that autoimmune conditions flare up.
Promotes high blood pressure and respiratory stress. Chronic stress constricts the blood vessels, raises blood pressure, and inflames respiratory conditions.
Encourage addiction and bad habits. Chronic stress makes people more prone to addictive behaviors.
Healthy ways to buffer the effects of election stress
Stress is a normal function that serves a survival purpose. The trick is to rebound from it appropriately.Although it’s tempting to mix a drink or pop a Xanax, aim for functional medicine tips that ease election anxiety and support your health:
Take an adrenal adaptogen supplement. These herbs help buffer the body and brain during stress. Examples include ginseng, ashwagandha, holy basil, rhodiola, eleuthero, and pantethine.
Connect with others. Seek out like-minded friends and do something fun. Positive socialization is a well-documented health booster.
Release feel-good hormones through exercise. Exercise can’t be beat in the face of chronic stress and negativity. It floods your body with feel-good hormones that improve health and brain function. Just be careful not to overdo it, over exercising stresses and inflames the body.
Find unidentified causes of stress. Much of our stress today comes from factors we’re not even aware of. Unstable blood sugar is the most common. Unidentified food sensitivities, such as to gluten or dairy, is also common. Chemical sensitivities, anemia, unmanaged autoimmunity, leaky gut, and infections are examples of health issues that keep one in a state of chronic stress.
Practice positivity. Although it’s important to allow and process any negative emotions, at some point it’s vital to practice positivity, something science shows is vital to good health.
By taking better care of your health and managing how outside events affect you, you have a better chance of having a more positive impact on your own life and the people around you.
Are you often wide awake around 3 or 4 a.m., your mind racing with anxiety, but then collapsing into a near coma in the late afternoon? This maddening cycle of waking up and falling asleep at inconvenient hours is often relieved by managing low blood sugar.
Why you’re wide awake at 3 or 4 a.m.
Although sleep is a time for the body to rest, your brain is still busy working on repair and regeneration, transforming the day’s impressions into lasting memories, and keeping you entertained with dreams.
The brain demands more fuel than any other organ, about 20 percent of the body’s total supply. These needs don’t abate during sleep, when your body is fasting.
In the absence of food, the body keeps the brain going by gradually raising the adrenal hormone cortisol, which triggers the production of glucose to feed the brain through the night.
At least in theory.
Chronic low blood sugar breaks this system down because it skews cortisol rhythms and release. When your brain starts to run low on fuel during the night, cortisol may lag in triggering glucose release.
The brain cannot wait until breakfast and perceives this lack of fuel supply as an emergency. As a result, the body releases more urgent “fight-or-flight” adrenal hormones, which raise blood sugar back to safe levels.
Unfortunately, these adrenals hormones are also designed to help you either flee from danger or fight it. This does not bode well for a sound night’s sleep and explains why if you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m., it’s usually with a mind racing with worry.
Meanwhile, 12 hours later when you could really use the energy to finish a work project or deal with after-school duties, you crash and can barely function thanks to blood sugar and cortisol levels bottoming out. Reaching for that shot of caffeine may pull you through, but in the long run it’s only compounding the problem.
How to fall asleep if you wake up at 3 a.m.
If you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. with a racing mind, eating a little something may feed your brain and calm your mind so you can fall back asleep. But do not eat something sugary, which will spike blood sugar and perpetuate the cycle. Instead, eat some protein and fat.
Examples include nut butter, a little bit of meat, boiled egg, or a coconut snack. Have these prepared ahead of time and even next to your bed so you don’t have to go into the kitchen and turn on bright lights. You will not feel hungry because adrenal hormones are appetite suppressants, but you don’t need to eat much.
How to avoid the afternoon crash
To avoid the afternoon crash without caffeine you need to stabilize blood sugar as a way of life. Eat frequently enough to avoid sending blood sugar into a nose dive, and avoid foods that cause blood sugar to spike and crash: Sugar, caffeine, energy drinks, too many carbohydrates, and starchy carbs.
How do you know if you have low blood sugar?
Low blood sugar symptoms include:
- Sugar cravings
- Irritability, lightheadedness, dizziness, or brain fog if meals are missed
- Lack of appetite or nausea in the morning (this is caused by stress hormones)
- The need for caffeine for energy
- Eating to relieve fatigue
A variety of nutritional compounds can further support your blood sugar handling and stress hormone functions so you sleep better. Ask us for advice.
It’s an all-too-common scenario for teen girls today: That time of the month comes around they are home from school white-knuckling it through agonizing menstrual cramps, having only just endured a week of equally debilitating PMS depression and anxiety.
It’s just your standard entry into womanhood, right? Not!
Although hormonal irregularity is normal in the early years, excessive pain and anguish is not. It signals underlying causes of hormonal imbalance that may be alleviated through diet and lifestyle changes.
Of course one must also consider the possibility of serious medical disorders, such as uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, or, most commonly, endometriosis, disorders that tend to be overlooked in young girls in early menses.
Going beyond NSAIDS and the pill for teen cramps
The conventional approach to severe cramps and PMS is the use of over-the-counter pain medication and low-dose oral contraceptives.
Oral contraceptives are synthetic hormones that interfere with the body’s natural hormonal feedback loops and disrupt the balance of intestinal flora, not to mention raising the risk of serious medical complications such as migraines, stroke, and even cancer.
