30 – 40% of all Canadians complain of difficulty getting a good night’s sleep and nearly everyone has experienced difficulties from time to time. Sleep is our restoration and healing time and when it is problematic it can affect everything from stress hormones, to immune system, weight issues and aggravates depression and chronic illness. When unraveling chronic health concerns if sleep issues are uncovered then typically they need to be supported first before other health benefits can be achieved.
Reasons why sleep can be illusive:
1) Hormone imbalances – associated with thyroid issues, or during hormonal fluctuations (menopause, PMS, perimenopause)
2) Depleted adrenal reserves and chronic stress – typically fatigue in the a.m. and then ‘second wind’ at nighttime can be the picture, or waking at 3-4 a.m.
3) Food sensitivities and inflammatory reactions – celiac, gluten sensitivities or simple food sensitivities create increased stress on the body
4) Chronic pain – joint pain, low back, headaches or fibromyalgia
5) Anxiety, hypervigilant nervous system – difficulty falling asleep, rumination and busy mind are present
6) Blood sugar imbalances – typically frequent waking at night, sugar cravings and waking hungry are present
What can you do?
First, work with a naturopathic physician to determine the cause(s) of your particular sleep issues. Conventional medicine focuses on sleep medications such as zoplicone or antidepressants, however, they are best used temporarily and don’t encourage deep REM sleep. Once the cause is established then a plan can be monitored. Sometimes in more chronic cases several issues can be overlapped necessitating follow-up and adjustments.
What can everyone do for better sleep?
A dark room at night helps optimize melatonin levels so using blackout curtains or eye masks to limit light exposure at night can pretty much help everyone. Light reduces melatonin levels, even as minimal as clock radio lights, or street lights streaming in the room around curtains. Create a dark ‘cave’ and see how much better you can sleep.
We all have busy lives and need good sleep to maintain our stamina. Don’t let good quality sleep elude you!