Sleep disturbances can come from many factors including an imbalance of progesterone or estrogen, abnormal cortisol and adrenaline levels, abnormal thyroid function, food intolerances, anxiety and depression, sleep apnea and poor sleep hygiene. The answer is NOT to first give a sleeping pill, because these can be very addictive in the long run, and don't address the underlying cause. The following simple steps can markedly improve the quantity and quality of your sleep.
- Be in bed by 10pm: just being horizontal helps to decrease levels of adrenaline and cortisol which will kick in for a "second wind" beyond 10:30
- NO NEWS: Images have huge impact on your immune and stress response mechanism, even if you aren't conscious of it. Ditto for intense TV dramas
- Earplugs: use MACK's silicone wax kind, not the sponge kind. These not only screen out noises, but allow you to hear your own breath sounds which are very hypnotic, getting you to deeper levels of sleep
- Eyemask/dark room-Complete darkness improves the quality of sleep
- Protein snack before bed: like a slice of turkey or some nut butter. This keeps your blood sugar level from becoming hypoglycemic and waking you up
- Avoid ALL caffeine, alcohol and refined sugars/flour: All affect blood sugar stability and adrenal function. Especially when consumed at night. Caffeine can stay in your system for 18-20 hours!
- Magnesium Citrate "Natural Calm": 1-3 tsp at night in 3-4 oz hot water. Most of us are magnesium depleted. It is important for allowing the nervous system to slow down and for muscles to relax
- Take Calcium/Magnesium at night- ask us which ones we recommend
- If appropriate Progesterone (cream or oral): use at night as prescribed. It helps to make you calm, relaxed and sleepy
- Other nutrients/amino acids: 5HTP, Theanine, phosphatidyl serine, melatonin, GABA- ask us what we recommend
- Other herbs: Valerian root, chamomile, lavender- ask what we recommend
- Warm bath before bed in winter, cool in summer
- Exercise daily: prior to 8pm, otherwise you kick your adrenals into overdrive
- Treat night sweats, hot flashes and adrenal dysfunction as needed
- Watch/read something inspiring, funny or uplifting just before bed. Say prayers of gratitude
- If you wake up and can't go back to sleep, don't panic. Use gratitude to enjoy the fact that a least you are in your bed. Use positive visual imagery, prayers, mantras, breath work. If you have to, dump racing thoughts into a journal-use a lighted pen so you don't wake yourself with full light
Fatigue and chronic low energy are common symptoms of imbalances across multiple hormonal systems, including adrenal, thyroid, sex hormones and gut health. Often times, despite feeling incredibly tired, we can't sleep at night.
It's important when addressing fatigue to look at the big picture-at how all the different organ systems are influencing one another, and how external psychological and emotional stressors play a huge role. Simple tools can help.
We begin by assessing the quality and quantity of sleep. Often times we are in a catch-22 of not sleeping well-- we're tired in the morning, then drink caffeine to stimulate us. Caffeine works temporarily by stressing our adrenal system with increased adrenaline production. Then we skip breakfast because we're running late, or eat something like muffins or bagels which are loaded with simple sugars, further stressing adrenaline and cortisol production.
Does this sound familiar? By the late afternoon we're crashing and want more carbohydrates, sugar and caffeine to keep us going. We're starving for energy, yet too tired to cook healthy meals, so we eat out on the run. By the evening we're so stressed and wired from the day we need a glass of wine to wind down, not knowing that alcohol effects blood sugar levels, liver detoxification and hormone balancing -- all which disrupt sleep.(see Tips for Weaning Off Caffeine, Sugar and Alcohol)
Poor quality sleep, poor quality diets along with lack of nutrients and minerals in the diet all exacerbate adrenal fatigue, thyroid dysfunction and PMS/menopause symptoms. On top of that common external environmental toxins such as mercury/PVC's/chlorine/household chemicals interfere with detoxification in the liver, kidneys, gut and skin - all contributing to poor energy production in the body and muscles.
If that wasn't enough, day to day emotional stressors from family, relationships, work and world events, contribute to an overwhelming sense of fatigue psychologically. Particularly if we don't have a good support system, healthy coping tools, or are carrying around years of buried trauma's.
The good news is simple changes can yield big results.(see the Big Picture) While waiting for hormonal assessment testing we start with nutrients and minerals in the diet. Getting rid of what is toxic (caffeine, sugar, alcohol, white stuff) and replacing what is missing (quality multivitamin with minerals, extra B complex, Omega 3 fats) at the same time focusing on a "green, lean and clean" diet.