I’m tired, but I can’t sleep.  Help!

I’m tired, but I can’t sleep. Help!

by Americare Respiratory Services

People with sleep disorders often tend to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep – this is called insomnia.  The most deadly sleep disorder, sleep apnea, causes you to stop breathing while you sleep (which may or may not cause you to wake up).  Insomnia may not be as serious, but it does take a toll on your health.

If you are not sleeping, it is impossible to be healthy!

Being overweight, having diabetes, and poor lifestyle choices (smoking, substance abuse, etc.), a lack of physical activity, and too much stress in your life are commonly tied to countless health conditions, all of which can affect your sleep.  Nutritional deficiencies and thyroid disorders can also play a role in the quality of sleep you get. 

Board-certified naturopathic physician, Cammi Belleck, recently wrote about the connection between nutrition, thyroid function, and insomnia.  She says:

“Nutritional deficiencies cause a biochemical imbalance and can cause an “over-firing” in the brain.” She goes on to say, “Cortisol is suppose to be high in the morning when you wake and slowly lower during the day. However if you are stressed, cortisol can be high at night and keep your energy high and you awake.” And, “Adrenal exhaustion can come when we are coping with chronic long term stress. Your adrenal glands are overworked, the result is you feel exhausted, often depressed, insomnia, and your muscle tone decreases while body fat increases. Your thyroid function is closely coupled to your adrenal function, which is intimately affected by how you handle stress. How you handle stress is affected by if your body has enough nutrition to handle it or not.”

Dr. Belleck is the women’s health expert for Women’s Health Magazine and more.  She shared several tips with Hypothyroid Mom, a popular blog, on how to overcome insomnia.  Here are some of our favorites:

  • "Eat cherries in the evening. Cherries boost the body’s own supply of melatonin."

  • "A small cup of chamomile tea after dinner may help you begin the relaxing process."

  • "A larger number of studies have examined whether the herb Valerian is effective for treating insomnia. In many of these, valerian decreased the time it took for participants to fall asleep and, in some studies, it lengthened total sleep time and/or improved sleep quality. The generally recommended dose is 450-600 mg taken about 2 hours before bedtime."

  • "Take a complete omega 3 supplement with double the EPA than DHA. I recommend 600mg EPA’s to 300mg DHA’s."

  • "I like to have my patients take extra calcium and magnesium at night before bed to help with insomnia (this also helps with balancing stress hormones). Natural Calm by Natural Vitality is an anti-stress drink that balances your calcium intake and restores healthy magnesium levels."

Insomnia can be managed just like sleep apnea, but the root cause must be addressed first.  If you are struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, please talk to your doctor.  And if you don’t get the answers you need, find a sleep specialist who is willing to investigate your sleep health.