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Insomnia affects 40% of women and 30% of men according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Insomnia is not really a condition itself; it is more of a symptom of another problem. Insomnia is common among people with the following conditions: hyperthyroidism, kidney trouble, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease, as well as a side effect of some medications. Approximately one in three adult American's suffers insomnia during the course of a year. Long-term insomniacs have reduced work productivity, depressed cognitive abilities, impaired memory, are sleepy and irritable in the daytime and get sick more often.

Lack of sleep depletes growth hormone secretion, which should peak around 3 am. Growth hormone is responsible for repair and restoration throughout the body. Stress hormones such as cortisol spike as much as 60% with lack of sleep. This can lead to other chronic health conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes, weight gain, and immunity.

There are generally two categories of insomnia: sleep onset insomnia, the inability to fall asleep naturally, and sleep maintenance insomnia, the inability to stay asleep or to resume sleep after waking in the middle of a sleep cycle.

There are five cycles of sleep; stage 1 of sleep is the transition between wakefulness and sleep. Stage 2 lasts for about 20 minutes - body temperature falls and brain waves "burst." Deep, slow brain waves categorize stage 3. Stage 4 is a deep sleep, where as stage 5 is where most dreams occur. REM, or rapid eye movement, occurs along with dreams in stage 5. Commercial sleeping pills interfere with the ability to dream, interrupt natural sleep patterns and often treat the symptom as opposed to the underlying root cause.


Common Symptoms

Chronic inability to sleep; prematurely ended or interrupted sleep; difficulty falling asleep; snoring and sleep apnea; anxiety, depression; memory problems; fatigue and drowsiness.


Common Causes

Chronic stress, adrenal insufficiency, tension, depression and anxiety; the inability to "turn your mind off;" too much caffeine; pain; hypoglycemia; overeating; too much salt and sugar; B complex deficiency; nicotine or other drugs; asthma; indigestion and toxic liver overload; very elevated copper levels. Also, snoring can be caused by poor food digestion.


Natural Treatments

To effectively address sleep, it is essential to determine the root cause of the sleep problem. If getting to sleep is difficult, the adrenal gland may be overproducing cortisol. An Adrenal Stress Test can be used to diagnostically determine the levels of salivary cortisol throughout the day. If levels are abnormal at night, they can be treated using diet customization and therapeutic supplements. If the adrenals are affected, it is likely that blood sugar levels will be impacted as well. A blood sugar drop (hypoglycemia) during the night will disrupt the sleep cycle by releasing stress hormones that unlock sugars stored by the liver. Optimization of serotonin and other brain chemicals needed to calm the brain is necessary for quality sleep. Working with Holistic Dietitian can help you learn the best times, quantities, and combinations of foods to include that will improve serotonin metabolism.

A deficiency in certain vitamins may prevent the conversion of sleep-promoting chemicals. Herbal remedies and amino acid supplementation can help to promote these calming chemical reactions. Additionally, behavior and lifestyle modifications that focus on regular sleep and wake cycles help to balance the circadian rhythms and chemical releases that influence sleep. Let the EB Nutrition Dietitians help you design a realistic routine that caters to quality sleep and brain chemical function.



Rister S. Healing Without Medication. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc; 2003: 351-354.

Page L. Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone Eleventh Edition. Traditional Wisdom, Inc; 2000.

Van Wagner, K. Stages of Sleep. 2009. About.com: Psychology. Available at: http://psychology.about.com/od/statesofconsciousness/a/SleepStages.htm. Accessed on October 12, 2009.


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