Although birth control pills can bring relief, it’s better to ask why hormones are imbalanced in the first place. Birth control pills merely resolve the symptoms but not the cause of teenage menstrual cramps and PMS.
Underlying causes of severe teen cramps and PMS
The female hormonal system is intricate, complex, and easily toppled by many modern habits we consider normal. Add standard teenage predilections for excess and indulgence, and you’ve got a recipe for monthly sick days home from school.
Here are some common factors we see when looking at teenage menstrual cramps and PMS with a functional medicine perspective:
Unstable blood sugar skewing hormones. This is very often an underlying factor of hormonal imbalance in women of all ages, but particularly in teens. Skipped meals, diets high in sugar, caffeine, processed carbohydrates, junk foods, and other staples of teen diets can cause the delicate balance between estrogen and progesterone to spiral out of control
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) frequently occurs when blood sugar is chronically out of balance, and brings with it the requisite symptoms of severe cramping and PMS. Other PCOS symptoms include depression, acne, irregular periods, and ovarian cysts (with pain).
A diet that eliminates sugar, minimizes caffeine, regulates carbohydrate consumption, and focuses on plenty of produce and healthy proteins and fats can help bring blood sugar, PCOS, and the accompanying cramps and PMS under control. Of course, this won't be easy for the average teen girl, but sometimes the pain of the problem outweighs the pain of the solution.
Adrenal imbalances. The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop each kidney and produce adrenal hormones. Teen habits of missing sleep, pushing themselves too hard, skipping meals, and eating too much sugar all send adrenal function into over drive or under drive.
Adrenal imbalances severely impact hormonal balance and can deplete progesterone, the “calming” hormone that helps prevent PMS.
Too much screen time. Hormonal balance is tightly linked to the light cycles of day and night. The blue light emitted from smart phones, tablets, and TVs are interpreted as sunlight by the brain. When teen girls stare into their phones texting and sharing late into the night, the brain, and then the hormones, become awfully confused as a result. (This also causes insomnia.)
Although restricting exposure to screens is a tall order for today’s teens, you may be able to convince your daughter to wear orange glasses, use an orange film over the screen, or download an app like f.lux or Twilight that filters out blue light after sunset.
These are just a few ways in which modern teen habits can result in severe menstrual cramps and PMS. For more information on how to balance hormones and alleviate cramps and PMS using functional medicine, please contact my office.
It seems almost everyone has insomnia these days, including, possibly, you. People either can’t fall asleep, they wake up after a few hours of sleep and can’t go back asleep, or they aren’t able to sleep deeply. The reasons for insomnia vary from person to person, but it’s typically not due to a sleeping pill deficiency.
Instead, the reasons behind insomnia or poor sleep can be startlingly straightforward, although addressing them may take some diet and lifestyle changes.
In this article I’ll go over often overlooked issues that cause insomnia and poor sleep. Don’t assume a powerful sleeping pill is your only answer. Look at the underlying causes first and address those.
Five things that can cause insomnia
Low blood sugar. Do you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m., racked with anxiety and unable to fall back asleep? That could be caused by a blood sugar crash, which raises stress hormones (hence the anxious wake up). Eating small but frequent meals, never skipping meals, and avoid sugary and starchy foods are important to keep blood sugar stable. Additionally, eating a little bit of protein before bed and at night if you wake up may help.
High blood sugar (insulin resistance or pre-diabetes). Do you fall asleep after meals yet struggle to fall asleep at night? Do you wake up feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck, but are wide awake at bedtime? It could be high blood sugar, a precursor to diabetes, is driving your primary stress hormone cortisol and keeping you up. A telltale symptom of high blood sugar is falling asleep after meals, especially starchy meals. Minimizing sugary and starchy foods, not overeating, and exercising regularly can help you rewind insulin resistance and sleep better at night.
Too much blue light. Are you staring into a computer, phone, tablet, or TV screen right before bed? If so, you’re confusing your body’s sleep hormone production. The body recognizes blue light as daylight, which suppresses the production of melatonin, our primary sleep hormone. Limiting your exposure to blue light at night can help boost your body’s production of sleep hormones. Wear orange glasses two hours before bed, use orange bulbs in your nighttime lamps, and limit your evening screen time to boost melatonin.
Inflammation. If you are chronically inflamed it drives up your stress hormones, which can keep you awake. This is particularly true if you’re experiencing inflammation in your brain, which can cause anxiety. One of the most common causes of chronic inflammation is an immune reaction to foods, especially gluten, dairy, eggs, and various grains. Screening for undiagnosed food sensitivities and an anti-inflammatory diet can help you hone in on what’s causing your insomnia or poor sleep.
Hormone imbalances. Hormone imbalances can significantly impact sleep. Low progesterone, which is a common symptom of chronic stress, heightens anxiety and sleeplessness. An estrogen deficiency in perimenopause and menopause has been shown to increase anxiety, insomnia, and sleep apnea. In men, low testosterone is linked with poor sleep and sleep apnea. Also, low hormone levels can be inflammatory to the brain, increasing anxiety and insomnia.
Many things can cause insomnia and poor sleep, however these are some of the more common. While you are addressing the underlying factors of your sleep issue, you can aid your ability to sleep with safe and natural compounds, depending on the mechanism.