A well-spent day brings happy sleep.
Leonardo Da Vinci
So in part one of this three part series I shared problems associated with either too little or too much sleep. I detailed how poor sleep quality deteriorates all aspect of our health, creativity, and resilency.
Today I plan to share my clinical experience detailing common causes of insomnia I have identified in my daily practice. This post will give you a sneak peek at part three where we discuss practical and effective treatment strategies.
Common Causes of Insomnia
According to my clinical experience crappy sleep quality stems from the following roughly in order:
Most of my patients eat themselves into poor sleep. There are several culprits here including:
- Coffee, sodas, energy drinks, and alcohol (Caffeine, sugar, alcohol, stimulants)
- High starch diets (Potatoes, chips, crackers, bread, cereal, fruit juice)
- Processed Food (Foods laden with food additives, coloring, preservatives)
Clinically, a high carbohydrate meal especially at bedtime, stimulates a surge of insulin to help manage the spiking blood sugar caused by stimulants, sugar, or alcohol. The insulin spike frequently triggers a quick drop in blood sugar while you sleep. This often causes insomnia characterized by frequent waking. This is a classic situation with alcohol consumption where even casual drinkers fall asleep quickly but wake frequently or arise unrefreshed. Alcohol as a host of other associated issues…SEE HERE and HERE for more.
I have covered stress related ailments in multiple ways here, here, and here. Either address stress or live with the consequences. Poor sleep quality ranks high among those who ignore stress in life. The entire last section of my book relates to the role stress/lifestyle affects health.
Again, much like diet, consuming chemicals/drugs prescription or not leads to insomnia. Illicit drugs aside, amphetamines (Ritalin, Vyvanse, Adderall, Provigil, etc.) all have side effects of insomnia. Sometimes medications used to treat diabetes and mood disorders can also have similar effects. Don’t forget nicotine in all tobacco products. The clinical pearl begins with the understanding that medications nearly always have some unintended consequences. Sadly they are often needed, but more often than not they are used to treat symptoms triggered by diet, lifestyle, or stress.
Physical inactivity promotes tense, inflexible, weak, unbalanced muscles. You surely know the saying “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Unfit, tense, inactive people tend to have stagnant metabolisms. They have poor lymph and immune function. They hurt, feel tense, and seek comfort in junk food, stimulants, and medications hoping to cope with symptoms caused by lack of exertion. The human body was meant to move 12 miles daily. Either through neglect, ignorance, or motivational deficiency many ignore the fact that WE must move to maintain health. Inactivity leads to insomnia and all the associated ailments.
Busted backs, morbid obesity, old injuries, inflexibility, muscular imbalance, and peripheral neuropathies represent but a few common causes of chronic pain. Pain triggers a stress response in the body which raises our state of awareness. Increased stress raises the hormone called cortisol which directly curbs our ability to sleep soundly. Suffering chronic pain promotes insomnia.
Depression, anxiety, panic disorder, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Bipolar, and schizophrenia represent but a few common psychiatric disorders which have insomnia has a diagnostic criteria. Two key points about psych disorders. First, if you suffer sleep problems, please consider a formal consult with a physician to determine the underlying cause. Simply treating sleep without addressing the primary ailment does not cure insomnia. Second, poor sleep promotes mood disorders. (The chicken / egg dichotomy at work)
Uncontrolled blood sugar, congestive heart failure, obstructive sleep apnea, hyperthyroidism, etc. are examples of major diseases which undiagnosed or uncontrolled can worsen sleep function. Listen to your body. Poor sleep serves as a “Check engine light.” Ignore the light and run the risk of missing a major problem.
Stay tuned for part 3….insomnia treatments!