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by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
It is estimated that over 40 million people in the United States suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Insomnia and lack of sleep is responsible for chronic health disorders such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Autoimmune diseases and chronic pain disorders have been shown to increase the risk of hypersomnia or excessive sleeping. Sleep apnea can be fatal if left untreated. No matter what type of sleep disorder you’re struggling with, there are natural treatments that can help.
The Natural Sleep Cycle
There are two different types of sleep: REM and non-REM. The first stage of sleep is the REM stage or rapid eye movement stage. The rapid eye movement stage is when dreaming occurs. Your eyes move back and forth in response to what you’re seeing in your dreams. During this stage of sleep, however, the muscles in your arms and legs are paralyzed to keep you from “acting out” your dreams.
The next stage of sleep, non-REM sleep, is a deeper part of the natural sleep cycle and is divided into four stages. The first and second stage of deep, non-dreaming sleep is crucial for overall well-being. The third and fourth stages are the deepest and are considered the most restorative parts of sleep. It is during these stages that cells regenerate themselves and the body and mind can heal from the stresses of everyday life.
REM sleep and non-REM sleep alternate throughout the night in a cyclical fashion, with REM sleep starting out at a duration of only a couple of minutes and lengthening throughout the night. The average length of each REM-non-REM sleep cycle lasts between 70 and 100 minutes.
Common Sleep Disorders
Though there are approximately 70 different diagnosable sleep disorders, they can be classified into three general categories: Insomnia (lack of sleep), disturbed sleep (sleep apnea), and excessive sleep (hypersomnia).
Let’s look at these three categories more carefully:
You may think of insomnia as being unable to fall asleep but that’s only one type. With sleep-onset insomnia, you’re liable to lay awake tossing and turning becoming more frustrated and anxious by the hour. However, some people with insomnia fall asleep readily only to wake up several hours later unable to fall back to sleep. This is called sleep-maintaining insomnia. Another type of insomnia is waking too early after only a few hours of sleep. You may feel “wide awake” at first thinking it’s time to get up and start the day only to feel groggy and disconnected as the hours go by. This type of insomnia is called early morning awakening insomnia.
Each type of insomnia can be temporary or chronic. Temporary insomnia often occurs as a result of stress or trauma and may resolve itself on its own or with the help of a few natural remedies. Chronic insomnia, however, can be caused by diet, nutritional deficiencies, and medical conditions both physical and mental. Addressing the underlying cause of this type of insomnia is your best bet in reversing it so you can get the rest your body needs.
There are two types of sleep apnea: Obstructive and Central. In obstructive sleep apnea, the airflow is blocked by an obstruction or inflammation and air cannot successfully pass through the airways. Cardiopulmonary obstructive disorder, emphysema, asthma, and obesity are the most common causes of obstructive sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain temporarily stops sending signals to the muscles that control breathing. The most common causes of central sleep apnea are obesity, stroke, degenerative arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and the use of narcotic pain relievers.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include waking with a sore throat, morning headaches, feelings of drowsiness, loud snoring, mood changes, memory loss, loss of libido, waking with a feeling of choking, and lack of energy.
There are two different types of hypersomnia: Primary and idiopathic. Both types usually occur in childhood or young adulthood and have similar symptoms. Primary hypersomnia is usually caused by overactive GABA receptors in the central nervous system. This produces the same drowsy effect as excessive use of medication or alcohol. Idiopathic hypersomnia has no discernable cause but has been linked to sleep apnea, obesity, insomnia, drug or alcohol abuse, head injuries, genetics, and certain medications.
In a person with hypersomnia, excessive sleep does not seem to abate symptoms. The hypersomnia sufferers will often feel an incredible urge to sleep at inappropriate times during the day such as during lunch, during a meeting, or even while driving. He or she is not easily roused from sleep and may often feel disoriented upon waking. Other symptoms of hypersomnia include hallucinations, anxiety, and irritability.
Why You Can’t Sleep – A Look at What Causes Lack of Sleep
Understanding the mental and physical health problems that may cause insomnia and other sleep disorders is your first step to treating it effectively.
Let’s look at the most common causes of sleep disorders:
1) Celiac Disease
This autoimmune disease is one of the most commonly-overlooked reasons for lack of sleep. In a person with celiac disease, the digestive system is unable to break down the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This causes chronic intestinal inflammation, abdominal cramping, neurological problems, anxiety, and insomnia. Gluten affects the brain much like an opiate or narcotic and can interfere with normal serotonin and melatonin production.
