• This are the main insomnia symptoms: Inability to fall asleep or to sleep through the night.
• Stress and anxiety (insomnia symptoms)
• Lack of exercise
• Restless leg syndrome
• Stimulants, including caffeine, decongestants, and thyroid medications
• Hormonal changes (e.g., menopause)
• Vitamin/mineral deficiencies (e.g., B12, iron)
• Breathing disorders, including asthma and sleep apnea
• Other disorders, such as hypothyroidism and hypoglycemia
The adrenal glands release cortisol as a response to stress. Cortisol is released in a natural rhythm with the sleep-wake cycle. Insomnia symptoms. Levels increase and peak in the early morning hours as part of the body’s physiological response to awakening. An oversecretion of cortisol at nighttime can interfere with sleep. This is because rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which takes place during deep sleep, occurs primarily when cortisol levels are decreasing. Conversely, the adrenal hormone DHEA has a balancing effect on high cortisol levels and has been shown to significantly increase REM time during sleep (insomnia symptoms).
The following tests help assess possible reasons for insomnia:
Sleep study—lab setting
Hormone testing (thyroid, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, IGF-1, estrogen, progesterone)—saliva, blood, or urine
Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially magnesium, calcium, B12, iron)— blood
Anemia—blood test (CBC, iron, ferritin, % saturation)
Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal
Blood sugar balance—blood
Treatment – Diet – Recommended Food
At dinner, eat foods that are high in tryptophan, a chemical that stimulates serotonin, which in turn helps you sleep. Turkey, chicken, tuna, soy products, live unsweetened yogurt, and whole-grain crackers are all good, low-sugar sources.
Complex carbohydrates are also relaxing, so incorporate whole grains, especially brown rice or pasta, into your dinners.
This book does not generally recommend dairy products, aside from yogurt, but a glass of milk before bedtime is a time-honored sleep aid. Try this only if you do not have a sensitivity or an allergy to dairy products.
Deficiencies of calcium and magnesium can lead to insomnia. Be sure your diet is high in leafy greens, sesame and sunflower seeds, oats, almonds, and walnuts.
The B vitamins are also essential for good sleep. Brewer’s yeast is the best source. Sprinkle it on your dinner salad or add a teaspoon to a bedtime glass of water or a green drink.
Drink a glass of clean, quality water every two waking hours so you won’t wake up at night with a dry mouth. Have your last glass two hours before bedtime, or you’ll be up for other reasons.
A double-blind trial found that 600 mg of valerian extract taken thirty minutes before bedtime was comparable in efficacy to oxazepam (Serax), a commonly prescribed pharmaceutical for insomnia. Studies have also found that the combination of valerian and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) works well to treat insomnia, with a comparable effect to the pharmaceutical sleep medication triazolam (Halcion). A hangover sensation was noted in people taking the triazolam but not in the lemon balm/valerian users.
Food to Avoid
The first rule for insomniacs is to monitor caffeine intake strenuously. Do not have any products containing caffeine—such as coffee, black tea, or chocolate—for eight hours before you go to sleep.
Drink alcohol only in moderation, and don’t have any within two hours of going to bed. While a drink might make you feel drowsy, the alcohol only disrupts the deep, late-night sleep that is so crucial to rest. If you have a chronic problem with insomnia, avoid alcohol completely.
Food allergies or sensitivities disrupt sleep for some people.
Sugar is another common culprit in insomnia. After lunchtime, avoid sugary foods, even sweet fruits. Chocolate, with its double whammy of sugar and caffeine, should be considered an enemy of the sleep-deprived.