What’s the Cause of Your Poor Sleep?
Are you a poor sleeper?
We’ve all had occasional sleepless nights because we’re worried, stressed, or on the other end of the spectrum, very excited about something.
Such rare sleep interruptions are normal but let’s discuss more chronic problems and their cause.
What is insomnia?
First let’s identify how insomnia is defined:
- It takes you more than 20 minutes to fall asleep at night.
- You awaken during the night and have trouble returning to sleep.
- You are a light sleeper and feel that you’re “in and out” of sleep throughout the night, that’s another definition.
- Upon awakening you do not feeling rested.
Should you awaken to use the restroom and are able to fall right back to sleep, that isn’t a problem.
We have found that once we deepen the quality of sleep, the bladder doesn’t tend to be as bothersome for patients. In other words, they suddenly find themselves sleeping through the night, or at most, arising once to use the restroom.
Why sleep is evasive: 3 key areas that should be investigated
We are going to discuss the 3 systems of your body primarily involved with poor sleep
- Immune system
How your immune system influences sleep
Your immune cells, which are designed to defend you against infection, cancer and toxins, “come out” during sleep.
They are called NK cells which stands for Natural Killer cells. Their name may sound scary, but when it comes to your immune defense army you want it to “take no prisoners”, and do a very thorough job of defending you.
What happens when you’re a light sleeper or you’re awake during the night?
Your immune cells don’t come out in robust numbers, or for long enough, and the result is an increased risk for chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and more.
One major cause of poor sleep is chronic, hidden infections you may have.
They are called “hidden” because they are not overtly obvious in their presentation. In other words, you can have an infection but not feel acutely ill, you won’t have a fever, and your white blood cells won’t be elevated. In other words, the obvious signs of infection are not present.
Yet the infection is still present and it’s putting great stress on your immune system.
The immune system needs fuel to “fight” the bad guys
The immune cells are released at night to fight the infection and they “go to battle”. However, due to the deep, chronic nature of the infection, your immune system utilizes a great deal of fuel to try to get its job done. The “fuel” used is your blood sugar and as it pulls more and more from this source, your blood sugar starts to get unstably low.
The body has a mechanism it employs when blood sugar gets too low. Your adrenal glands, your stress glands, closely monitor blood sugar levels and when they dip, the adrenals fly into action.
What happens when you make adrenaline at 2 or 3 in the morning? You wake up! Not only do you wake up, but the sleep hormone melatonin is turned off and the immune cells retreat, making it impossible to successfully kill the infection.
A chronic infection can be found, often, in your gut or your sinuses.
The correct functional medicine testing will identify the presence of such infections and with the use of nutrition, your immune system will get the boost it needs to completely address the infection.
Food reactions and blood sugar
We mentioned blood sugar levels above and their depletion due to your immune system trying to fight an infection.
Another reason blood sugar levels can be unstable is from the food you are consuming not turning into proper fuel.
This can occur in 3 distinct ways:
- You may be eating a poor, Standard American Diet (SAD), with its high sugar, high refined carbohydrates, bad fats and more, thus creating erratic blood sugar levels.
- You may have a food sensitivity. The food itself may be of good quality, but if your body is sensitive to it, you will react as if it’s more like a toxin rather than a food, and blood sugar will be unstable after you’ve eaten that food.
- Digestive issues. You can be eating a great diet, but if your digestive tract is unable to turn the food into fuel, you will still suffer from unstable blood sugar. Such issues can be the result of insufficient stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes, or inadequate good bacteria in your gut.
During the day if your blood sugar is unstable, you can simply eat more. But at night, your metabolism is supposed to slow down such that you can readily not eat for a good 12 hours with no problem. Such a 12 hour fast can only occur comfortably if your blood sugar is stable. When erratic and “roller coastering”, a steep drop of blood sugar at night will awaken you out of a sound sleep.
Some people experience this by awakening with a feeling of hunger; others just find themselves awake, wondering why.
The solution is to stabilize the blood sugar by finding the root of why it’s unstable. As mentioned the culprit is the source of the fuel, whether it’s bad food or food sensitivities, or that your body is incapable of proper digestion, resulting in malabsorption or maldigestion.
This tends to affect women around their menstrual cycle or perimenopausal and menopausal women, but men are not free of this completely.
Stress hormones affect both sexes which is why you may find yourself having a sleepless night when your stress levels rise.
Before their menstrual cycle, when hormone levels drop, women may experience poor sleep for a couple of nights. While common, this isn’t normal, and optimizing hormonal levels will prevent such sleep deprivation from occurring.
Perimenopause and menopause is a time of naturally diminishing hormonal levels such that a woman is no longer able to conceive. During and after menopause the adrenal glands and brain should be producing hormones at a stable level for the rest of a woman’s life; this is the natural design.
Therefore, menopause should not be a time of unrelenting hot flashes, night sweats and disturbed sleep. That is not normal.
Regardless of your age or sex, hormonal imbalance can be affecting your sleep. The solution is to measure your hormonal levels and normalize them with natural nutrition or bio-identical hormones, depending on your particular situation.
- critical for ideal health.
- necessary to prevent degenerative diseases.
- mandatory to keep your weight normalized.
Sleeping pills do nothing to get to the root cause of why you aren’t able to sleep, therefore their effect will be temporary at best, disease inducing at worst.
Prescribed sleeping pills are known to increase your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Solutions involve primarily addressing 3 systems of your body:
We don’t want to neglect some basics of sleep such as:
- Sleep in a fully darkened room; if that’s not possible use an eye mask.
- If your bedroom is noisy, try a “white noise” app on your phone or use earplugs to handle snoring loved ones.
- Try blue-light reducing glasses starting several hours before bed. These are very inexpensive and can be found on Amazon.
- Rule out if you have sleep apnea.
- Try to have your last meal or snack 2 ½ to 3 hours before bed.
- Exercise in the morning or afternoon, rather than the evening. Moving your body is important, but too late in the day can compromise your ability to fall asleep and is the worst time of day to exercise if you’re interested in fat burning.
- Avoid stimulating video games or TV shows 1 hour before bed.
Don’t suffer with poor sleep; there is a solution
Here at Root Cause we’ve been helping our patients optimize their sleep for over 2 decades.
It’s not a “one size fits all” solution; it never is, but we will customize a program to you and for your exact needs.
No one is destined to be a poor sleeper.
Your health and your longevity depend on enjoying deep, restorative sleep; so let us help you to identify why you are having sleep problems.
We’re here to help
Contact us for a Free Consultation – Call (408) 733-0400.
If you are not local to us you can still receive help; our Destination Clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally.
We help the world’s busiest people regain, retain and reclaim their health, energy and resilience.
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To reclaiming your best health,
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC, CCN
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the e-Books:
- “Gluten: What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You”
- “5 Simple Ways to Regain Your Health”
- “Hiatal Hernia, Many Symptoms, One Cause”