Surprising Sources of Insomnia - by Dr Gayle Maguire, BSc, ND

For chronic insomniacs, gentle herbal remedies like Chamomile, or targeted therapeutics such as melatonin, may not be the right approach.  Here are some other common areas to investigate with your medical or naturopathic doctor:

Stress: Our stress hormone interferes with our production of melatonin.  Many stressed patients will report feeling "tired but wired" - they put themselves to bed out of exhaustion but get a second wind as soon as they hit the pillow.  Others will complain of restless sleep.  Anxiety and caffeine can all appear as stress inside the body, so these areas should be addressed and stress management techniques be a focus.

Diet: We see many patients with food sensitivities that also report sleep improve after removing the offending foods.  It appears that fighting to digest a food disrupts the quality of their sleep and I've noticed this effect particularly in children.  
Diet can also seemingly affect sleep quality via nutritional deficiencies, such as magnesium, healthy fats, adequate protein, or B vitamins.  Often simple changes in the diet can create great improvements in sleep after a few weeks.

Hormones: Low progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone can all play a part in poor sleep.  Thyroid disease can also create too little or too much sleep.  Simple bloodwork can be an excellent starting point.  Naturopathic doctors also perform private lab testing for hormones and stress, many of which can include melatonin or genetic information too.

Blood sugar: For those with sleep-maintenance insomnia, or trouble staying asleep, blood sugar levels dropping a little too low in the night can be a cause.  If you know you cannot miss a meal without getting light-headed, shaky or irritable, having a protein and healthy fat-rich snack before bed can improve sleep quality.  Due to concerns of gaining weight by eating too closely to bedtime, discussing options with your healthcare provider or nutritionist is advisable.

Caffeine & Alcohol: Both caffeine & alcohol are known to disrupt sleep.  Between them, they have a wide range of negative effects on sleep hormone production, blood sugar control, hormone balance, and digestive health.  Many patients feel a need to use them as the result of their poor sleep, but over time, these compound the issue.  When patients tell me they love their coffee, I might ask them "does it love you back?"  Often times, a reduction or short holiday is all that is needed.
There are many areas to investigate with sleep, but be prepared to experiment and devote some time & patience to the process.  

This blog is for educational purposes only and does not constitute a medical relationship.   Please consult your medical doctor, naturopathic doctor, or pharmacist for advice that is right for you and note that this blog not substitute medical advice.

Dr. Gayle Maguire, BSc, ND
Naturopathic Doctor


I acknowledge and honour that I live,work, and play on the lands of the Treaty 7 Nations (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, Nakoda and Tsuut'ina) of Southern Alberta, and the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3
Member of the CNDA (College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta), CAND (Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors), Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians (PedANP)

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