Insomnia is an extremely common condition that affects nearly 30% of adults (1). People with insomnia are more likely to experience a variety of health conditions, including depression, anxiety, poor immune system function, increased chronic and long term diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as issues in daily living like reduced work performance, and slower reaction times (2).
Unfortunately, conventional treatments for insomnia are fairly limited, with the vast majority of patients prescribed pharmaceutical medications. However as the demand for alternative medicines has increased, new studies have been released showing that there are actually many extremely safe and effective alternative treatments for insomnia.
Get to the root cause of insomnia: Different causes of insomnia
- Medication-induced insomnia: Some medications that are known to cause insomnia in some people include but are not limited to: Decongestants, cold medications, AD(H)D medications like Adderall (and other amphetamines), anticonvulsants, antidepressants such as PROZAC and ZOLOFT, and more.
- Rebound from taking sleep aids: After discontinuing a sleep aid, the body will often rebound into anxiety/ insomnia/ hyperactivity in an attempt to reach homeostasis.
- Poor sleep hygiene, here are some of the sleep hygiene no-nos:
- TV in the bedroom
- Radio on in the bedroom
- Using your phone in bed/ right before bed
- Doing work in bed
- Using your bedroom also as a work-space
- Keeping bright lights on in the house near bedtime
- Eating a large meal before bed
- Alcohol consumption
- Caffeine consumption
- Chocolate consumption
- Nicotine use
- Napping during the day
- Trauma/ anxiety/ stress or other mental/emotional symptoms can interfere with sleep.
- Sleep apnea
- Nasal congestion/ sinus allergies
- Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease
- Heavy metal and solvent toxicity are known to be endocrine disruptors and can compromise sleep
- Neurotransmitter imbalances
- Nutrient and mineral deficiencies
Specialty testing to identify the cause of insomnia:
- Thyroid panel: Including TSH, Free T3, Free T4, and reverse T3
- Adrenal Stress Index: Looks at cortisol stress hormone and hormones as they relate to sleep rhythm.
- Organic Acid Testing (OAT): The OAT looks at intestinal yeast, bacteria, it looks at information on neurotransmitters (including dopamine breakdown products), nutritional markers, glutathione status, oxalate metabolism, and much more.
- Food Allergy Testing: The gut of health is the foundation for the health of the brain and body. That is why they say, “leaky gut, leaky brain.” To identify causes of symptoms of the brain including behavior, concentration, memory, and mood, we have to start by examining the health of the gut.
- Environmental Toxicity Testing: There is an abundance of research pointing to the link between brain health and environmental toxicity.
Dr. Cain’s Favorite Tips for Insomnia
When considering a treatment protocol for insomnia, four major avenues should be considered:
- Address the psychological factors contributing to this sleep disorder. It has been found that counseling and/or stress reduction techniques may be very effective (i.e. biofeedback and hypnosis).
- Eliminate factors known to disrupt normal sleep patterns such as coffee, chocolate, tea, alcohol, marijuana (and other drugs), over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, and hypoglycemia.
- Research has shown that exercising later in the day has been linked with improved sleep and reduction in insomnia. Consider moving your routine work out to after 5:00 pm, and your program should consist of a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise per day.
- Finally, relaxation techniques done before bedtime are helpful. These may include stretching, deep breathing, meditation, etc. If all of the above produce little or no response, more aggressive measures can be employed with the use of certain supplements and botanical medicines. These supplements and botanicals should be prescribed by your physician and a sample protocol taken before bedtime.
Supplements for Happy Sleep
- Dr. Cain’s Happy Sleepy Powder
- Vitanica Sleep Blend
- Tranquility Formula
- Extended-Release Melatonin
- Vitamin B6
- Calm by Natural Vitality (contains magnesium)
- Valerian root caps by Gaia Herbs
- Passiflora incarnata glycerite
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