2) Intestinal Parasite Infection
It may never have occurred to you that an intestinal parasite infection could be the cause of a sleep disorder. However, it is estimated that over 50% of the population is infected with one or more parasites. If you often wake between 2am-3am without cause and suffer from other disturbing symptoms such as chronic gastrointestinal upset, gurgling intestines, irritability, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic skin ailments, chronic pain, diarrhea, and low immune system, parasitic infection could be the reason you can’t sleep.
In a person with hyperthyroidism, the body produces too much of the thyroid hormone. Temperature and heart rate are elevated and feelings of restlessness and anxiety make it impossible to relax enough to drift into a peaceful sleep. Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism include chronic diarrhea, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, trembling hands, and muscle weakness.
4) Autoimmune and Chronic Pain Conditions
Autoimmune and chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and adrenal fatigue can contribute to both insomnia and hypersomnia.
5) Mental Health Disorders
Mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post traumatic stress disorders can cause both insomnia and hypersomnia.
The Trouble with Conventional Insomnia Treatments
When you can’t sleep, it can be tempting to take an over-the-counter or prescription sleep aid. The trouble with this approach to insomnia is that these types of sleep aids often cause dependency. Also, certain sleep medications may induce drowsiness but will not promote the deep, restorative sleep your body and mind needs to heal.
Examples of medications that interfere with deep, restful sleep include:
Some prescription medications that do help promote restful sleep but may cause unwanted side effects include:
The most common side effects associated with prescription sleep aids are sleepwalking, short-term memory loss, depression, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, extreme low blood pressure, and liver toxicity.
Treat Sleep Disorders Naturally
The first step to treating any type of sleep disorder is getting to the root cause of the problem. This means addressing nutritional deficiencies, checking for parasites and food allergies, and ruling out metabolic disorders.
Just take each of these tests to the nearest LabCorp office for blood drawing and they pack it and send it off for you. You should receive your results in 7-10 business days!
Diet plays a pivotal role in health and vitality. Stimulants such as energy drinks and sodas can cause feelings of restlessness and anxiety that can lead to insomnia. A diet filled with processed foods, chemicals, and artificial additives can lead to the nutritional deficiencies that contribute to insomnia and the weight gain that can cause sleep apnea.
No matter what type of health problem you’re facing, a healthy diet makes all the difference. This means getting plenty of organic vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, and healthy fats into your diet as possible.
Also, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to insomnia and other sleep disturbances. According to a study published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: “Moderate dose of alcohol consumed as much as 6 hours before bedtime can increase wakefulness in the second half of sleep.”
Regular exercise not only helps you lose weight and gain strength, it can also help treat sleep disorders naturally. Regular exercise increases feel-good chemicals such as serotonin in the brain, which can help ease feelings of anxiety and encourage restful sleep.
Everybody can benefit from a multivitamin supplement to address nutritional gaps in their diet. However, if you are already taking a multivitamin, you may want to consider trading it in for a whole-food option. Many store-bought vitamins contain additives and preservatives that make them difficult for your body to absorb and make use of. Our formula is superior because it is made from whole food ingredients with no additives or preservatives.
Foundation’s nutrients include:
Diamond Nutritional’s Chelated Magnesium
The most common mineral deficiency associated with insomnia is magnesium deficiency. With a combination of poor diet, poor soil quality, and poor digestion, our bodies simply don’t get enough of this essential mineral. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body and critical to good neurological health.
For patients struggling with insomnia, I recommend adding a chelated magnesium supplement because it is more bioavailable to the body and therefore more easily absorbed. Diamond Nutritional’s Chelated Magnesium formula infuses your body with 59% of your total daily value of magnesium!
Diamond Nutritional’s Sleep Support Formula
Avoiding the side effects and dependency of over-the-counter drugs is possible with our all-natural sleep aid. Diamond Nutritional’s Sleep Support Formula contains a synergistic blend of ingredients designed to promote relaxation and deep, restful sleep without dependency.
These ingredients include:
Whether you can’t sleep or you can’t stay awake, there is always a way to improve the quality of your sleep and get yourself back into a natural, healthier rhythm. Getting to the cause of your chronic sleep disorder can help you treat it more effectively with the right diet, exercise, and natural supplements.