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What is insomnia?
Causes of insomnia
What is Insomnia?
You have insomnia if you experience:
Difficulty falling asleep
Waking frequently during the night
Waking too early in the morning and not being
able to get back to sleep
Waking feeling un-refreshed
Consequences of Insomnia:
Affects your hormone
levels setting the stage for some serious health problems –
insomnia has been associated with accelerated aging, cancer,
diabetes, depression and obesity.
Increased risk of
accidents - as
reported in Business Week, "Studies show
that someone who has been awake for 24 hours has the same mental acuity as a
person with a blood alcohol level of 0.1, which is above the legal limit for
driving in most states."
Who has Insomnia? –
that almost 2/3 of Americans have difficulty falling and staying asleep.
you feel the need for a nap in the daytime, you are probably one of them, since
fatigue is one of the top 10 reasons Americans visit a physician.
Sleeping problems are even common in young adults (17-30yrs) and a
German study found that 12% of 4-5 year old children had difficulties falling
Causes of Insomnia
(There are possibly many underlying causes)
Desynchonization of the biological clock –
E.g. if unable to fall asleep, called delayed
sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS), your biological clock has lost its timing
mechanism, making you more alert in the evening.
The Biological Clock
Staying awake too many
hours or too much light in the evening (maybe from a brightly lit computer
screen) can alter your proverbial “timing belt”.
Actually, it is only blue light which suppresses
MELATONIN production, and there are some ways
to filter out the blue light.
Lack of exposure to light
researchers studied 10 nursing home residents
with insomnia and found that increasing
their exposure to light increased their MELATONIN
production (proportional to brightness) and improved their sleeping
patterns/quality. Exposing elderly patients to 4 hours of bright,
artificial light at midday for 4 weeks (roughly equal to the amount received
by a young control group), caused their MELATONIN
production to be similar to the young
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism January 2001;86:129-134
Too much light in your
bedroom can keep you awake –
Once in bed,
darkness allows your biological
clock to produce MELATONIN – a signal
for sleep. Even a small amount of light (E.g. from moonlight through a
crack in the curtains) disrupts your circadian rhythm and affects your pineal
gland's production of MELATONIN and
MELATONIN levels are reduced by 50% when exposed to a low-level
incandescent bulb for only 39 minutes at night.
/Hormone Imbalance/Depression -
the major cause of
insomnia is decreased levels of MELATONIN.
Depression is often related to a SEROTONIN
deficiency, thus it follows that since MELATONIN
is produced from SEROTONIN, that
insomnia is likely to be present with depression.
over-stimulates the brain and is
associated with high CORTISOL levels:
Negative emotions - including worry,
Positive emotions - such as
excitement, anticipation, or watching thrillers on TV;
– chronic insomniacs found to have
significantly higher levels of adrenal stress hormones,
suggesting that these individuals suffer from
sustained, round-the-clock activation of the body's system for responding to
stress. This hyperarousal is also a risk factor for both psychiatric illness
(E.g. depression) and medical illness (E.g. high BP, obesity, osteoporosis).
of Clin. Endocrinology & Metabolism August 2001; 86:3787-3794
Caffeine-containing drinks/foods before bedtime
Promotes the exact reverse
of what you want to happen as you go to sleep - Caffeine speeds nervous system and
other major body systems. E.g. 15 minutes after downing a cup of coffee, blood
adrenaline level rises, triggering an
increase in heart rate, breathing rate, urinary output, and production of
Caffeine also prompts
adrenal hormones to release sugar stored in the liver, which stimulates sugar
cravings to replenish the stores -
A blood sugar
roller coaster effect ensues as the quick high is followed by a sugar slump.
Caffeine – “The Jitter Drug”
Potassium deficiency - causes inability to fall /stay asleep.
Zinc deficiency -
causes one to wake up hours earlier than wanted.
Optic nerve damage – causes problems
sleeping, falling and staying asleep, and daytime sleepiness; a non-visual part
of the retina uses daylight to synchronize your body’s sleep patterns, telling
the body when to sleep and when to get up. It resets the internal body clock and
regulates the release of hormones such as MELATONIN
(the “Body’s natural sleeping pill” hormone).
on blind people found that those with damage to the optic nerve (connects eye to
brain) were far more likely to need daytime naps and suffer from daytime
sleepiness than blind people without damage to nerve.
Cell phone use before bed
– can have
electromagnetic affects on your brain and the rest of your body that cause
insomnia, headaches and confusion;
Unshielded wiring in walls
/ electric clock too close to head / electric blankets in your bedroom –
such unnatural EMF
frequencies have a deleterious effect on cellular communication in the body.
Sharing a bed -
If either you or
your partner suffer from insomnia and share a bedroom, neither of you is getting
the high quality sleep you need for good health.
(produced by parasites) - ammonia
strong brain irritant (E.g.
a person can sometimes be awakened from a coma by smelling ammonia
"smelling salts"). The liver and kidneys can convert ammonia to urea for
excretion, the brain, however, lacks the required enzyme ornithine